Saturday, July 07, 2007

And the mudslinging continues

This was my column last Wednesday, July 4. Sorry, late post again. It's a long story. The good news is that am recovering. Thanks to all who expressed concern.

“Cheat.” “Walang delicadeza.” “Loose cannon.” “Immature.”

These are just some of the colorful language disgorged recently by people who are supposed to be exemplars of outstanding citizenship and good manners, people who are supposed to be leaders of national stature.

Senator Antonio Trillanes called Migz Zubiri a “cheat.” Zubiri responded by calling Trillanes a “loose cannon” and “immature.” Senator Aquilino Pimentel called Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos “walang delicadeza.” Like I said, these are just a sampling of the more interesting repartee that all of us have been witness to recently.

The exchanges of accusations and denunciations remind one of classic Filipino movies—the ones where the main characters spew dialogs that have been crafted more for cinematic reasons than for anything else. A friend of mine is a little less generous and likened the verbal diarrhea to fishwives engaging in a very public tussle.

Whatever it is, it is very embarrassing because quite frankly, it’s really like the kettle calling the pot black.

Trillanes may think that his 11 million votes already give him license to pontificate and swagger in public, but it doesn’t give him the right to be obnoxious. His 11 million votes do not erase the fact that he staged a failed mutiny, held hostage a number of people, planted bombs at a major shopping complex, and in general derailed the economy. I doubt if everyone agrees that being a cheat is a graver offense than the charges leveled against him.

Trillanes is living up to the palaban image that got him elected in the first place. He even managed to bring into the fray other senators by calling them hypocrites and challenging them to undergo a lie detector test to validate their supposed objectivity on the GMA impeachment issue. Do these statements make him a loose cannon? To be able to render a fair judgment, one has to analyze where the accusation is coming from.

Miguel Zubiri spewed quite a mouthful in reaction to Trillanes’ tirade. Aside from calling Trillanes a “loose cannon,” he also called him “immature.” Among many things, he threatened a rain of lawsuits. Yeah right, as if a few more frivolous lawsuits would make a difference to a man who is already neck deep in rebellion and more serious cases.

Instead of obfuscating and threatening, Zubiri would do better if he answers the accusations directly. I think that he would make a good senator and I happen to think that his record as a congressman is admirable. But it wouldn’t be right for him to assume the 12th slot as senator under very questionable circumstances. This is not to say that Trillanes is right, just that the whole thing is enough to make anyone uncomfortable.

Let’s face it, the result of the elections in Maguindanao (if there really were elections in that province to begin with) is highly suspicious. One has to be really na├»ve to believe Lintang Bedol’s lame attempts at subterfuge.

The administration already lost the senatorial elections. It would be in its best interest to just concede gracefully. There are more important things to attend to. My best guess is that if this administration is able to sustain the momentum in the economic front, it would be able to win into its side even the most recalcitrant senator. For crying out loud, the Philippine stock market is enjoying a bull run and there is a mad scramble for shares of companies doing their initial public offerings. (Many people I know have been trying to get shares of the Phoenix IPO, but it seems the offer is already way oversubscribed.)

Besides, the administration already controls the House of Representatives. This makes the threat of an impeachment already a foregone conclusion.

Zubiri should just answer accusations directly. He should be reminded of the adage “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others.”

Which brings us to the father and son tag team also known as Senator Aquilino Pimentel and his senator-aspirant son Koko Pimentel. I have already said this before but I will say it again: It breaks my heart to see the elder Pimentel ending his political career as a bitter old man and stage father.

I have no love lost for the Abaloses of this world, but this shoot-now-ask-questions-later strategy in exposing alleged irregular conduct of public officials is so very annoying. For a while there, many among us were scandalized that the Comelec chairman would be so indiscreet and foolhardy as to actually have dinner with the Zubiris while the contest for the 12th senatorial slot is up in the air.

But it turns out that no such thing happened after all. And yet, the Pimentels are still at it, vainly trying to put together a story out of nothing. As I said, I have no love lost for the Comelec chief, but this recent political gambit by the Pimentels only fortify the perception that they are traditional politicians who will do anything and everything, even lie brazenly and make false accusations, just to get what they want.

Of course, the sight of a father and son fighting tooth and nail to be able to sit next to each other in the Senate is also very disturbing.

This very public and very bitter fight among people who are supposed to be leaders of national statute underscore the state of politics in our country. It’s ugly. It’s personal.

It’s been 51 days since the mid-term elections and we’re still not done with the counting and the mudslinging. No wonder more and more people are getting sick and tired of it all. I think people were more concerned as to who would emerge as the big winner in “Pinoy Big Brother Season 2” than who gets to sit as the 12th senator.

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My column last Monday (Defrauding health maintenance organizations) produced quite a number of e-mails and text messages from people who reported that they too have had the same experience. They were all overcharged, or in some cases, charged twice or thrice for the same medication or medical procedure. It would be easy to attribute the whole thing to human error. But there’s just too many cases involved. It seems overcharging patients is the norm among hospitals, especially if one is using an HMO card.

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