Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A question of trust

You realize that things are all awry and priorities all wrong among us with the inordinate attention showered upon a video showing two adults in private sex. Last week, the sleazy episode found its way into the Senate floor, and more than half of the entire evening news was devoted to various angles of the same story.

News about the first recorded victim of the “swine” flu in the country is eclipsed by Hayden and Katrina, who has every right to get mad because clearly she was “swined”, as the text joke goes. But hey, the AH1N1 virus could affect us all, and presents grave mortal danger, but what the heck --- voyeurism is more important for the people of the benighted land. Over the weekend, another person was confirmed to have been afflicted with the virus, but the narcissistic Hayden and his various sexploits still hogged the news.

A naval junior officer wants to speak up against alleged corruption in the disposition of Balikatan funds, but the general she first complained about beat her to the draw, and as usual, whistleblower finds herself the accused. The amount may be picayune, 2,500 pesos for hotel bills, as against millions the officers messed up with, but such are the privileges of the military hierarchy. Suffer the common soldiers and the petty officers, but not, never, those who wear stars upon their shoulders. The chain of command, it seems is shibboleth for a practice as feudal as our “democratic” polity. Navy lieutenant Gadian is “wanted” and given 48 hours to surrender. Her sister approaches my friend Harry Roque and his Center Law group, who immediately petition the Supreme Court for a writ of amparo. Both Gadian and Roque, as well as his associate, Atty. Rommel Bagares who used to be with this paper, still recall the sad plight of navy ensign Philip Pestano, whose apparent murder by his superiors we wrote about last March 6, 2009 in this space.

Harry’s prayer for a writ of amparo was granted, in a minute resolution at the instance of the Chief Justice! This ought to be earth-shaking, a beachhead in the constant struggle against corruption and high-handedness, and for the individual rights of every citizen, no matter how lowly. But heck, the networks and radio preferred the various positional angles of the perversion of Hayden Kho and his string of inamoratas.

Getting into the act, DOJ’s Raul Gonzalez got the NBI to get to the bottom of the bedroom case, and instructs the immigration bureau to issue a hold departure order against Hayden Kho. Wow! If only our department of justice acted as fast before allowing Joc-joc to escape from answering to his “bolantic” thievery before the Senate and the Ombudsman, he would not have had time to rehearse over and over again in a Wisconsin jail, the pack of lies he declared before the Senate Blue Ribbon of the present Congress. Or if the same DOJ had acted as swiftly, and prevented Virgilio Garcillano from leaving the country in the wake of the explosive Hello Garci. And what about Lintang Bedol, where the hell is he? Or is he in hell already, silenced by those who want him to be silent forever? But heck, this pervert Hayden Kho, a physician at that, is Public Enemy Numero Uno, and must be dealt with as such, or so the DOJ and most of media hold. As Anthony Taberna, interviewing the sister of the departed NBI deputy director Samuel Ong (the man who exposed the mother of all tapes in the Garci-Glori scandal) editorialized, “if only the justice system truly works in this country…the boss woman, along with Garci, would be in jail…for there is no scandal, not even a string of sex scandals, that shocks or stinks more than Hello Garci” (translated from Anthony’s Tagalog).

In the benighted country where most are blinded, chismis is king. There is no time to bother about affairs of the state; there is every minute to bother about the liaisons dangereuse of celebrities.

Still and all, I agree with the Philippine Medical Association, which will soon investigate Doctor Kho, motu propio, because “it is necessary so that we may uphold the integrity of the medical profession”.

“He will be given due process. If the video tapes were done with the mutual consent of the man and the women involved, that is a private matter between consenting adults, and therefore none of our business. However, if the videos were done without the consent of the women, then this is deception, and we condemn this. As to the distribution of the videos --- if Dr. Kho distributed the videos, this is in itself condemnable, regardless of whether or not these were taken with the consent of the women,” the PMA said, speaking through the chairperson of its Opinion Board, my good friend Dr. Minguita Padilla, who further elucidates that at the core of the salacious episode is “breach of trust”.

“The medical profession is built on trust. Patients go to doctors because implicit in the code they swore to is that they are trustworthy healers of bodies. Trust is at the core of medical practice, which is public service, no different from what public servants are supposed to do”, ophthalmologist Padilla adds.

* * *

Which brings me back to the bigger picture. Isn’t there similarity between the more salacious details of Hayden Kho’s lack of ethics and the drama in the Senate over Senator Manuel Villar’s lack of ethics in the use of power and influence for material advancement? It is an even bigger abuse of public trust, because the monies involved belong to the entire nation, not just to the private honor and personal dignity of the Katrina’s and Maricar’s and Vicky’s and the devil knows how many else.

I have discussed this issue of Villar’s ethics, or lack of it, and Villar’s breach of the public trust several times, and will likely discuss it more as the evidences unfold. For now, I am in receipt of a press kit in power-point format, of Villar’s defense. Fine. But if he was so certain about the “facts” he proffers to media, why not present the same to his peers in the Senate? These proceedings are televised, and even if not, they constitute public record, so why be afraid? Why cry against “tailor-fit” rules, when in fact, the rules of the Senate Committee on Ethics, as adopted by the Committee of the Whole, can be simply placed side by side with the old rules of the previous Congress, for the public (and “free” media, in case it is willing to read beyond what the PR bagmen supply) to appreciate the difference, if there is anything substantial at all.

It is a question of trust, whether we think of Dr. Hayden and his betters in the medical profession, or whether we essay Senator Manuel B. Villar and the re-alignment of C-5. Private trust, between doctor and patient, lover and beloved. Or public trust, between a senator and the public which chose to elect him, because of “trust”.

* * *

But Joker Arroyo, who believes that he and his colleagues in the Senate should be treated deferentially because they are a rare breed of human beings, calls the Senate investigation of a peer as “embarking on a very dangerous experiment”.

And his theory of the dangerous experiment rests on ascribing base motives to those among his peers whom he labels “presidentialities” or “presidentiables”. Conversely we ask, if one is presidentiable, one ought be exempt from any investigation of malfeasance, misfeasance and non-feasance? Was that the reason why Rep. Joker Arroyo, then the gentleman from Makati in the Lower House, did not press for the investigation of then Speaker Manuel B. Villar, whom he charged right on the floor for actions even worse than what Senator Jamby Madrigal has now charged Villar with? Because in 1998, Manuel B. Villar, Speaker of the House by the grace of Joseph Estrada who welched on assurances given to Joker himself, was not yet a presidentiable, or, as Joker puts it, not yet a presidentiality?

Is the right honourable Joker Arroyo saying that presidentialities are above the law, and other presidentialities must forever keep their silence if malfeasance, misfeasance or non-feasance is discovered? Is he suggesting likewise that all senators, because they approved in plenary session of a three-inch thick budget written in small font, are forever embargoed from looking back, and perhaps discover something wrong in the interstices of what they had previously approved? That they must forever hold their peace, no matter what they belatedly discover? If so, then time heals all crime. Is that what the right honourable Joker Arroyo wants now to impress upon students of the law and citizens of this republic?

But what takes the cake for sheer gall, and something I find quite unforgiveable, is when the right honourable Arroyo virtually likens the Senate Committee of the Whole to Military Commission Number 2 which “tried” and sentenced Sen. Ninoy Aquino. “Faced with sure conviction from unfair rules and unfair military judges, Ninoy refused to attend or participate…there is dignity in not attending a trial with built-in rules stacked against you”, Joker, one of Ninoy’s lawyers, now ruminates.

Hey Joker, was Ninoy charged with a corrupt act? Was Ninoy charged with self-dealing? Shame on you to even attempt to use Ninoy in trying to justify the cowardice or guilt, or both, of your fellow-Wednesday Club diner, whom you yourself --- si, Senor Joker, as in usted mismo, charged most vehemently in a privilege speech before your peers in the lower House, on August 17, 1998, “for clear conflict of interest” in his dealings with government agencies as real estate magnate and his sworn responsibilities as a congressman under the laws of the land.

You, Senator Joker, accused then Speaker Villar on August 17, 1998, of making piles of money from housing loans that government provided through the Comprehensive and Integrated Shelter Finance Act of 1994, authored by Rep. Manuel Villar (mismo!), which provided for 5.5 billion pesos to re-capitalize the NHMFC where Villar’s corporations “took out” and monetized future instalments of Pag-ibig loan homeowners. And many, many more. (For more details, read back our column entitled “Queenmaker; Kingmaker?”, published in Malaya on 25 September 2008).

The charges of the right honourable Joker against then Speaker Manny were not investigated, at least not to most everybody’s knowledge. But Joker has remained silent on his own charges against Villar, and now, he dares liken the Senate of which he is a part, of acting like the military tribunal which tried Ninoy Aquino.

Joker was one of Ninoy’s lawyers then. Perhaps our common good friend, Ninoy Aquino shifts restlessly in his grave now, for in the dark night of martial law, he was deprived of the kind of free press access that Manny Villar now uses as forum. But the unkindest cut to the memory of a martyr for democracy is to be placed in the same “hallowed” pantheon of “dignity” as one charged with corrupt practices, by one’s lawyer-friend who has the effrontery to disingenuously use legal parallelisms. Must Ninoy’s memory suffer the indignity of such unseemly simile?