10/02/2013
Double standards

The first I heard of plans to file an impeachment complaint against Noynoy Aquino was, well, from Noynoy Aquino himself, as he spoke to reporters earlier this morning. "Isulong nila kung sa palagay nila ay nasa tama sila," he said, when asked about his hand in the possibly anomalous Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Minutes later, he, alongside agriculture secretary Proceso Alcala, budget secretary Butch Abad and several others, were slapped with charges of plunder and graft. The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, burned by how farmers like them were used in the P10 billion pork barrel scam, thought the president, above all, should be held accountable for the actions of his cabinet. "Since there was no reprobation or disapproval coming from President Aquino regarding their actions, it can be easily inferred that the president acquiesced to such acts," the complaint said.

The plan, I assume, is for the Ombudsman, as a supposedly independent body, to begin an investigation on the president. The end game, perhaps, is an impeachment trial.

About time, I thought.

Now, don't get me wrong. This complaint is a shot at the moon. Noynoy will definitely hide under presidential immunity. The Ombudsman - Conchita Carpio-Morales, an Aquino appointee - might decide not to pursue an investigation, the same way the Ombudsman under Gloria Arroyo acted. Or, maybe, an investigation will be held, but - call this a stretch, but this is consistent with how the government has treated its allies as of late - it will result in, at least, the president being cleared.

If, for some reason, this does end up with an impeachment complaint, I'm pretty certain that it will be blocked in Congress, regardless of whether money changes hands (it's an assumption the cynics will make) or otherwise. Noynoy has the numbers in both houses of legislature. It'd be easy, whether he says so or not, to block the case, claiming that it's insufficient in either form, or substance, or both. If that does go through, it'd be easier for the plenary to stop the case from being transmitted to the Senate - they may only need a third of the representatives to say yes, but that third is hard to get. And in the off chance that it does go to the Senate, it'd be easy for them to "look" at the evidence and say that, no, they're inconclusive, and therefore the president is not guilty of anything.

The more radical of Noynoy's critics may not like this one bit. They'd scoff at the idea of Noynoy having those numbers, and seethe with anger, and probably say something along the lines of "kick the autistic guy out, now!" But there is still reason to welcome this development, and it's not something along the lines of "I told you the president is corrupt!" If anything, the case is the beginning of Noynoy Aquino being held to the same standards as his predecessors, if not higher ones.

I've written about this many times before. I'm pretty sure I mentioned this as early as December 2011, when the impeachment case against Renato Corona started rolling. When Noynoy Aquino was elected president, everybody was just too damn confident that he will not do anything wrong, for reasons I have enumerated over and over again. When things did begin to look up a bit - you know, economic figures, press releases from big names, the works - it became easier to subscribe to that thought. Anyone who hurls criticism at the president, whether it's for the lack of inclusive growth or the more obvious politicking he is involving himself in, is dismissed. He's either a guy who wants the old system back or a guy who's hopelessly stupid.

To illustrate the first point, here's Noynoy Aquino, in a speech to businessmen this morning, on the pork barrel scandal: "Ang average annual budget sa halos sampung taon nilang pamamahala, nasa isang trilyon kada taon. Hindi po ba kasuklam-suklam ito, na maaaring katumbas ng isang buong budget ng pambansang gugulin natin ay napunta sa kamay nila, para gamitin kung saan nila gusto?"

To illustrate the second point, here's Noynoy Aquino, in that same speech: "Lahat ng kakayahan ko para makakuha ng ipamumudmod, binawasan ko ng binawasan. Sa kabila nito, tinawag pa po akong Pork Barrel King. Kayo na po ang humusga kung paano tumatakbo ang sentido ng mga nagsasabi nito na napakahilig sa pork."

Just look at the reaction to the DAP story. (I would call it "scandal", but I have to admit, it is very murky at the moment.) Since Jinggoy Estrada revealed the existence of a program that has transferred government savings to the now suspect hands of senators and congressmen, many experts have come out to say that it is questionable at the very least, and illegal at its worst. Whether it was a bribe to impeach Corona, or an incentive after impeaching Corona, or not, is frankly not the most important question.

Take former senator Joker Arroyo, who voted to acquit Corona in 2011. According to the DBM, he supposedly received P47 million from the DAP. He claimed that the amount was proposed, initially, as amendments to the national budget, but was instead reallocated to the program. He added that he would not have received the money if he knew it was from a mechanism that has no legal backing. "This is a crime, releasing money without legal support," he said. "That involves money. To disburse that, they must have authority. Nowhere in our laws, and nowhere in our General Appropriations Act, would it appear that DAP was created at all with the sanction and support of our congress."

The PDAF, he says, while unsavory, is legal, and has always been in the budget. The DAP isn't. Sure, Malacañang has countered by saying that the president has the prerogative to reallocate funds as required, but the fact remains, Arroyo says, that it is not written down in a law approved by both houses. He believes his inclusion in the list was used to counter claims that the DAP is a bribe. "Ginawa akong deodorant," he told Noli de Castro on DZMM this morning.

The most striking thing about the reactions I've seen is that they aren't really... angry. Well, the so-called radicals will be, the people who might've branded Noynoy as "Pork Barrel King" and therefore, he implies, needs to check themselves in at a hospital in Mandaluyong. Those who are peeved that corruption is still happening are a bit hesitant to hold the president into account. And then there are those who believe, in all its glory, the DBM press release (take note, they issued a press release rather than opening the books, which theoretically should be open to the public because, you know, it's our money) stating that the DAP is legal and is not a bribe and all that.

Just contrast that with the reactions to everybody else. Jinggoy Estrada's speech revealing the DAP was met with a collective shrug, and, to the extreme, suggestions that he's a thief caught red-handed and is dragging everyone else down. Go a few years back, to when Gloria Arroyo was still in power, and whenever there was another corruption scandal brewing against her, everybody just assumed that she is involved.

Granted, she was in power for almost ten years, and in those ten years, things weren't really going well. By the tail end, it was just safe to assume that she had a hand in all these things. In contrast, Noynoy has been in power for a little over three years, and this DAP thing is the first (potential?) corruption scandal that's rocked his term. We can still afford to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Or, well, actually, we cannot anymore. And I'm not saying this because I don't like the president, and I think he's as corrupt as the demons he tries to vanquish. I believe we're giving Noynoy Aquino far too much leniency. The impression that Noynoy is as incorruptible as his almost-mythological parents has prevented us from holding him into account, from asking him the hard questions about his politics and his decisions and his beliefs. Now, his team has taken advantage of that opening, constantly reminding us that he is, well, the Son of God who'll take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us all. And we've seen, time and time again, that the president is not perfect, and that he makes mistakes too, and yet he never seems to get even just a bit of the blame. Whoever does just that gets tagged as a guy yearning for, say, the glory days of Marcos. Again, another impression perpetrated by his team.

But, if we're really to move up and onward as a country, we have to hold everybody into account, and that includes our president. No, he is not the guy who will lift us out of this dark hole and drag us out to the light. We should never see him as some Messianic figure who can only do wonders to our national malaise. He's just a guy who'll hopefully get us started, but also a guy who might also take advantage of the situation and further himself and the Liberal Party in the political spectrum. He's done both, but all we talk about is the former.

(I'm inclined to also attribute this to an unspoken clampdown on cynicism and pessimism, not just among the social media types who always post "October, be good to me!" and "bad vibes, go away!" While the thought of attracting good things by just thinking of good things makes a bit of weird sense, it's done at the expense of being critical, of being discerning, of actually seeing the bad in the good, and trying to make good out of it. We've gotten so delusional we're not doing anything. Yet another thing that Noynoy has taken advantage of. If the president says it's sunny, you must believe so; otherwise you're just a downer.)

So, that plunder case - it might not go anywhere, but it's a good thing. It's not because somebody's attempting to kick the president out - nobody needs more political instability - but because somebody is finally putting him to task with his past actions. Sure, a plunder case sounds extreme. We could've just, you know, asked the questions as it was happening, or raised a civilized ruckus, but then again, we have people saying we shouldn't, because, well, why ruin a good thing? We're going up! There's no need to complain!

Noynoy Aquino, still in that same speech I quoted earlier: "May isang administrasyon na pinagdudahan ang mandato, at kinasangkapan ang kaban ng bayan para mang-abuso. May isang pangulong kinuntsaba ang lahat ng makikikuntsaba para manatili sa kapangyarihan. May mga mambabatas na lasing sa suhol at transaksyonalismo; may burukrasyang nakipagsabwatan; at nagtagumpay dahil sa mga mamamayang namanhid at nagsawa nang humiyaw, dahil sa pakiwari nila’y wala namang nakikinig."

If I remember correctly, there was a lot of noise during Gloria Arroyo's time. So many people wanted her out because of those very things Noynoy listed. I don't remember a lot of noise happening now.

And your responses...

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