MANILA, Philippines – “Alam mo, maawain ang Pilipino eh, so of course that would be effective. Sasabihin, ‘Kawawa naman.’” (You know, Filipinos are sympathetic, so of course that would be effective. They will say, “Poor guy.”)
Colleagues weighed in on Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr’s “surprise” privilege speech, saying they allowed him to take up the Senate’s time to present his sentiments and music video as part of “tradition” and “courtesy.”
Senator Sergio Osmeña III said that while Revilla had a personal message for each of his colleagues, the speech was clearly intended for public sympathy, specifically for the actor-turned-politician's mass fan base.
“Of course, it’s an emotional speech. It’s like he is bidding farewell to the Senate. That is his objective. It was fairly emotional for a lot of his people and those who voted for him, especially. It’s sad,” Osmeña said on Tuesday, June 10, a day after Revilla’s speech.
Yet Osmeña could not help but poke fun at the speech and song combination. “Eh magaling kumanta, di ba?” (Wasn’t he a good singer?)
On Monday, Revilla took to the Senate floor 3 days after the filing of plunder charges against him over the pork barrel corruption scandal. Instead of addressing the allegations, he used his speech to call on President Benigno Aquino III to “lead this country not with hatred but with love,” paid tribute to his colleagues, and launched a music video of his song “Salamat, Kaibigan” that set social media on fire.
Revilla is accused of earning the highest kickbacks worth P242 million in the corruption scheme. He allegedly connived with mastermind Janet Lim Napoles to funnel discretionary funds to her bogus non-governmental organizations. His co-accused are senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano responded to criticism that the Senate allowed Revilla to use the chamber as a venue for his personal agenda.
Cayetano said that it is tradition for the Senate to let second-term senators deliver a valedictory speech to bid the institution farewell at the end of their term. Revilla is a second-term senator whose Senate stint will likely be cut short once the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan issues an arrest warrant against him.
“Sentimentally, he wanted to say goodbye to his companions, at least for now, but he also wanted to rally his supporters and we usually give that courtesy here,” Cayetano told Rappler.
Cayetano said it was a smart move for Revilla to use an emotional approach instead of a legal or political tack to address the controversy.
“It was wise of him not to give his defense because that would have provoked an interpellation on the main issue. And it was wise of him not to hit Malacañang or others because that would have led other [senators] to stand up. Basically, he asked for his time and what I liked about his speech is that he said he will address all the charges against him in court,” Cayetano said.
Wasn’t Revilla evading the issue? “If he stood up to answer the charges, then he evaded. But if he just stood up to say goodbye, then he just did his mission,” Cayetano said.
An Aquino ally, Osmeña took issue with Revilla’s statement that President Aquino should not let the imprisonment of 3 opposition senators be his sole legacy.
“That’s not true because PNoy is not the one who prosecutes. It was the Commission on Audit that exposed it. This [COA investigation] started when Gloria [Arroyo] was still president in 2009. Now it came out. Why is that PNoy’s fault? Under our system, it is the Department of Justice that investigates then hands it over to the Ombudsman then it goes to the Sandiganbayan,” Osmeña said.
A lawyer, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said it was “good” for Revilla not to go into the merits of the case because “that’s reserved for the court.”
Commenting on the music video, he quipped, “Maganda, i-promote po natin sa Youtube para mapanood ng buong mundo!” (It was good. Let’s promote it on Youtube so the world can watch it.)
People behind the speech, video
Revilla was nowhere in the Senate to answer questions about his likely arrest. The senator’s staff said he skipped Tuesday’s session for a charity event in Tondo, Manila, and Quezon City.
Amy Manzo, Revilla’s media relations officer, said that while a team of at least 3 speechwriters worked on the senator’s speech, it was all him.
“He gives inputs, but those are really his words,” Manzo told Rappler in Filipino.
Manzo said Revilla tapped movie director and scriptwriter Joven Tan to compose “Salamat, Kaibigan” and to put together video of his past visits to disaster-hit areas and campaign stops.
“He told the composer about his feelings. Actually, we were surprised there was a music video. They kept it a secret. We were surprised. He just offered the song to the masses, to the 20 million people who voted for him,” Manzo said, referring to the number of votes Revilla got when he placed first in the 2010 senatorial polls.
Portia Ilagan, one of Revilla’s speechwriters, said her boss no longer wanted to engage in mudslinging, and just meant to “thank the people.”
She took exception to the social media backlash against Revilla’s speech.
“Is it a sin for him not to give bombshells that everyone is expecting? Is it a sin he did not attack other people but he thanked his colleagues and everyone he wants to thank because he knows that this might be his last speech? Why spend his last speech being angry, talking ill of people?”
“If that is a sin then all Filipinos should go back to learning morals,” Ilagan said. – Rappler.com