I was told a month ago Senators Enrile, Jinggoy and Bong Revilla were shortly to be charged with plunder over the pork scam. It is hard to imagine but if it happens and it sticks, it would historically be more consequential than the Corona impeachment and at least at par with the ouster of Erap. Only EDSA I would be bigger.
JPE has not responded to the allegations which is probably the way to go. He has had his share of mishaps in his long political career –assassination attempts, coup plots- so this could be just another one. He eats controversies for breakfast. He is more concerned, I imagine, his ex-Chief of Staff, Gigi Reyes, has been implicated.
Jinggoy and Bong are newer at this and are now talking through their lawyers, the first sign of discomfort. They may still escape the charges but their political futures have been seriously damaged. Jinggoy was until today the front-runner for Vice-President in 2016 while Bong, if only in his mind, had dreams of the Presidency.
The problems of Jinggoy open the race for prospective VP. Those vying for this spot are supposedly Chiz Escudero, Peter Cayetano and Drilon with Grace Poe an outsider. As always Escudero has positioned himself well: He was one of the first to call for the abolition of the PDAF. This has given him national visibility at a time when his peers are ducking for cover. Like him or not the man has good political instincts.
Cayetano has remained relatively quiet. A report last year by the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism pointed out that despite their national mandate, the Cayetano siblings channeled their PDAF allocations legally but almost exclusively to their political base where Lani, Peter’s wife, sits as mayor and Dino, their brother, as Congressman. Coupled with the Supreme Court decision returning the revenue-rich Bonifacio Global Center to Makati, the scrapping of the PDAF means Peter’s bailiwick has lost two major sources of funds.
Drilon has the Senate Presidency to launch a VP or Presidential run in 2016 when his term expires. However, he needs to boost his poll ratings and soon.
Grace Poe is a dark horse. Topping the May Senatorial elections propelled her to national prominence but she needs to prove her leadership, hone her political skills and build bulk if she is to be a viable candidate. In the pork scam she has chosen to follow rather than lead. She might need to take more risks.
The pork scandal has had unintended consequences on one person and that is Vice President Binay. If JPE and Jinggoy are taken down, Jojo will have lost two pillars of his UNA party. Erap is still around but until when? Binay needs to re-jigger his coalition. He continues to enjoy public support but now must develop new allies to broaden his reach for his presidential run. His most natural partner is Sen. Escudero with whom he was closely associated in the successful if stealth Noy-Bi combination that propelled Binay to his VPship in 2010. For his part Chiz will be looking for a home especially if the President re-endorses Mar or another Liberal Party stalwart for the Presidency. Chiz has no equity in that ticket.
The 2016 scenario has still to unfold but, absent an implosion or a health concern, we will probably see a Binay-Escudero tandem against a PNoy team that has yet to emerge. The former is a formidable duo so the President needs to do three things if he is to present a worthy opposition: One, he needs to make economic growth more inclusive. Unemployment has increased under his watch. If the slide continues his presidential endorsement could lose much of its cachet.
Two, he needs to re-connect with his base. PNoy is still vastly popular but in the pork scam he surprisingly miscalculated the nation’s sentiment. Since his election he has abandoned his 2010 core constituency–the NGOs, the young, the intelligentsia- in favor of a coterie of insiders some of whom have been linked to the pork protagonists.
Three, he needs to start grooming a successor or possible successors. He need not prematurely expose them but there must be a plan.
Pork barrel has allowed our elected representatives to scam this nation for over a generation. Yet some good may have finally come out of it. One, it has re-energized people power. Not since the ouster of Erap in 2001 has there been an issue that has united Filipinos, this time to reclaim their country from the hoodlums in Congress.
Two, it has provided the evidence to what we knew all along, that those entrusted to enact our laws have been the first to break them. If we can finally nail some big names, we will put all public officials on notice that they will be held accountable.
If for these alone, the price we paid for the scams might well be worthwhile.