Senators Enrile, Jinggoy and Revilla have hinted at how they propose to defend themselves.
Enrique Dela Cruz, attorney for Enrile, has denied the charges against his client as he would be wont to do. The Senator, counsel told media, knew nothing of the workings of his staff. Unfortunately in so doing, inadvertently or not, he also threw his client’s ex-Chief of Staff, friend and confidante of 25 years, Gigi Reyes, under the bus.
Many were surprised at the news. Filipinos still pride themselves on old fashioned values like chivalry, manhood and, in a sinking ship, women and children first; so, from where it looked, the notion of feeding a distressed lady to a lynch mob in order to skip town was, well, unexpected from an officer and a gentleman.
A better alternative might have been for the Senator to offer himself in exchange for the lady, with a statement something like this:
” I am innocent of the charges of plunder. As a Philippine Senator I have the moral obligation to ensure that my PDAF was properly handled. I may have been negligent in this respect for which I apologize to the Filipino people. However I have never acted with malice and look forward to vigorously defending myself against allegations I unlawfully benefited from my PDAF.
By law the DBM and the implementing agencies are administratively responsible for monitoring PDAF funds. I intend to file the appropriate charges against their officers. If I am to be tried so too must they.
My Chief of Staff has at all times acted upon my instruction. I would be surprised if she has benefited from any of my PDAF. Therefore I request she be absolved of all charges.”
This noble approach would have come at little extra cost. At his age, with his vast legal and political armory and his party ally as possible next President, the Senator will never face time. It took the Sandiganbayan 7 years to convict Erap in a simpler case so unless he intends to live indefinitely, the man should be fine.
Sen. Jinggoy has a different set of challenges. For the first time he is required to play a role he is unaccustomed to, that of real life bad boy. The way to that character, he has seemingly decided, is not to prove he is innocent but to prove everybody else is guilty. Hopefully the Sandiganbayan is following his thinking.
In a privilege speech Jingggoy accused the President of “rewarding” Senators, himself included, with P50 million in additional PDAF for impeaching CJ Corona. The “incentive”, he subsequently clarified, “was not a bribe” and did not influence his vote (but did those of his peers?) so it is unclear where he was taking this.
The Senator then branded colleagues Peter Cayetano, Santiago, Pangilinan, Villar, Ed Angara and Rep. Gonzales as being philosophically if not criminally guilty of questionable pork releases and of hypocrisy and over-righteousness; although he did admit they may not be sinners. Again his messaging is tortuous but seems to ask why, if all his peers live in glass houses, are he and his two companions the only ones being stoned?
But he reserved his most scathing remarks against the “system” which he declared to be the real guilty party: “We are all here the victims of a flawed system which is so ingrained it has become institutionalized”. (When asked to comment the system chose not to reply). Some victims have obviously done better at it than others.
Sen. Jinggoy’s frustrations are understandable but he should know politics has never been about fairness. Therefore rather than bewail the inequities of life, the guilt of his colleagues or the flaws of the system; he should use his still considerable political capital, charisma and name to prove his innocence. He might also want to keep his perspective lest he be suspected –as he has by social media- of starting to wander.
Sen. Revilla is of the same circumstances as his friend Jinggoy (although there is debate as to who is the better actor). To his credit Bong has since an initial burst of hubris, chosen to remain quiet which has served him well. Silence speaks loudest when things are noisiest.
The three Senators have a long road ahead. The elements that elevated them to their pinnacle have mutated. Public sentiment, the political culture and their modes of expression have changed. CJ Corona did not recognize this shift in the ground, that the public will no longer suffer its leaders’ sense of entitlement (“Your Chief Justice will now excuse himself”) and this may have felled him. There is a lesson here for the Senators. As for the rest of the nation, however this may grate some of us, we might remember the men are innocent until proven guilty.