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Trillanes, Pimentel shame, debase the Senate

For nearly a year, and up to last week, Senators Antonio Trillanes 4th and Aquilino Pimentel 3rd have been using Senate resources, time and money for their vilification campaign against Vice President Jejomar Binay. (Trillanes 4th, Pimentel 3rd, Aquino 3rd, Roxas 2nd – what is it with these guys’ fathers?)

The duo – Senator Alan Cayetano appears to have recently lost interest — had 20 Senate committee hearings on the accusations against Binay, more than the hearings on the Bangsamoro Basic Law or the Mamasapano Massacre.

Only a dishonest or a stupid person wouldn’t be able to see that these hearings were absolutely not in aid of legislation, which is supposed to be the justification for such probes. Neither were these in pursuit of its other unwritten aim which is to act as a check on the executive branch’s abuses. In Binay’s case, it is the two branches of government – the Executive and the Legislative – which is bearing down him.

Trillanes and Pimentel have shamed the Senate by debasing one of its key tools – the hearings — to transform it as part of a demolition campaign against the Vice President.

I cannot think of any other episode in the post-Marcos history of the Senate in which it has been utterly reduced as a cog in the character-assassination machine against somebody, simply in order to reduce his chances in upcoming elections. We taxpayers are in effect spending for the Aquino camp’s campaign against its rival in 2016! For Christ’s sake, can’t they have some decency and just buy radio and TV attack ads?

I cannot understand why the honorable members of the Senate have allowed Trillanes and Pimentel to damage their institution by allowing it to be used for their smear campaigns against Binay.

Is Trillanes using Hitler’s “Big Lie” technique?
Is Trillanes using Hitler’s “Big Lie” technique?

Trillanes and Pimentel’s latest vile episode in this campaign was their allegations of “ghost senior citizens” in Makati receiving benefits, which follow\ the duo’s template since they started the investigation. This template consists of the following.

First, in all hearings the two use that PowerPoint trick which takes advantage of people’s laziness in analyzing things and of their gullibility in thinking that anything presented on a large screen (and in a newspaper) is true. It’s the equivalent of etching false images in people’s minds.

The vilest use of such PowerPoint trick I can remember is when Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales presented charts which had numerous points and arrow to claim that former Chief Justice Renato Corona had $12 million in his bank accounts, a figure still quoted by lazy journalists to this day. The truth is that she was presenting transactions, not balances, so that a $100 deposit and withdrawn in a span of five years to take advantage of interest rates at different times and instruments made the Chief Justice seem to have $100,000 in his balance.

Second, this devilish duo almost always present a made up figure, as numbers trick the mind into believing that something false is true. In their latest lie, the degenerate duo claimed that 44.8 percent of the senior citizens who have been receiving benefits from the Makati government are non-existent. That means, they claimed, about P300 million in stolen money.

How did they get these figures? Trillanes explanation is too contrived that it leaps out as a concoction.

First, he says that “according to the National Statistics Office” (NSCO) Makati has only 30,000 senior citizens, half of the 60,000 given benefits by Makati.

No NSO report
There is no NSO report showing how many senior citizens there are in Makati for 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.

Trillanes stupidly used the NSO’s “Special Release: 2010 Census of Population and Housing.” In that release, the NSO said 5.75 percent of the population of the entire National Capital Region were senior citizens. It didn’t have a breakdown though on the number of senior citizens for Makati.

So what did Trillanes, in his Machiavellian or moronic thinking do? He multiplied Makati’s 2010 population of 529,039 reported by the NSO by 5.75 percent, which resulted in a figure of 30,419 , which he insists is number of senior citizens in the city, which is half the 60,000 in the city’s records.

Again either so Machiavellian or so moronic, Trillanes didn’t think that the number of senior citizens likely increased since 2010, either with those aged 56 to 59 reached the age of 60 by 2014, or that Makati has more s senior people since they flocked to the city to take advantage of its senior benefits that are significantly higher than any other city.

Trillanes though knew his concoction wouldn’t sell so he thought of another: survey the two barangays to get a sample of how many senior citizens there were there. But will we trust the people he asked to survey the areas to report a figure other than what he wanted? Oila! His people found 44.6 percent of those reported as senior citizens living in those two barangays were non-existent, a figure close to what he calculated falsely using the NSO figures.

The third element in the vile duo’s methodology of vilification is the media, both the mainstream and the new “social’ media, which disseminate their fabrications.

If you are into Facebook, note how the number of purportedly anti-Binay groups and postings using dramatic photos suddenly surge right after Trillanes and Pimentel’s hearings, that it is obvious the campaign had been carefully planned and financed.

As usual, the Philippine Daily Inquirer – I really can’t understand why this paper is so biased against Binay – not only echoed but even magnified the charges as if they were true.

The PDI’s front-page story’s first sentence read: “Ghost or dead beneficiaries constituted half of the senior citizens who received benefits from Makati City … according to an initial local audit. ”

Note how the lying duo’s allegations were converted by the paper into facts. There is no qualification there that the “ghost beneficiaries” are the allegations of Trillanes and Pimentel. There is instead a statement of fact — “constituted.”\ The use of the term “audit” even falsely portrayed that a local unit of the Commission on Audit uncovered the allegation.

No audit of senior citizen number
Trillanes however just told us that some “Action Officer” of the acting mayor with his staff went to two barangays to check whether the number of senior citizens there were accurate. By no stretch of usage, could that be termed as an “audit,” which refers to a rigorous process using unquestionable methods.

On the contrary, I would think that if Makati’s senior-citizen beneficiary program was an anomaly, COA member Heidi Mendoza, handpicked by President Aquino to the post, would have exposed it maybe two, three years ago, and not in the amateurish way the duo did it, but through a real audit by the assigned COA auditor for the city.

After all, Ms. Mendoza had been obsessed in proving her allegations of the Binays’ corruption, as far back as 2002 when I got her as a consultant in my office when I was Presidential Chief of Staff.

What is tragic and sad about Trillanes and Pimentel’s lies is that with media’s collaboration, even decent people take them as true, and even casually refer to. I have written point-by-point careful critiques of these lies in past columns. Let me summarize, though:

The overpriced Makati Building II: The quick debunking of this charge is to focus on the contractor and what it charged other government buildings.

After all, it is not Binay who would be paid, but the contractor, isn’t it? The building’s contractor is Hilmarc’s Construction Corp., very well respected in the industry, which has undertaken more than a dozen government contracts. Among these (cost per square meter in parentheses) are Senate President Franklin Drilon’s Iloilio convention center (P64,000 to P105,000), House of Representatives’ South Lounge (P66,000), Sandiganbayan Centennial Building (P61,000), Bangko Sentral ng Pilipians branches (P62,000). Does the P69,000 cost of Makati Building II, whose foundations had to be deeper and stronger because of softer sand being near the Pasig River look like an overprice?

The 350-hectare Batangas “estate.” Even the accuser former Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado had to quickly correct himself to claim that it was a 150-ha. land. Securities and Exchange Commission corporate records, Bureau of Land documents, tax payments all show that the property, termed again and again by media especially the PDI, was developed as the Sunchamp Agri-Tourism Park, which even that newspaper ran a feature story on just two months after Trillanes’ allegations were made.

It was leased to Sunchamp Real Estate Development Corp., controlled by a young Filipino-Chinese businessman Antonio Tiu, a TOYM awardee for 2011. But Trillanes and the PDI’s “Hacienda Binay” canard of course was catchy and it stuck.

And finally, the birthday cakes for senior citizens which a Trillanes-produced witness claimed cost the city P1,000 each. It’s an open and shut case, with the city’s administrator submitting actual, real receipts that these cost around P300 each, which is just about the figure the winning bidder Goldilocks quoted recently to supply the cakes.

Aargh! But Google all these items and what you’ll read mostly the allegations, not their rebuttals. This is because PDI is one of the biggest newspapers both in print and in the Internet, and Google’s algorithm ranks items as to how many viewed them.

Trillanes I suspect is an avid reader of another military man of another time who became a megalomaniac after he was, like the Senator, detained for attempting a coup – Hitler who wrote something in his Mein Kampf what has been called the Big Lie propaganda technique: “If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”

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