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.