6/21/2014
The political persecution, supposedly, of Bong Revilla

A bunch of streamers have gone up on my route home in recent weeks.

"Nasaan na ang daang matuwid?" one said, accompanied by images of a black ribbon and barbed wire.

"Mahal ka namin, Sen. Bong Revilla," another said, accompanied by an image of the actor turned legislator.

"Stop political persecution," yet another said, the very last sign I encounter before I make one of my last right turns.

Yes, again, I live in Cavite. It is not in Metro Manila, but considering how my province has become an industrial center of sorts - with all the infrastructure, still under construction, accompanying it - the perceived distance becomes irrelevant. Also, I live fifteen minutes away from Alabang. But that's not the point today. Yes, I live in Cavite, a province with the second highest number of voters in the country. I live in a province that has been dominated politically by a few families; one of them, the Revillas.

I live in Bacoor, which only became a city recently. The campaign for cityhood was led by our mayor, Strike Revilla, the senator's brother. "Congratulations on our cityhood!" the streamers said when the plebiscite was finished and the yes vote dominated. "From Bong, Lani, Jolo and Strike Revilla."

Lani is the congresswoman representing Cavite's second district, which solely includes Bacoor. Jolo, who followed his parents in both showbiz and politics, was a barangay captain before becoming the province's vice governor. Bong, before he became a senator, was the province's vice governor, and later, governor.

Together they appeared in an elaborate stage play, unfolding over the past week, starting with Bong bidding farewell to his colleagues in the Senate, complete with a song, and later, a long, protracted "surrender", barely preempting the arrest warrant issued against him, for allegedly pocketing millions of pesos of his pork barrel, with the help of Janet Lim Napoles.

Of course I am not on his side. No. Not at all, no. I may not be a fan of Noynoy Aquino, and I may live in Cavite, but no, I am not on Bong Revilla's side. All the documents that came out in the past year puts Bong as one of those who benefited the most from the scam, at least among the three senators pegged at the moment; if I remember correctly, the figure attributed to him stands at around half a billion pesos. That does not amuse me, more so the singing and the proselytizing he's done to defend himself from the allegations.

I am most definitely not on his side. No. Not at all, no. Sure, Cavite politics has been mostly irrelevant to me: I live in a gated subdivision, my free time was always in the so-called South. Yes, whatever corruption that happens in wherever affects me in some way, but apart from the occasional streamers that thank a politician for giving what they ought to give anyway - like we peasants owe our landlord our lives - it has not really manifested itself in front of my face. But corruption has been a thorn on our side for decades, and this, at least seemingly, is the closest we've gotten to squashing it. We may be acting on mere allegations, a bunch of documents, a distrust of anybody from government, and sheer blood lust, but this is the closest we've gotten to making government accountable. For a starved citizenry, we take what we can get.

But every day I go home, and every day I see that last streamer. It's no longer flying proud - it hasn't been, as with all the other signs; it seems those against Bong have tipped them over in disgust - but the message still echoes in my head. "Stop political persecution," it says, or tries to say, and I can't help but give it some thought.

For an image-obsessed administration, the non-presence of its allies on the chopping block is a glaring omission. An unsurprising one, sure; it's the "kami naman!" syndrome very much at work. It is, still, a glaring omission. For the past four years Noynoy Aquino and his cohorts have tried, very hard, to convince Filipinos that they are serious in fighting corruption, a problem that, according to them, was left to fester during decades of darkness that conveniently began during Martial Law and ended the moment he put his palm on the Bible and took an oath. He has evicted a midnight appointee in the Supreme Court and put his predecessor on some kind of arrest, I honestly don't know anymore. And, in the past year, as the extent of Napoles' scheme unfurled like a popcorn kernel when exposed to heat, the government had the biggest opportunity to show its sincerity in cleaning its ranks.

Of course we all know it's not enough. Only the most deluded of fawners will believe we are making real progress. All we've had so far are three senators, conveniently on different sides of the political arena, being made examples out of. (Is it telling that Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile have mostly kept their dignity when given the chance to defend themselves?) The very same papers that form the backbone of the allegations against them also tag several government allies, some of them prominent personalities; if Noynoy is really, really, really serious about fighting corruption, then he should've pursued one of his allies as well. Even just one. It doesn't have to be big fry. It would still make us feel comfortable.

But all the presidential spokespersons say are either "the government wants to ensure the cases against them, if any, are watertight" or "the government believes these allies can explain their involvement". And yet, in less than a year, we've seen the cases against the three senators blossom to this point. Now Bong Revilla is detained, demanding cooler air and getting fruits for breakfast, proving that there's no better feeling than being arrested fully prepared. All his bags were packed, and he was ready to go, in a ten-vehicle convoy accompanied by sycophants and look-alikes.

Still, this is the closest we've gotten to squashing corruption, once and for all, or something close to it. And, for what it's worth, it seems to be getting us results: other countries are a bit more confident about us, the numbers suggest things are not just looking up but actually going up, that sort of thing, For a fatigued citizenry, we take what we can get.

And your responses...

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