• Reading time:6 mins read

Aquino has debased the Senate into a propaganda weapon

Equalling only President Benigno Aquino’s misdeed, in depth of turpitude, of using and bribing the Senate in 2012 to remove Chief Justice Renato Corona, has been the president’s debasement of the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations, or the so-called Blue Ribbon Committee, as a propaganda weapon.

Aquino, in fact, has been the only President who has exploited the vast powers of the Blue Ribbon Committee to use its investigations as a powerful propaganda weapon to politically demolish his targets’ reputations.

Was there any episode during the administrations of Presidents Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, and Gloria Arroyo when the Blue Ribbon Committee acted as a kangaroo court against a personality, as has been so common during Aquino’s regime?

Under Aquino, it was the committee’s investigations that blackened the bishops’ reputations to mute their opposition to Aquino’s reproductive health bill, as well as to add another case against former President Arroyo when the other charges were fizzling out. Past officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office were humiliated in a Blue Ribbon Committee hearing as media preparation before charges were made and arrest orders issued against them. And it was its investigations into the pork-barrel issue that painted the opposition senators as so corrupt that there was hardly a public squeak at their arrest and incarceration.

Yellow Ribbon Committee at work? You decide: “Blue Ribbon” means independence and expertise; “Yellow Ribbon” is Aquino’s insignia.
“Okay. Anyway, I won’t argue with you. Let the public judge.”
– Senator Alan Cayetano after a lengthy question-and-answer episode in the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing Oct 22, when lawyer Martin Subido tried to explain to him that as a lawyer, he has to rely on documents, and not on claims made in a TV reporter’s interview with somebody.

The committee’s investigations now have become its last-resort propaganda to weaken the chances of Vice President Jejomar Binay to capture the presidency in 2016.

Binay’s spokesman, Congressman Tobias Tiangco’s reference to that committee as the Yellow Ribbon Committee hits it right on the head.

Believe it or not, ours is the only legislative body in the world to have such a “Blue Ribbon Committee,” or any such committee with similar investigative functions. Other countries have politically matured in junking such an investigative committee as intruding into the work of the judiciary, even as it has a powerful pulpit, the legislative body, for lethal character assassination.

Our Blue Ribbon Committee was invented in 1949 with the same intention as it has today, to throw dirt at a major political figure.

It was Senator Justiniano Montano of the Liberal Party who asked for the formation of a “Blue Ribbon Committee” in the Senate to investigate alleged corruption in government. It turned out the main target of the committee was then President Elpidio Quirino, who, ironically, was Montano’s partymate but who supported his political archenemy in the congressional seat in Cavite from which he retired.

Propaganda tool
Then and now, it was an effective propaganda tool. Montano’s Blue Ribbon Committee investigations produced what we would call now as the urban legend of Quirino’s golden arinola (chamber pot). That canard outraged Filipinos that he would be defeated by a landslide by his defense secretary, Ramon Magsaysay – with the help of the Central Intelligence Agency, most historians have revealed.

Quirino was helpless in telling the media, showing to them even, that his chamber pot was not made of gold, but of brass. It’s the same trick used by the present Blue Ribbon Committee, which has been trying to portray a “350-hectare Binay Hacienda,” when the Vice President has only six hectares leased to the owner of that estate.

Montano was as media savvy as his counterparts in the present. The “Blue Ribbon” term he used as a moniker for that committee had meant the highest level of excellence or quality in those times, as in the best cattle being awarded a “Blue Ribbon.”

The term evolved as a term for ad hoc panels and commissions tasked to study an important issue, consisting of individuals known for their integrity and expertise in the field being studied. It also meant the panel had a high degree of independence from political parties and government authority. Thus, the US Congress’ “Warren Commission” on the Kennedy assassination, the “9-11 Commission,” and the Iraq Study Group had been referred to in the US media as “blue ribbon panels.”

I’m sure with that significance attached to “Blue Ribbon,” you’d agree with me that it is utter stupidity for us to call the Senate Committee on Accountability Public Officers and Investigations, a “Blue Ribbon” Committee.

Its members are nothing but “Blue Ribbon” individuals. They are extremely politically partisan and subservient to Aquino. By background or/and by their performance so far, they are the most incompetent to undertake investigations.

Let’s call a spade a spade, for chrissakes. It’s the Yellow Ribbon Committee. Has this committee ever investigated a yellow ribbon-wearing government official?

Cayetano’s statement above in the Oct 22 hearings of the committee shows its obvious motive is to change public opinion over the front-runner in the 2016 elections. It’s the propaganda hit squad of the Yellow Ribbon cult.

Next week: Why a “Blue Ribbon Committee” is another only-in-the-Philippines thing.

Correction on the SWS report
A source corrected my column on the Social Weather Stations on Oct 22. He claimed that an SWS poll of 1,500 respondents cost P3 million, not P2.5 million as I wrote. For 1,200 respondents the price tag is P2.5 million. I was surprised at his claim, though, that the SWS allows a questionnaire of 200 questions. Doesn’t that make both the pollster and the respondent so tired that replies would be so unreliable?