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The best of the Senate, the worst of the Senate

IF you endured for five hours, as I did, watching the Senate justice committee hearing yesterday, I’m sure you’d rejoice at times, but also weep at times over this key institution of the Republic.

Two senators, Richard Gordon and Panfilo Lacson, Jr., demonstrated they were the best of the Senate, at par with the pre-martial law titans of that body such as Jovito Salonga, Jose Diokno, and yes, Benigno Aquino, Jr. If these two get to be presidential timber, I begin to have hope for our unlucky country.

Two senators though, Leila de Lima and Antonio Trillanes IV, were the worst of the Senate — ever — and the best examples of this institution’s degradation. They have proved to be the best arguments for authoritarian rule, just so people can’t put the likes of them in power.

Committee chairman Gordon was dogged in ferreting out the facts, and he elicited an admission from Ronnie Dayan, Senator De Lima’s former lover and driver, that because of his intimacy with the then justice secretary, he got her to appoint two justice department officials to higher posts, one even as Bureau of Corrections director, and was paid for his efforts.

Gordon though was as independent as he was dogged. He was eloquent, with just the right amount of emotional intensity, when he lambasted Philippine National Police Director-General Ronald de la Rosa for failing to clamp down on the illegal drug criminals in Leyte when all the facts—that it was the territory of drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, that ranking police officials were protectors of the illegal trade, that there were brazen killings, including the execution of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, in the province involving the illegal trade —showed that the province was an epicenter of sorts of that criminal trade.

De la Rosa could only whimper, claiming that the legal system, including the procedures of the National Police Commission, made it easy for corrupt police officials to hold on to their posts.

BEST AND WORST? Left, Gordon and Lacson; right, De Lima and Trillanes.
BEST AND WORST? Left, Gordon and Lacson; right, De Lima and Trillanes.

It is difficult to believe that the inarticulate, simple-minded De la Rosa occupies a post which Lacson once did. Lacson at the hearings was as probing as he was statesmanlike, and extremely quick-witted.

Without a moment’s delay, Lacson debunked Trillanes’ dumb claim that De Lima was being convicted just because she was in a photo with drug lord Kerwin Espinosa. Foolishly thinking that a larger photo–-as displayed in a projector—would make his lie true, Trillanes even had projected on the Senate’s huge screen President Duterte’s photo at a social event with an alleged drug lord, Peter Lim.

While polite to this colleague, Lacson exposed Trillanes’ utter vacuity by pointing out that there was no one like Dayan or Espinosa alleging that Duterte got money from the drug lord. Trillanes shut up, seemingly shocked.

Trillanes at the hearing, and as always, seemed to think he was some god who can bully witnesses—that is, the resource persons—to get them to say what he wants them to say. No one of course did, even as he irritatingly repeated again and again to the poor resource persons that they were under oath.

Trillanes revealed himself to be a true believer of the “post-truth” era, repeating several times that the “truth will be different when the world turns, when another administration takes over.” He should be banned from ever speaking in the Senate.

Senator De Lima–the elephant in the room until the last minutes of the hearing when her turn to speak came, and the heroine of those against Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani—was an embarrassment to the Senate and the nation.

She screamed at her detractors from the top of her head, as if she were at home, and not in the hallowed halls of Congress. I don’t think there has ever been such a scandalous scene as De Lima made.

She seems to think that shouting hysterically at the resource persons can replace reason and logic, and would convince them to change their testimony. Everyone in the Senate hall was embarrassed at how a senator could make a fool of herself.

What reveals De Lima’s indecency is that she totally ignored Dayan, who she had admitted—in a facetious manner in an light-toned interview—was her lover, but dismissed the affair as the “frailties of a woman”.

Dayan is in big trouble now, his life totally changed for the worse. He could even be later charged for conspiracy in graft and jailed, as he delivered the bribe money from a drug lord to De Lima. The former justice secretary would have all the money to hire the best lawyers to defend her, and she would live comfortably for the rest of her life, especially if she manages to remain in the Senate.

But Dayan? He would even find it difficult to ride a jeepney or a bus home, as his face is now all too familiar to Filipinos who would stare at him, and even whisper to ridicule him.

De Lima would have gotten some sympathy from the public if she had addressed Dayan during the hearing to apologize for all the trouble he is in, because of her “frailty” which her political enemies are now exploiting. And I don’t think it was the driver-bodyguard who seduced her.

But at the hearing, she totally ignored Dayan—except when she included him as the target of her rant along with Espinosa and several Bilibid convicts who also fingered her—as if he was, to use that cruel Filipino saying, a rag that had performed its function and was now to be thrown to the wastebasket.

What kind of senator, what kind of human being is that?

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