The real reason

The big-shot Manila-based businessman known for backing national politicians has gone to Davao City three times already, seeking an audience with President-elect Rodrigo Duterte. Three times he waited for hours, only to be told that Duterte cannot meet him for one reason or another.

Message received. Unless, of course, the aging tycoon decides at some future date that the new president has had a change of heart and will now meet him—a change of heart that, people close to Duterte tell me, is just not going to happen, ever.

I’m reminded of the recent travails of the big-time businessman after another high-flying entrepreneur explained why Mar Roxas and his now-moribund Liberal Party are having a lot of trouble filing their statements of contributions and expenditures, as the law requires. And the reason is simple: No businessman worth his billions wants to be put in the crosshairs of the new Duterte administration.

According to the businessman, he did give money to Roxas during the recent campaign. Most deep-pocketed individuals, after all, contribute to the campaigns of candidates for high national office, many of whom come calling in the run-up to an election seeking their “blessing.”

But while this election investor gave to Roxas, he refuses to sign any document declaring that he did. “Why would I, when that would mean that I could be pursued by Duterte, his people or even my competitors for the next six years?” the businessman said.

This businessman explained that there are probably many more like him who contributed to Roxas who will not sign the form given out by the Commission on Elections for the purpose of identifying contributors and campaign expenses. “It’s just that they will never reveal that they did so, for fear of political retribution,” he said.

And it’s not even about avoiding taxes. After all, the Bureau of Internal Revenue has long ruled that political contributions are tax-exempt, so long as they are properly declared and used for the intended purpose of funding a candidate’s campaign.

Of course, what Mar and his party could have done was to secure not only the donations of businessmen but also their signatures on the forms declaring their generosity. Then again, planning for such eventualities and doing the paperwork beforehand probably never occurred to Roxas and his party, which is headed by—no surprise there—the super-efficient outgoing Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

You could argue that perhaps people shouldn’t be too hard on Roxas, who already lost in his two consecutive bids for high office in two straight presidential elections. But I still don’t understand how Duterte and everyone else who lost in the elections with Mar were able to comply with the law—unless Roxas and the LP are really having a lot of trouble declaring who gave how much and how all that moolah was spent.

But maybe it’s not just the legitimate contributions that Roxas and the LP are having problems with. As a friend told me, “you can’t really expect to include the government of the Republic of the Philippines in your list of campaign donors.”

* * *

Now it can be told: Senator Alan Peter Cayetano is not going to get the Senate presidency because his colleagues objected to how he was acting like the head of the chamber long before the voting.

The senators, I’m told, were told by Cayetano upon the resumption of sessions recently that the Taguig lawmaker was already handing out committee chairmanships. It’s like he had been appointed “Senate dictator” when he was

just one of the candidates for the top post, some senators grumbled.

And just where did Cayetano get his supposed authority to hand out committee chairmanships in the Senate? “This is what Duterte wants,” Cayetano reportedly told his colleagues.

Well, a bunch of senators decided that if Duterte really wanted Cayetano to be their leader and to distribute chairmanships, maybe he should tell them himself. So they went to Davao City and asked the president-elect.

The incoming president told the visiting senators that he gave Cayetano no such authority. And when they returned from Davao, they declared that they, almost to a man, were voting for PDP-Laban Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III as the next Senate president.

Of course, the Senate hasn’t actually voted in a new leadership yet, so Cayetano technically still has a chance of being elected. But the fact that no senator is disputing Pimentel’s prospective election speaks volumes about how Cayetano’s bid is now as dead as Ferdinand Marcos Sr., whose remains the Taguig senator doesn’t want interred in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.

Duterte has time and again said that he wants Marcos buried in the cemetery. But he never demanded that the Senate elect Cayetano as its president.


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