“A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” GEORGE BERNARD SHAW
By Alex P. Vidal
The die is cast. In a bid to stop the hemorrhage from wounds of embattled Senate President Frank Drilon, Iloilo City Mayor Patrick Jed Mabilog and Iloilo Governor Art Defensor Sr. have quickly moved to temporarily stop the bleeding.
Temporarily because Drilon needed the strong statements of support issued by the two political heavyweights of Iloilo, just like a groggy pugilist needing a massage from trainers in between rounds, now that his tormentors have unleashed their cataclysmic offense with a barrage of criminal and administrative suits in the Office of the Ombudsman.
When former TESDA chief Augusto “Buboy” Syjuco recently filed his second Ombudsman case against Drilon in relation to the purchase of a P63.2-M 16.2-hectare relocation lot for city squatters in Jaro, Iloilo City, Drilon was at the same time under siege in Manila following the discovery that he got P100 million as “additional pork barrel” via the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) supposedly as “bribed” to convict impeached Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona.
It was Syjuco’s second Ombudsman case versus Drilon after he filed a graft case against the latter last month in relation to the P100-M “anomalous” construction of the Iloilo Hall of Justice which is now undergoing repair. Drilon also was slapped with another Ombudsman case filed earlier by his former consultant, Manuel “Boy M” Mejorada, in relation to the P16-M improvement project of the Iloilo Esplanade. All the cases were offshoot of Drilon’s funding of the projects from his Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) or “pork barrel.”
The big man of Philippine senate was fighting two tough wars in two different battlefields. The support of Mabilog and Defensor was a whiff of fresh air, a moral booster that would at least help slow down negative public opinion if not to totally smokescreen and shift the tidal wave.
Although the twin statements of support from two local executives appeared to be forceful and credible, they could not save the Ilonggo senator’s neck if Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales finds probable cause to convict Drilon, et al. Drilon’s survival hinges on his innocence and clean conscience. His best defense is transparency and truth, not sworn statements from angels and saints in heaven. If he is Mr. Clean, he doesn’t need to be rescued even by a manifesto from St. Gabriel, the Archangel.
“The issue raised by Syjuco is convoluted, irrelevant and alien. The Lanit lot is a property purchased by the city government through regular and legal procedure of procurement using city government funds, and not from Sen. Drilon’s Priority Development Assistance Fund as alleged,” said Mabilog. “His projects are real, delivered to the right beneficiaries, very relevant to the lives and welfare of every Ilonggo, and therefore worthy of appreciation and accolade.”
Defensor, on the other hand, said, “All that Senate President Drilon did was to look for funds for these projects. He had nothing to do with how these projects were implemented, and the accusations against him are preposterous and unfair. Instead, we should be thankful that he has been doing his best to bring in huge infrastructure projects in Iloilo. The value of the projects that he brought here are unprecedented.”
Defensor said Drilon could not have received bribe saying, “Bribes are given to influence a decision but the DAP funds were released after the impeachment trial when the senators have already decided on the Chief Justice’s fate. In other words, there was no more decision to influence.”
“Aside from crafting laws, senators and congressmen lobby for funds so they can help their constituents. People elected them not necessary because of their lawmaking competence but primarily because of their capacity to help people,” Defensor added. “We Ilonggos are lucky that the third highest-ranking official of the Republic of the Philippines is from Iloilo. We should be proud of and thankful for Senate President Drilon.”