WHATEVER one thinks of Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s acquittal by the Sandiganbayan of the charge of plunder last week, there was a particular engine that drove the past administration’s purposive campaign to prosecute him, as well as Sen. Jinggoy Estrada in 2014.
The Yellow regime wanted to leave no stone unturned for Mar Roxas to win the presidency and for the opposition not to have a viable candidate. It was to be, in their dreams, a Yellow regime for 12 years, and even more.
While there was no consensus among the opposition over who would be its standard bearer, Revilla and Estrada’s names had been frequently raised in their meetings.
While the two were hardly stellar legislators, the street-smart pragmatists in the opposition party then, the merged Lakas-Kampi-CMD, claimed that Philippine elections, ever since Joseph Estrada won the presidency, had become celebrity or name-recall contests, and Revilla and even Jinggoy could replicate what Erap had done in 1998.
Revilla though had the edge as Jinggoy’s image suffered from the ignominious fate of his father (Joseph Estrada was ousted in 2001, convicted of plunder in 2007 and sentenced to reclusion perpetua but was pardoned by President Arroyo). Revilla’s good looks, some party strategists even claimed, were enough to win the presidency, with his father’s “Nardong Putik” movie fame the ingredient to give him a mass appeal.
President Aquino 3rd’s blitzkrieg, with the crucial all-out support of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, against Revilla and Jinggoy to put them both in jail on charges of plunder was so effective that they abandoned their plans of running in 2016.
Revilla of course had a special place in Aquino’s hate-list. He exposed in a 2014 privilege speech in the Senate that it was the President himself who asked him a week before the Senate decision, to vote for the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona. He even poked fun at Mar Roxas, calling him “Boy Pick-up” as he picked him up from his home, and drove him to Malacañang.
Aquino’s campaign—I suspect though that the mastermind was his ideologue Budget Secretary Florencio Abad—not only to demonize Revilla and his party mates but to put them in jail was brilliantly executed.
Abad had learned of the special audit (ordered by the Arroyo-era chairman of the Commission on Audit in Rey Villar) on the pork-barrel scheme called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), and ordered the COA chair, Aquino-appointed Grace Pulido-Tan to rush its report.
After the alleged mastermind of the scam, Janet Lim-Napoles was identified, and after she went underground for several weeks to avoid arrest, she surrendered (to Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda) and was brought to Malacanang to meet with Aquino. What transpired in their conversation was not disclosed, and there were speculations that Aquino assured her safety if she would finger only opposition personalities and not certain Liberal Party stalwarts who also took money from the PDAF scam.
President Duterte’s Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd in 2017 had claimed that Napoles’ lawyer had informed him that she had implicated Senators Franklin Drilon, Antonio Trillanes and Leila de Lima, as well as Aquino’s budget secretary, Florencio Abad, in the pork-barrel scam that involved siphoning government funds into politicians’ pockets.
The Yellows’ media campaign on the PDAF scam was very cleverly done. To ensure that it got the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s total support for their plot, the Yellow regime leaked everything on the scam only through the newspaper, which it disguised as the product of “investigative journalism.”
That it wasn’t was obvious in that it was one former police and entertainment reporter who had almost all the bylines, although there was widespread suspicion in media circles that it was the newspaper’s intrepid editor in chief herself, the late Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, who wrote the articles on the PDAF.
The Aquino-controlled Congress undertook investigations supposedly in aid of legislation that enthralled Filipinos on the luridness of the pork-barrel scam.
There are two incontestable facts about the PDAF saga that show, that while it did involve the exposé of a colossal scam, it was weaponized to be used against the opposition.
First, very conveniently, the COA special audit covered only the period from 2007 to 2009, or during President Arroyo’s term in 2009. There were reports that the COA had another audit to cover the three years from 2010 to 2012, or during Aquino’s time. Such a report has not been seen to this day.
Second, very strangely, most of the congressman (of course not all) implicated and charged for graft because they pocketed their pork barrel were not of the Yellow horde. Were those who swore fealty to the Yellow Cult just coincidentally the most upright of congressmen?
Third, it was Aquino, the President of the Republic himself, and his then heir apparent, Mar Roxas, who accompanied Napoles—the three riding in his official limousine—to her detention cell at Camp Crame. Aquino even inspected Napoles’ cells, and reportedly gave instructions to the warden.
Now why would they do that to a suspected big-time criminal? Aquino and his officials were making sure that Napoles was never out of their sight, from the moment she surrendered to her incarceration, where of course she could have met some accident. Aquino accompanied her to assure her that no harm would be done to her. As long as she cooperated with them?
The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, as the 18th century poet Robert Burns put it. Yes, Revilla was thrown in jail on plunder charges. Aquino and Roxas focused their attacks on the leading candidate Jojo Binay, whose mass base however moved to the mayor of Davao City.