By LUIS V. TEODORO
Vantage Point | BusinessWorld
By declaring that Benigno Aquino III should stop persecuting his political enemies while coddling his allies, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. has invited comparisons with his own father’s record — to his own detriment and contrary to what he had apparently hoped to gain, which was to pander to what he thought was public sentiment.
In a radio interview earlier this week, Marcos, Jr. simply assumed what he had to prove: that Aquino III has made it a policy to jail his political opponents while sparing his cronies. That supposed policy, said Marcos, only “divides Filipinos,” and “the next President should not make it a government policy to jail opponents. We should abandon what we have been seeing in the past few years when recent administrations adopted a deliberate campaign of vengeance against their political foes, practically making it a national policy.”
That was hardly a disinterested remark. Marcos, Jr. has had his eye on the presidency for years, and probably thinks that 2016, if it’s not yet the time to seek the highest post in the dynasty-dominated oligarchy, is the final call for him to begin preparing for it until the next presidential elections in 2021. Because there are still quite a number of Filipinos who think that “things were better under Marcos (Senior),” Junior is correct in assuming that he would have a chance of getting the family back in Malacañang by then before people eventually forget the Marcos name.
Marcos’ latest statements must be seen in this context. But he shouldn’t be allowed to simply get away with assuming what he has to prove, which are (1) that Aquino III has been imprisoning his political opponents for no other reason than that they’re not his allies; and (2) that the same Aquino has made it a national policy during his watch.
Few will contest Aquino’s loyalty to his friends, cronies and allies. The evidence is too overwhelming to deny. There’s his standing by Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad despite the Disbursement Acceleration Program anomaly, and his stubborn support for former Police Director-General Alan Purisima despite the latter’s bungling and possibly illegal management of the Mamasapano incident. Despite his high approval rating in the most recent public opinion polls, Aquino III doesn’t lack critics who see in his pronounced tendency to favor not only his allies but also his classmates and other chums proof that he has one standard of behavior for his friends and another for everyone else.
But both the accusation that Aquino III has been shielding from prosecution some of his allies who are allegedly involved in the pork barrel scam while persecuting his opponents are problematic. If the first claim is true, it would mean that he has managed to do so by pressuring Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales into deferring the filing of the third batch of charges against, among others, Secretary Joel Villanueva of the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority, who is said to be involved in the diversion of pork barrel funds. But the delay can be due to a number of causes, among them the sluggishness characteristic of much of government, and the amount of documentary evidence the Office of the Ombudsman has to go through to build its cases.
Meanwhile, what would prove that Aquino has been persecuting his political foes would be the total absence of any evidence against the most prominent political personalities currently in detention (Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and Ramon Revilla).
All belong to the political formations that comprise the so-called opposition, which in this country tends to be a fuzzy concept because of, among others, constant party-switching among the politicos. Unfortunately, while the plunder and graft charges against them still have to be proven, there is some evidence that these sterling models of public service were nevertheless somehow involved in the diversion of some P10 billion in pork barrel funds from public projects to private pockets, including, so it is alleged, theirs.
Because it’s the Ombudsman who filed the charges against Enrile et al., the next question is whether she did so under Aquino III’s orders, which — given the proliferation of lawyers in this country who can always look into every technical and legal point, some of whom are in the service of Enrile and company — seems unlikely. And if Aquino III indeed has the Ombudsman at his beck and call, how consistent would that be with her dismissal from the service of Purisima and 10 other police officials for grave misconduct and abuse of authority in connection with the courier service contract the Philippine National Police entered into in 2011?
What’s fundamental is that the country is not under martial law. The courts are somehow, although sluggishly, functioning. Most of its members may be dolts and Aquino allies, but Congress still has a handful of dedicated, authentic oppositionists. Despite the admittedly vast powers and resources of the presidency, neither does Aquino III have power over all government institutions.
In direct contrast, Marcos Senior had unlimited power and control over every institution from the military to the judiciary as well as the public purse during the martial law period. He dismantled Congress, terrorized the courts into obedience, and simply arrested oppositionists on no other basis than the possibility that they might have committed rebellion, sedition or subversion. The latter was the catch-all phrase through which he imprisoned over 100,000 people in the course of his one-man rule, and caused the torture, disappearance and extra-judicial execution of thousands more. The real and sole criterion was their opposition to his administration prior to 1972, and resistance to his rule from 1972 until 1986.
Marcos Senior in fact went beyond imprisoning his political foes, in most cases without any trial. Many — among them Aquino III’s father Benigno Aquino, Jr., as well as poets and journalists, students and teachers, doctors and social workers, labor, peasant and indigenous people’s leaders as well as activists — were killed during his interminable and illegal occupation of Malacañang. That was among the consequences of a policy based on no other assumption than Marcos Senior’s singular focus on doing away with everyone who could threaten his hold on power, beside which Aquino III’s supposed “policy” of going after his political opponents pales.
Marcos Junior is the last person to admit any of these, having been raised on the myth of his father’s rule’s absurd claims to perfection. What’s interesting is why he should provoke a comparison between Aquino III’s supposed policy and the reality of his father’s own draconian program of eliminating opposition through a variety of mostly foul means. By doing so he has only outsmarted himself.
Luis V. Teodoro is on Facebook and Twitter (@luisteodoro). The views expressed in Vantage Point are his own and do not represent the views of the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility.
Published in Business World
July 2, 2015