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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Can Binay overcome?



by FRANCISCO TATAD

In the apparent hope of stopping the trial by publicity being waged against him by Senators Antonio Trillanes 4th, Alan Peter Cayetano and Aquilino Pimentel 3rd at the Senate blue ribbon committee, Vice President Jejomar Binay last week met with the only person who could call off the “take-no-prisoners” beastly attack, namely President B. S. Aquino 3rd, whom he continues to regard as his personal friend and ally.

No details have come out of that private meeting. But the fact that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered a probe on Binay immediately thereafter, assigning a couple of National Bureau of Investigation teams to do the job, only means that Aquino will exert little effort to help his “friend.” This, notwithstanding Trillanes’ suspicion that Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma had a hand in arranging the meeting and a clear interest in its favorable result.

Binay could expect his ordeal to continue. He can have no illusion. They are out to devour him. As early as months ago, he already knew this was coming. I had written about it and had described it as a Malaca├▒ang project, with the President himself presiding over the small planning sessions. The declared objective was to refloat Mar Roxas’s political career, which had taken a beating during the siege of Zamboanga and completely gone under at the height of the natural disaster in Tacloban.

The other side of this particular coin was to make sure Binay would not be able to file his certificate of candidacy in 2016. According to the plan, they would first hit Mrs. Elenita Binay, then Mayor Jun Jun Binay, then finally the Vice President. Although he was adequately forewarned, Binay probably thought they would exercise some restraint. But the whole scheme is now in full swing.

Binay could have stopped the Senate blue ribbon investigation simply by invoking the Constitution and the Rules of the Senate. Sen. Nancy Binay, his eldest daughter, or a sympathetic senator could have asked the Senate as a body to stop the police investigation masquerading as “an inquiry in aid of legislation.” Why did they fail to do this and allow the three young senators to inquire into allegations that are already before the Ombudsman? This was worse than “forum shopping.” This was a forum shopping for an investigation.

This is not to defend or protect Binay from any accusation of wrongdoing. If he is guilty of anything at all, he should be prosecuted and punished, and prevented from running for any office at all. But under the Rule of Law this has to be done in the proper way through the proper forum. Binay must be charged and tried before the proper court of law, not before a Senate subcommittee and some conscript newspapers.

Trillanes may be forgiven for not knowing the Rules. But Cayetano is Senate majority leader by virtue of his being chairman of Rules, while Pimentel was supposed to have been a bar topnotcher. Why have they chosen to defile the law in favor of cheap personal ambition?

In trying to destroy Binay, have they not destroyed themselves and the Senate even more quickly? Have they not rendered the Senate unfit to become the breeding ground of future leaders? By trying to focus the nation’s attention on the merits or lack of merits of one presidential aspirant, are they not unduly diverting the nation’s attention from the more important issue, which in fact is prejudicial to the holding of 2016 elections?

Shouldn’t we be talking about the worthiness of the process by means of which we shall choose our leaders, rather than about the worthiness of those who aspire to take part in it? For those who believe we should have elections in 2016, regardless of how rotten the electoral process has become, and that the unverified “findings” of the propaganda pollsters (fraudsters to some) represent the sentiment of the people, Binay could be a “shoo-in.” But should we be talking at all about what the surveys when we should be talking of matters more fundamental?

What has apparently provoked Binay’s enemies is that having announced his plan to run in 2016, he continued to lead the propaganda polls as “the most trusted official” in the land. My own political experience has taught me not to trust these surveys, but most politicians and even newspapermen do, and that seems to me a serious moral, intellectual and political problem. The truth is never ascertained by surveys.

In the case of Binay, I have always thought that he did not need those surveys to register favorably in the public eye. He is always there wherever a calamity strikes; he is there whenever an overseas Filipino worker figures in a capital crime abroad and is meted the death sentence; and he is in every wake in every funeral home at the ungodliest hour to condole with the family of the departed. Thus while it used to be said that no one was officially dead until you read their obituary in one particular paper, now, some people say no one is official dead until you see Binay at their wake.

Yet Binay’s people used the propaganda survey with amazing consistency and resolve to drum up his image as the man to beat in the next presidential race. And they succeeded in convincing themselves and a lot of other people about this. But this had unavoidable consequences. Immediately, it set Binay up as the biggest political target for those who did not exactly share his politics or whose ambitions ran directly in conflict with his.

Would Binay be the subject of such savage demolition job today had he not announced his plan to run for president so early in the day, and indulged the propaganda pollsters, who were only too eager to supply him with “the most trusted” figures on a regular basis? I seriously doubt it.

But in their eagerness to overwhelm the public with the tantalizing numbers procured from the pollsters, the vice president’s camp overlooked the most important thing about propaganda surveys. This: that the numbers could change, very suddenly and very drastically, depending on the political circumstances. This is not mere theory. He has actually experienced it.

For most of the 2010 vice presidential campaign, as he himself loves to recall, Binay was nowhere near Mar Roxas’s impressive numbers. And then, as if by sheer magic, he swept past him from his unmentionably low starting point.

Likewise, presidential candidate Manny Villar looked as unsinkable as the Bismarck with his commanding lead until he was vilified as “Villaroyo” (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Trojan horse) and the two polling agencies with interlocking directorships under the control of PNoy’s close relatives and friends decided to prop up the senator from Tarlac for the highest office.

In the US last June, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the second most powerful member of the House, lost in a stunning Tea Party upset to Randolph-Macon College economic professor Dave Brat despite his previously impressive numbers.

Without dismissing the value and function of “ratings,” political leaders must fight for bigger and higher things. This is now the challenge to our Vice President. Faced with all the things being thrown into his face, his chances of overcoming all these will depend on whether he is prepared to recognize that the transformation of our political system, beginning with our totally debased electoral system, is the most critical issue at this time, and that he should be able to tell the nation that he would not care to run in any election unless it was a truly clean and honest one.

fstatad@gmail.com


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