Anatomy Of An Inquiry

The Philex affair is the stuff of high drama.

Never has so much power, wealth and savvy been arrayed in an arena with such consequence.

On one side stands the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee with its armory of subpoena and access. It is led by two wizened Senators who have been around the bloc enough times to know a rat when they see one.

On the other is the financial firepower, smarts and media reach of those in enquiry, Bobby Ongpin (RVO), David and friends.

The plot has all the elements and characters of a thriller, a bad boy, an enabler, a reluctant witness, a ‘grande dame’, an enforcer, ghosts and a Greek chorus:

The Bad Boy- RVO, the principal protagonist, is said to be enamored and have only one relationship in his life, that with himself. His swelled sense of self-worth does not suffer gladly those not of his persuasion. He carries the persona of corporate Darth Vader with bravado, the villain everybody loves to hate. Listed by Forbes as a billionaire, he does not give a hoot.

The Enabler- Rey David, then DBP President, does not have a cachet of initials to his name, but he is no slouch. RVO describes him as one of “the smartest bankers in the country”, his ultimate accolade.

The Reluctant Witness- Manny Pangilinan (MVP) holds the key to the insider trading case yet his disclosure could bring him more trouble than he wants. So far the Senators are coddling him but the charade of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is wearing thin. The public is wondering why he is not being popped the questions.

The Grand Dame-The “Grande Dame” of Philippine politics (a form of expression, not an allusion to his manhood), Senate President Enrile (JPE) has seemingly turned crusader in his lengthening years. With his legal and political arsenal and an intellect to match, he is a force. He has crucial information but is playing coy.

The Enforcer- People are never sure what to expect of Serge Osmeña, our street-smart, maverick Senator. Toughened by the martial law years, he is unfazed by the prospect of a bar brawl. He does his due diligence and will come armored.

Ghost One- FG is the Shakespearian ghost, the unspoken presence in the room.

Ghost Two- P-Noy is the other ghost. He brings the full weight of Government to an inquiry that has important consequences to his anti-corruption drive.

Greek Chorus- These are the corporate titans, the friends of the accused, who have a vested interest in a dead outcome. Their concern: They could be next.

The Philex matter is high drama yet strangely has not captured the curiosity nor enthusiasm of the public. One reason is the issues are technical and beyond the understanding of laymen. It is an upper/middle income spectacle, not one for the masses. Secondly,  the general public is unfamiliar with the actors. Thirdly, the media may have been persuaded to keep mum. Lastly, it may be corruption fatigue, the sense it will be just another cover-up.

And yet the affair could be a milestone, a tipping point in the fight against corporate greed and Government dishonesty. It is important we get this one right:

To the Blue Ribbon Committee- The proceedings should be seen as a search for the truth not a witch hunt. Keep the tone sober and the issues simple. Refrain from statements you cannot support nor raise expectations you cannot fulfill. Guard instead against disappointing the public and losing credibility. Stay on message, do the homework and avoid questions the answers to which you do not already have.

Warn witnesses you will take perjury very, very seriously.

To the accused- Look around that you are not the sucker in the group. In unity there is strength but understand that once the ground gives, it is everybody for himself. As others settle with Government in exchange for immunity make sure you are not the last man standing.

To the Greek chorus- Stay out of the fray. Once the proverbial stuff hits the fan, you could get splattered. Philex is just the start of investigations to come.

To the media-The money will be proffered but honor your mandate to the truth.

To the people- This is a landmark case, one that defines the nation that we can be. Through social media and your daily conversations, inform and be informed. Openly support the cause and our outgunned Senators.

To the main man- Think about it: The last man that blustered in the face of public indignation ended in a meat locker somewhere in North Africa.


About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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2 Responses to Anatomy Of An Inquiry

  1. Ed Roa says:

    We have an e-group that discusses all sorts of topics. Your article “Anatomy of an Inquiry” was posted by one of our members which sparked off a discussion. Below was my response to it:

    Alejandrino’s account seems to be a hodgepodge of theatrical references as if suggesting that this is all farcical and a “zarzuela”. It has a smattering of Shakespeare, George Lucas and the Greek theatre. What would have been appropriate is an allusion to Becket’s Godot and it would rightfully have been a drama from the theatre of the absurd.

    There are no new arguments added to what has already been said from previous articles. But there are more subtle digs and some unsolicited advice to the chorus on their epode to beware of the counter-turns as in a Greek drama.

    It is naughty of Alejandrino to have used “grande dame” instead of other more conventional titles to give hint by juxtaposition that there is one protagonist whose gender is a studied one.

    FG is not a ghost from the ramparts but a character introduced in a “deus ex machina” fashion surreptitiously done through the floorboards.

    Neither Pnoy was Ghost 2. Nunez, acted out the part of a buffoon in a Shakespearean comedy who was over eager to give his contribution the quota of prosecuted “corruptors” from the past administration. I will give Pnoy the benefit of the doubt that he did not sic his dogs to pin down Ongpin and David. This was the overzealous act of Nunez to present prize catches.

    I agree that one should stick to the issues and set aside the speculations, the innuendoes, the character assassinations, the guilt by association, baseless motives ascribed or even past wrongdoings and just discuss the case in question on the facts and evidences pertinent to the subject.

    Serving crooked presidents does not necessarily make them crooks. There are more than a handful of people I know who have served such leaders and have kept or professed their innocence of any form of fraud or corruption.

    Even without this case those who have been involved in past shenanigans should start tightening their bootstraps because the Pnoy administration is in earnest in pursuing their mission of eradicating corruption. There are so many fraudulent cases in other GOCCs that deserve intense scrutiny and the ire of those who pry into these things. So many cases of brazen acts of stealing and abuse of position that should have merited more space in media. The Philex affair should have been the least deserving of attention, it just so happened that the main protagonists are so high profile that there is a story here that is worth a good spin that would result into a frenzy which our media loves to stir and for its mercenaries to enjoy the opportunities such mayhem presents.

    This is not a landmark case at all but a cause celebre. It is a simple case of fraud but involving high profile protagonists. It does not add anything new to jurisprudence.

    It seems that the only senator that is praiseworthy is Osmena and all the rest despite their erudition and political savvy seem to be reluctant to join the fray for various reasons hinted at. One discerns some bias here.

    In keeping with the theatrical flavour of your article I would like to paraphrase what the bald poet said…all these is bluster…full of sound and phooey signifying nothing.

  2. Concepcion Poblador says:

    There is honor among thieves.

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