Forked tongues and temporary amnesia

My March 17, 2015 column.
The President’s men, referred to as minions by some quarters, have been scrambling all over themselves to regain the upper hand in the ongoing public relations nightmare that the Aquino government has found itself mired in.  Unfortunately, there’s really not much anyone can do to prop up the image of someone seemingly determined to continuously shoot himself in the foot.  So it must be frustrating for Mar Roxas, Leila de Lima, Sonny Coloma, Edwin Lacierda and company trying to keep a straight face and maintain their convictions in an effort to defend the indefensible and correct the “unrightable”. We find the efforts pitiful but also sometimes hilarious. 
Roxas and Coloma tried last week to redirect the focus of the Board of Inquiry report on the Mamasapano incident. What was surreal was the way they crowed about parts of the report that nailed down SAF Director Leo Napenas, but turned critical and disparaging on the parts where the BOI cited the President’s role in the whole series of events that eventually led to the death of the 44 police officers.  One is tempted to admonish these cabinet members to make up their minds as to what the government’s official position is on the BOI report – they cannot both slam and praise the report.
In fact it might be instructive to remind them that up until Thursday last week when the BOI finally released their report, the same cabinet members have also been admonishing people  to accord the board the benefit of the doubt that they are able to function independently and objectively.  As an offshoot of the President’s sudden garrulousness during a dialogue with religious leaders in Malacañan where he played Pontius Pilate by washing his hands of culpability and by crucifying Napenas, the cabinet members were one in assuring the people that there would be no whitewash and that the BOI was duty-bound to seek and report the truth “as a minimum requirement.”  But since BOI has apparently missed or ignored the mandate to shield the President from further fallout, Roxas et al has suddenly found fault with the BOI and its methods.
De Lima even tried to conjure the classic smoke-and-mirror tactic by trying to redefine the application of the principle of the chain of command in the police hierarchy.  The valiant attempt of the justice secretary is noteworthy in one aspect – it tries to deflect presidential accountability by legal gobbledygook. The honorable justice secretary was mercifully silent on a critical issue:  What happens to the much-avowed moral ascendancy of this administration? 
But then again, the justice secretary’s bouts of temporary amnesia has been recurring more often in the last few weeks.  When celebrity lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney recently drew attention to the plight of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who has continued to be denied bail despite her medical condition and despite the fact that the legal cases against her have been falling apart, de Lima was quick to assert that the government has no hand in Arroyo’s continued persecution.  She tossed the blame to the judiciary.  There’s just one glaring problem – and it is a humongous one.  For the longest time, and up until Sunday when de Lima’s boss delivered a speech at the graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy, this government has not made  any effort to deny that putting Arroyo behind bars is its major preoccupation, nay, obsession.  Aquino has been talking about it incessantly since he started having a moist eye on the Presidency. In fact, he has not made secret of the fact that Arroyo’s continued detention is one of the major achievements of his presidency.
Given the actions of the cabinet leaders, can we blame Senator Nancy Binay for ranting about the selective application of justice on her family?  Binay last week decried the speed in which the suspension order for his brother, the mayor of Makati, was issued.  Ordinarily, the job of a senator in this country is to uphold the law (since they create them) and to see to it that justice is served quickly.  But as can be expected when other interests other than the common good come into play, public officials tend to put loyalty to family, party, and to superiors over and above all other considerations, even reason and logic.


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