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Of wang-wangs and Senate investigations

In his second State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III has made the banning of car sirens called wang-wang as a symbolism of how his government has supposedly put a stop to the abuse of power and corruption. However, the wang-wang might no longer be heard often in the streets but VIP cars, carrying politicians and rich people, with back up vehicles still bully their way through traffic by flashing its lights and having escorts to clear the way.

Likewise, corruption cases involving the current government might not be exploding left and right, unlike that of the previous Arroyo administration, but it doesn’t mean that abuse of power and corruption have been eradicated. For one, nobody from the previous administration has been convicted yet of big scale corruption, not even Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Second, the illegal numbers game jueteng and large-scale logging still operate and political warlords still rule the country’s provinces. Third, the impunity in the killings of political activists and journalists has still not been broken. Just like the wang-wang, corruption and abuse of power still exist, albeit not as open as before.

Which brings us to the Senate investigations on the 2004 presidential elections, as well as corruption cases involving the Arroyo family, such as the anomalous sale of second hand choppers to the Philippine National Police.

During the Arroyo administration, the ruling party used to call these Senate investigations as a waste of taxpayers’ money. But these investigations had served its purpose then because the Arroyo administration had effectively blocked all venues that would enable the Filipino people to hold it accountable for its crimes: it had a strong ally, nay defender, in the Office of the Ombudsman and the majority in the House of Representatives then had summarily dismissed all impeachment complaints against then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The Senate investigations served as a venue to expose the crimes of the Arroyo administration to the general public in the hope that the Filipino people themselves would be able to hold the government to account.

However, now that the Arroyo family is no longer in power, the long drawn-out Senate investigations on the crimes of the previous administration seem to have outlived its purpose. There is a new Ombudsman in former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales. The current Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is a tireless, courageous woman who appears to be determined in her role of running after wrongdoers. The allies of the Aquino administration constitute the majority in both houses of Congress. What then is the purpose of these long drawn-out Senate investigations?

What is needed now is for the Aquino administration to actually file cases against the Arroyo family and its allies who conspired to rob the Filipino people of their vote and their taxes. It took a mere three months for the former Arroyo administration to have ousted president Joseph Estrada arrested and, it was able to secure a conviction, albeit after six years. It has now been one year and a month and a half since President Benigno Aquino III took over the reins of government and it has not yet filed a single case against the Arroyo family and their cohorts. Private citizens such as lawyer Frank Chavez, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and Bayan, the mothers of missing UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan and missing activist Jonas Burgos, as well as Bayan Muna Representatives Teddy Casiño and Neri Colmenares have already filed cases against officials of the previous Arroyo administration, including the former president and her AFP officials. But the Aquino administration has not done anything yet and has been taking its sweet time “gathering evidences.”

All of President Aquino’s bold declarations of commitment to justice and running after wrongdoers in government, and the ongoing Senate investigations on the crimes of the previous Arroyo administration are all noises, just like the wang-wang, if not accompanied by actually running after and filing cases against the Arroyo family and its cohorts. And just like the campaign against the wang-wang, the president’s fiery speeches and the long draw-out Senate investigations would appear to be all for show.