To paraphrase someone famous, who was unfortunately not speaking in reference to Senate President Franklin Drilon: “Saan ka kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha?”
How soon people forget. Only a little over a year ago, Drilon started the process of the impeachment and eventual conviction of then Chief Justice Renato Corona by giving a privilege speech on the floor of the Senate calling for the top jurist’s removal from office.
Now, Drilon, as Senate president, cannot even allow his own chamber’s blue ribbon committee to let alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles testify on the very serious charges leveled against her. Drilon can demand that the head of a supposed co-equal branch of government be impeached, tried and convicted, but he refuses to let a private businesswoman already detained by the state explain her role in the multi-billion-peso scam that has rocked the entire infrastructure of governance—and cast a long shadow on Drilon’s own protestations of innocence, besides.
But then, Drilon has always been famous for standing up for his allies— until they become potential liabilities to him. In the case of Napoles, who has long been in an apparently fruitful relationship with Drilon, according to her own former associates, the Senate chief has the unmitigated temerity to ask for the permission of a mere constitutional body, the Ombudsman, if it can let her out to testify in the ongoing public probe of the committee.
As legal analyst Mel Sta. Maria wrote, Drilon’s sudden subservience to the Ombudsman is laughably wrong, because a mere law gave the anti-graft prosecuting agency its powers, while the Senate (as pointed out by blue ribbon panel chairman TG Guingona) has the Constitution itself as its supporter in conducting a probe that includes Napoles’ all-important testimony. “Given the craving of the people to know the truth, the most logical, reasonable and proper thing [for Drilon] to do was to support Senator Guingona and assert the Senate’s constitutional powers which include the summoning of the witnesses in aid of legislation,” Sta. Maria wrote.
And as an interested party in the case, after having been linked by Napoles associates to the businesswoman, the least Drilon could have done was to stay out of the way of Guingona’s committee, if the Senate president truly has nothing to hide. Instead, Drilon held a press conference saying that he cannot, as Senate chief, sign off on a subpoena demanding that Napoles attend the Senate hearings, because the Ombudsman did not recommend it— after Drilon himself had solicited the Ombudsman’s opinion on the matter.
And how, pray tell, can the Ombudsman (wise as she is) tell the Senate how to conduct its independent investigations in aid of legislation? In this upside-down world where political alliances bleed over from one branch to the next, from one department to another, there should still be a limit to what those in power are allowed to get away with.
It is best to describe Drilon’s action in pithy Pilipino: Binababoy na ni Drilon ang Senado.
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Over at the Executive, where Drilon obviously gets his orders, as he always does, there is also more pambababoy. The Office of the Solicitor General, acting as the legal counsel of President Noynoy Aquino, has asked the Supreme Court to lift the court-ordered suspension of the release of the remaining pork barrel funds of members of Congress for the current year, saying that the “reforms” it is undertaking will ensure that no hanky-panky will attend their expenditure.
How in the name of all that is legal, logical and proper can Malacanang ask for the release of pork barrel funds when Aquino himself has already declared that the appropriation of such monies has been abolished? What could have possessed Aquino to ask that the funds be released, when the public’s anger over the Napoles scandal keeps escalating and when no reforms have been put in place apart from abolishing the name of the Priority Development Assistance Fund?
I’m sorry. But if that is not more pambababoy, then I cannot tell the difference between an actual pig and the head of the Senate.
And where does Aquino get the gall to say that he has reformed the pork barrel system when the Napoles scandal is only now starting to lap at the riverbanks of the presidential palace and into the living room of the President himself? The story of the wholesale looting of the so-called Malampaya fund, a largely unaudited trove of easily accessible money that only Aquino and his predecessors can disburse (and which they have, often through Napoles and her fellow “business persons” in the past) promises to dwarf even the pork barrel scandal, regardless of what Malacanang’s propagandists and media allies do to prevent that from happening.
(Here’s a hot tip: Nearly all the Malampaya drawdowns have gone to “soft” projects—the same ones that Napoles accessed for “consumable” projects that can never be traced.)
Drilon and Aquino, unfortunately, are way beyond turning a foul pig’s ear into beautiful silk purse that Jeane Napoles could carry. Instead, the expensive bag they made entirely out of pork will soon be exposed as a smelly part of the anatomy of the animal that has become the animate symbol of how our leaders, no matter how self-righteous, have enriched themselves.