A field trip to the Senate

Jess Lorenzo
The truth was like an elephant in the room that everyone struggled not to see

MANILA, Philippines – I went to the Senate yesterday, Tuesday, partly proud that I would be a witness to a first in our history where an impeachment would exact accountability from the Chief Justice.

Another part of me was emboldened because we were to support Congressman Bolet Banal, a Kaya Natin Champion for good governance, who would be put on the witness stand for his participation in exposing the dollar accounts of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

I felt proud also because I was with people like former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca, former Pampanga Gov. Among Ed Panlilio, Mayor Jan Disomimba of Tamparan, Lanao del Sur, and Gov. Roxette Lerias of Southern Leyte.  With us were Kaya Natin Core members like myself, Marisa Lerias, Mae Paner, Fred Siy, Kai Pastores, Bing Franco, and Krz Lopez. 

We were like students constantly texting each other to meet at the Senate lounge, excited about our field trip to history.

Unfortunately, the trial was not what we had expected. 

Congressman Banal did not testify. And the trial ground to a halt as Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile took most of the time grilling 2 witnesses from the PSBank.  Past that, the other senators seemed to have jumped at the opportunity to dismiss any possibility that the public would see the genuine content of the dollar accounts. 

At this point, I was partly relieved that Congressman Banal would not be grilled. But we were frustrated that the questioning was going nowhere.

In over 2 hours of his testimony, PSBank president Pascual Garcia III did not call the document fake but cited 42 reasons why it is questionable.  I felt he wanted the senators to be the ones to call it false perhaps to avoid any responsibility. He kept on insisting, “This cannot be a Xerox of the original.”

In her chance to be heard, Senator Santiago called Congressman Banal a criminal and hailed PSBank bank manager Annabelle Tiongson for standing their ground and not revealing the truth that could have ended all these. As she said this, I felt humiliated that I had this kind of a leader running my country.

Sen. Joker Arroyo then jumped to the conclusion that this was political harassment.

While he was talking, I felt sorry. I had watched and admired him when he defended the country’s integrity during Erap’s impeachment.  What could have happened to him? Old age? I remembered his old campaign slogan, ‘Pag bad ka, lagot ka.’ I asked myself, where is that now?

As the bank continued to question Annex A, the defense led by Serafin Cuevas started cross examining Garcia, creating a scenario that somehow the leak came from the government. They slowly started to paint a conspiracy that the Anti-Money Laundering Council investigated them and somehow leaked the document. Senator Teofisto Guingona III questioned this, but it was unfortunate that the whole court did not dwell on this. 

For a while, I thought truth had a chance.

It was strange to me that the whole process was an effort to present all of these conspiracies and possibilities.

Where’s the truth?

At some point I felt that Annex A was an object that couldn’t be technically called fake but was a nonetheless inaccurate copy and was leaked by the government to harass political opponents. That it was  simply inconceivable that someone from the bank could have leaked the information.

This is difficult to comprehend.

Everybody had a reason except the truth.  It felt the truth was like an elephant in the room that everyone struggled not to see – as if everyone was painting a dragon on the wall to distract me from the live elephant.

I was seated next to Among Ed Panlilio in the gallery.  During one of the breaks, I asked him what he would do if he were PSBank’s Garcia. We both struggled to understand his predicament.

You have a bank president who was trying hard to defend a bank and its shareholder interests. On one hand, if they admit they were the source of Annex A, they could potentially face a lawsuit which they may lose in the Supreme Court. And then, his integrity was also at stake.

We took turns in answering these questions, and we saw how difficult his situation was. But we both agreed that it could have been a heroic moment for him. We concluded the same for Tiongson.

Toward the latter part of the 4-hour movie, I felt sorry for the senators who had to study late every night to prepare for the trial.

I felt sorry for some of the lawyers who must be so spent in researching night after night to argue, only to be shot down by whimsical or questionable presumptions.

I felt sorry for the senators’ staff members who probably stay up all night as well to make sure that these whimsical questions still look real and well thought off.  I myself felt tired, frustrated, and angry. Maybe it’s because I was trying hard to understand the wisdom of the process that is subverting the truth.

It is simply beyond me.

When Gov. Grace was interviewed, she said, “Naisip ko ang ordinaryong mamamayan. Papaano kaya nila ito pinapanood? Huwag sana nilang ituring na ang paghahanap ng katotohanan ay nakakapagod.” (How must the ordinary citizens be feeling right now? I hope they will not conclude that the search for the truth can be very tiring.)

On Tuesday, the truth was once again overcome. – Rappler.com

Jess Lorenzo is one of the core group members of the Kaya Natin Movement that promotes Good Governance & Ethical Leadership in the country. For more information on Kaya Natin, please visit: www.kayanatin.org


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