It is a fascinating facet of our society, and indeed of our times, that one can make a name portraying fictional characters with superhuman powers and use this to launch a political career. Our culture is probably in such dire need of heroes that it is inclined to overlook the difference between fiction and reality, and to take great achievements in one field as signifying prowess of a more encompassing nature.
“Kap’s amazing stories” is the title of a weekend television show hosted by Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. on GMA7. It may well have been the title of his privilege speech at the Senate the other day. The program presents video clips culled from various foreign sources featuring strange, bizarre, superhuman, and astonishing events and accomplishments. “Kap” is one of the senator’s show biz names, possibly a takeoff from the earlier sitcom “Idol ko si Kap,” where he played the lead role.
Revilla faces plunder charges at the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged siphoning of his Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations into private pockets. In his speech, he cried that he was being unfairly singled out for prosecution by an administration that has no moral standing to accuse anyone of wrongdoing.
He dismisses the evidence against him as fabricated, claiming that his signature had been forged in the documents that were being used as evidence. Yet he presents no proof to support the claim that all his PDAF allotments went to real and legitimate projects. Instead, he uses up almost a full hour offering tidbits of information that purport to demonstrate the moral bankruptcy of the Aquino administration.
These scraps of political gossip—not unlike the astonishing fragments of human experience Revilla curates for a mass audience every week—are supposed to speak for themselves. Maybe the bizarre requires no elaboration to elicit awe or shock. But what meanings are we supposed to draw from the “Boy Pickup” episode in which he ridicules Secretary Mar Roxas for personally driving him to his appointment with the President in Malacañang? Are we supposed to take this as indicative of a clandestine and orchestrated effort led by P-Noy to get enough votes to ensure the conviction of then Chief Justice Renato Corona?
But, isn’t it common knowledge that P-Noy had long wanted Corona out of the Supreme Court, given the sneaky circumstances behind his appointment as chief justice and his manifest bias against President Aquino? There was nothing extraordinary or improper about the President seeking to influence the outcome of Corona’s impeachment trial. It would be a different matter if a bribe was being offered in exchange. While it takes on the trappings of a court proceeding, the impeachment process itself is regarded as primarily a political function, which is why it is the legislature rather than the judiciary that performs it.
Indeed, the legislature and its organs—e.g., the impeachment court—are supposed to be autonomous, meaning they are expected to use their own code and criteria in arriving at decisions. But that is a burden that falls squarely on the shoulders of the senator-judges themselves. If Revilla had felt at any point during his meeting with President Aquino that he was being bribed or pressured to vote for or against Corona’s conviction, it was his duty to denounce this in public. That he did not do so while the impeachment court was in session makes him an accessory to the conspiracy he now complains about. That he is doing so now, after plunder charges have been filed against him, makes him sound like a gossipmonger who tries to project an air of innocence by smearing everyone else around him. No reasonable person can seriously assign any value to his speech.
Some observers make much of the fact that the senator seems to be the first major politician to launch a direct assault on the President’s personal integrity. But, Kap’s amazing speech fails to impress. In a vain effort to show that he is being politically persecuted, the senator-actor is barking up the wrong tree.
It wasn’t P-Noy who initiated the campaign to clean up the PDAF—even as many wish he had done so. On the contrary, his first pronouncement on the pork barrel scam was to defend the PDAF. No—for once, the quest for justice has not come as a mere byproduct of politics. The events that led to the filing of plunder charges against some legislators including Revilla, government officials, and private individuals led by Janet Lim-Napoles were not the outcome of a deliberate plan by this administration to dismantle the web of corruption surrounding the pork barrel.
The catalyst was investigative journalism at its finest. Public opinion supplied the unwavering moral voice that emboldened the whistle-blowers and their lawyer to play an active role in the bigger task of reforming our political system. Key government institutions like the Department of Justice, the Commission on Audit, and the Office of the Ombudsman found themselves facing a complex task they did not ask for. To be fair, they took on these cases with utmost professionalism and willfulness, unmindful of the political fallout that might be generated.
That is how it should be in a democracy; it is the only way the political system can observe and correct itself. From what I have seen, the President, to his credit, has not used his considerable clout to stop these ministries from doing their work or, worse, to deploy the administrative powers of government for purely politicized motives. Given the kind of regimes we have been through, that is an amazing story worth telling.