Abuse of Power

The following article by Manuel Mejorada was published May 18 in his “CoffeeBreak” column at The Daily Guardian Western Visayas, a newspaper based in Iloilo City. I found it very perceptive, well informed, and well written that it deserves a larger audience.

Entitled “The Crucifixion of Jojo Binay,” (which is, by the way, too melodramatic for my taste), Mejorada writes:

With one year to go before the next presidential elections, the leading contender for the highest position of the country has been crucified.

Vice President Jojo Binay has been condemned, vilified and pronounced guilty of corruption before the bar of public opinion by the machinery of government obsessed with seeing to it that nobody, and nobody else, but Mar Roxas will be elected as President.

It’s too early to say if Binay will be crushed beyond redemption by this massive propaganda effort of the Aquino administration. What is certain, however, is that Binay was badly battered by the onslaught of corruption issues against him.

The screaming headlines about the Court of Appeals order to freeze 242 bank accounts directly or indirectly linked to Binay will substantially erode the survey ratings for Binay. Those guys working behind the scenes for Roxas have done a good job.

The question that must be asked is this: Why was the machinery of government thrown against Binay and used to unearth every possible dirty linen that could be used to tarnish his image?

The AMLC—Anti-Money Laundering Council—was put up to comply with international treaty obligations to help stem the flow of “dirty money” around the global financial system. Primarily, the targets for the money laundering watchdog are drug lords, smugglers and crime syndicates. It is not the primary agency tasked to monitor the ill-gotten wealth of politicians.

With that in mind, who unleashed the AMLC in a massive investigation to look into alleged money laundering activities of Binay?

These questions are not being asked because I am defending Binay. Nor am I raising the issue because I dislike Mar Roxas. At the core of the controversy is abuse of power, the same issue that led to the downfall of then US President Richard M. Nixon in 1975.

In case you haven’t noticed, the AMLC hasn’t come out with reports about the bank accounts of drug lords even after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima uncovered the existence of illegal drug distribution activities being directed from within the confines of the National Bilibid Prisons.

We know that it is hard to pin down drug lords and smugglers because 99% of the time, they are detached from the physical evidence of prohibited items. It’s the same way with jueteng lords. The most effective way of catching them is through their bank accounts and
tax records.

But it is apparent criminals are safe from the radar screens of the Aquino government.

It’s only its political enemies that are being tracked down, their every movement scrutinized, and every bank transaction red-flagged. This explains why illegal drugs and smuggling continue to prosper under the “matuwid na daan”. The government is looking the other way; its eyes are exclusively locked on its enemies.

If this isn’t abuse of power at its worst, then I don’t know what is. And Binay is being accused of corruption. It’s tragic because his accusers are guilty of the most rampant corruption in our nation’s history. President Aquino and his cabals, Senate President Franklin Drilon and DBM Secretary Butch Abad, institutionalized corruption through the PDAF and DAP. No less than the Supreme Court made crystal clear just how huge that corruption was.

So Binay has billions of pesos as windfall from his three decades as the prince of Makati City.

But isn’t everybody else in the nation’s corridor of power as guilty as he is?

Take the case of Roxas. It’s public knowledge in Roxas City, his hometown, that his family controls almost every franchise of food chains that open stores at local malls. Isn’t that taking undue advantage of their political power? No business can come in without the imprimatur of the family, according to my sources.

And what about the closest lieutenants of the President?

None of them is ever in danger of being labelled poor. In the last few years, their wealth grew from average to fabulous. Their balance sheets have long abandoned the 7-digit level; their net worths are now in the hundred-million-and-above levels.

None of the President’s political allies have been investigated by the AMLC. None of them have given us a glimpse of their bank accounts. The only reason that’s the case is that they are being protected by the Aquino government. In a sea of corruption, only those that don’t swim with the administration are caught in its nets.

Just the same, the Aquino government should pray hard that Jojo Binay will be pulverized by such efforts. There’s danger that this overkill can boomerang on them. As I have pointed out time and again, the demolition efforts won’t benefit Roxas. His popularity and approval ratings will not rise as Binay stumbles and falls.

Binay is not about to be written off, yet. The point of overflow is approaching, and the public, sick and tired of the abuse of power, might just sympathize with Binay.

If Binay wins, then the next government will have to seriously think of expanding the prison facilities, with careful attention to providing large-sized, heavy-duty beds.

[END OF MR. MEJORADA’S COLUMN]