During President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III’s inaugural last June 30, his most memorable statement that stuck in people’s minds was: “Walang wang-wang, walang counterflow, walang tong” (No more sirens, no more counterflow, no more bribes). The spontaneous response from the crowd was ecstatic… euphoric. The effect was alchemy and chemistry all rolled into one. It was magic!
But like anything else in this world, the excitement of the moment ebbed down and reality seeped in. The first thirty days went fast. Then sixty days passed. Seventy… going eighty… Pretty soon we’ll reach the 100th day ending the honeymoon period that every president has enjoyed with the media particularly the opinion makers. And by then, we’re beyond “wang-wang” politics and into the realm of realpolitik where the strongest rules and the weak are laid by the wayside. Ironically, it was realpolitik — the theory of politics that focuses on power, not ideals, morals, or principles — that former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo thrived on for the nine and a half years that she was in power. In the end, power corrupted her.
Since P-Noy came to power on a vow to fight and end corruption, he is faced with a daunting and challenging mission: How can he fight corruption in an environment that has for decades been ruled by entrenched plutocrats and oligarchs? Can he balance playing realpolitik and fighting corruption at the same time? If he could do it, it would not be a leisurely walk in the park; it would be like hacking his way through the rain forests of the Amazon. Indeed, corruption is so deep-rooted in the Philippines that to eradicate it, P-Noy has to employ extraordinary means.
P-Noy’s attempt to fight corruption gained approval from the people when he formed the Truth Commission to investigate the anomalies and corruption scandals during the Arroyo presidency. But his appointment of retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. as the commission chairman has drawn intense flak from the media as well as political and civic leaders. At issue was Davide’s close political association with Gloria and of his alleged corruption practices while he was at the helm of the high court. And P-Noy’s strong defense of Davide calling him the “perfect” person for the job doesn’t bode well with a growing number of people opposed to Davide’s appointment.
Arroyo investigation stymied
Meanwhile, Gloria’s allies in the House of Representatives have filed a petition with the high court to invalidate P-Noy’s Executive Order No. 1 creating the Truth Commission. In addition, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima — who served under Gloria as head of the Commission on Human Rights — has put on hold DOJ’s investigation into the graft complaint filed against Gloria in connection to the $329-million NBN-ZTE bribery scandal. De Lima said that DOJ would wait for the Truth Commission to come up with its parameters before initiating its own investigation. There is widespread concern that the “freezing” of investigations on anomalies involving Gloria and her underlings could result in failure to bring them to justice. Mandated to submit its final report to P-Noy by December 31, 2012, the Truth Commission is under horrendous pressure to get started; however, until the Supreme Court ruled on its constitutionality, the Arroyo investigation is stymied.
Compounding the situation, any attempt to prosecute Gloria while Merceditas Gutierrez remains as Ombudsman could fail. While there are two concurrent impeachment resolutions against Gutierrez in the House of Representatives, P-Noy has recently taken a neutral position on her impeachment, a 180-degree turnaround from his earlier position that Gutierrez should be removed from her constitutional position which can only be done through impeachment. If Congress fails to impeach and remove Gutierrez, she will in office until her seven-year term ends on December 1, 2012.
It could then be surmised that until P-Noy is halfway through his six-year term, Gloria could not be prosecuted. Assuming, however, that Gloria would be prosecuted and convicted before P-Noy’s term ends, the conviction would be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. And this is where the final battle will be fought. But the bad news is: The Supreme Court in 2016 would still have at least nine justices who are presumably loyal to Gloria including Chief Justice Renato Corona whose term ends on October 15, 2018.
And who knows who would be P-Noy’s successor. The case against Gloria could drag on for another six years… and eventually fall into limbo. But a scarier scenario would be Gloria succeeding P-Noy as president or prime minister.
Quo vadis, P-Noy?
If P-Noy is really serious about fulfilling his campaign promise, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty), he has to implement drastic changes to how he’s going to bring Gloria to justice and eradicate corruption.
With investigations of corruption during Gloria’s presidency on hold, there are subtle signs that corruption is slowly making its way into P-Noy’s fledgling administration.
A case in point was a recent article written by columnist Ramon Tulfo under his “On Target” column, to wit:
“One official in the Aquino administration allegedly collects P20 million tong every month from gambling lords through some police regional directors. This official just took over from his counterpart in the previous administration. Most of the P20-million collection allegedly went to a Palace heavyweight in the Arroyo government. But since P-Noy hates ‘dirty money,’ the official gets all the take.”
Whoever that administration official is, I’m pretty sure that P-Noy is aware of what’s going on. If the allegation was proven to be true, it would provide P-Noy with an opportunity to kick off his anti-corruption campaign by firing that official in his administration who’s pocketing “dirty money.” If there is one thing that corrupt officials fear most, it’s punishment. And as to that “Palace heavyweight” in the Arroyo government who had been receiving “dirty money” from the gambling lords, the Truth Commission should easily find out who that “heavyweight” was. There weren’t that many… perhaps only one.
Corruption is like weed: if you don’t kill it, it will grow and spread rapidly until the entire landscape is full of weed. That’s what happened to Gloria’s presidency when four days after she assumed the office from ousted president Joseph “Erap” Estrada, her justice secretary planted the first seed of corruption in her administration which then grew into a dense “jungle” over a span of nine years.
Indeed, beyond “wang-wang” politics awaits a grand opportunity for P-Noy to show his 90 million “bosses” that there is no place for corrupt officials in his administration.