When Senators Antonio Trillanes, Franklin Drilon and Leila de Lima get together, they don’t only reminisce about the good old days. You can expect them to be plotting some new skulduggery—like gifting Trillanes with another of his muckraking investigations in aid of little else but the furtherance of his particular brand of toxic partisan politics.
The three remnants of the old, discredit Yellow regime have banded together to denounce two of their colleagues, Richard Gordon and Juan Miguel Zubiri, whom they said denied Trillanes his chance to look into the anomalies in the Bureau of Immigration. De Lima had earlier said she wanted a probe of the reported extortion perpetrated by two BI officials appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte, who have since been fired; Drilon subsequently filed a resolution asking an obscure committee led by Trillanes to do the probing.
During the resumption of the session last Monday, the Senate voted 14-7 to stop the all-too-obvious Yellow tag-team play, after Zubiri protested the “prudence” of letting Trillanes probe anything. Gordon, who has had run-ins with Trillanes over the former’s refusal to allow De Lima to run away with the investigation of alleged extra-judicial killings, said it was he who should conduct the grilling, as head of the committee on justice.
The Senate apparently took to heart Gordon’s advice “to decide for ourselves where this is headed” and voted to strike down the plan. Drilon and Trillanes protested loudly after losing the vote, but there was nothing they could do.
As for the public at large, I think we were just spared yet another of those Drilon-Trillanes-De Lima probes that amount to nothing by way of legislation or any other output other than promoting these senators’ personal agenda. At a time when all of Congress is being challenged to do more than just investigate and to pass laws that are more meaningful to the rest of us than mere senatorial bloviating, the Senate did well to nip this ill-concealed plot in the bud.
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What was the intention of the three Yellow senators and their four colleagues who voted in their favor, if not to try yet again to embarrass the Duterte administration using the non-issue of the Jack Lam extortion case? Everyone who isn’t still Yellow seems to think so.
For instance, have the authorities in charge of the case been remiss in punishing those involved? Did the money that exchanged hands get lost or has it all been accounted for? Has Lam himself been let off the hook?
The answer to all these questions is a resounding “no.” Which means that there is really nothing for the Senate to investigate—especially not Trillanes’ Senate committee on civil service, government reorganization and professional conduct, which is as unlikely a venue to do the BI probe as De Lima’s justice committee was, when she sprang Edgar Matobato on an unsuspecting populace.
And we all know what happened back then. The whole Senate, by another vote, had to physically grab the justice committee from De Lima after she and Trillanes (with Drilon smirking his usual conspiratorial smirk on the sidelines) violated almost every rule in conducting probes just to foist their preconceived conclusions on the chamber and the rest of the population.
Now, if the Senate really wanted to probe Lam, they could try to find out who protected him in the previous administration, allowing him to pay a fraction of the fees he owed the government, if he did not have a godfather (or godmother) in a high post, like that, say, of secretary of justice. Or it could investigate the work of our so-called back-channel negotiator with China during the Aquino years and how it seemed that only his own personal situation improved after more than a dozen meetings with the Chinese, instead of the strained diplomatic relationship between Beijing and Manila.
Or the Senate can investigate both the pork barrel scandal and the Disbursement Acceleration Program controversy, with a view to finding out who benefited the most out of those scams and didn’t even spend a day in jail. Let’s find out for certain if it was just Mont Blanc pens that were given out, why don’t we?
If change is really to come to the Senate, it should be seen in the form of casting aside the old methods of conducting partisan investigations. Remember how Trillanes was very much involved, with the blessing of Drilon as benign and approving Senate president, in that long-running, catch-as-catch-can probe of then Vice President Jejomar Binay—an investigation intended only to destroy the chances of Binay of winning the last elections?
The Yellow gang in the Senate was obviously planning to follow the same playbook again in the aborted Trillanes probe. The members of the chamber were wise enough to see through it and just shut it down.
Drilon, De Lima and Trillanes can pine for their lost power in the past administration, when they could do anything they wanted and get away with it. The times have changed, though, and if these senators are as smart as they think they are, they’d stop acting like they were still in the saddle—or at least they can dream up new ways of performing the old job of pulling the wool over our heads.