MANILA, Philippines – As 2014 draws to a close, we review the personalities, institutions, and events that figured in investigations and stories that merited considerable explanation and elaboration.
You may or may not agree with some of the choices. Click on the deck of cards above and below and see our choices. We’d like to hear from you so let us know if we have a common deck for this year’s winners and losers written or reported on in this section.
Former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado
From best friend to worst enemy. He is the Benhur Luy of 2014. If Luy is a recurring nightmare for Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla, the former vice mayor of Makati is a living terror for Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Retired from politics after losing the Makati mayoral race to Binay’s son, Jejomar “Junjun” Binay in 2010, Mercado came out of his quiet life in Coron, Palawan after supposedly receiving death threats. His immediate suspects were the Binays. A former colleague, Nelson Morales who also supposedly knew about the skeletons in Binay’s closet, was killed by hired assassins in 2012. Morales was former city engineer of Makati.
From Binay’s love life to alleged hidden bank accounts and assets, Mercado claims to know the real score. He titillated the public with his stories and anecdotes, enough to fill several chapters of Binay’s unauthorized biography. Lesson: Mistreat not thy allies.
Pork barrel witness Benhur Luy
The crying witness. After pulling the rug from under his former benefactor Janet Lim Napoles last year and sending Enrile, Revilla and Estrada to a Camp Crame detention cell this in 2014, the public’s interest in Luy as a whistle blower somewhat waned in the latter half of 2014. Still, he scored big time when he put Sandiganbayan Justice Gregory Ong on premature retirement. Luy disclosed that Ong was the “contact” of Napoles in the anti-graft court, prompting the Supreme Court to investigate the justice’s ties to the pork barrel queen.
From a cocky, self-confident storyteller in the Senate, Luy added personal drama to his repertoire in the Sandiganbayan. Twice, his tear ducts swelled – first, when he was placed under the intense grilling of defense lawyers, and second, when he was recalling the time when he was forcibly detained by Napoles and her brother, Reynald Lim. Even con artists have a moody side.
The Catholic Church
It’s been a love-hate relationship. In 2012, the Catholic Church’s influence in the political sphere suffered a major blow after a majority of Filipinos supported the passage of the Reproductive Health law. Sure, it managed to convince a number of lawmakers to block the measure, but the public was not behind it. Against dictatorship and abusive governments, the Church can count on the public. But in the confines of the bedroom, Filipinos would prefer not to hear sermons from the Church.
Yet the Catholic Church remains the most trusted institution. That’s according to the 2014 Philippine Trust Index survey. Given its 75% trust rating, the Church actually gained 7 percentage points when the first result of the survey was released in 2012. The academe and the media are the 2nd and 3rd most trusted institutions.
When it comes to political clout, the Catholic Church is expected to have a renaissance of sorts with the confirmed visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines. Expect local politicians trying to out-elbow each other for a selfie with the Pope – if they can manage it!
Iglesia Ni Cristo
United we stand. This home-grown religious sect just celebrated its 100th year founding anniversary, punctuating the event with 2 Guinness World Records. At the same time, it unveiled its huge Philippine Arena in Bulacan, known as the largest indoor arena in the world.
Known for bloc voting in elections, the INC has been flexing its muscles in the run-up to its founding anniversary. It conducted medical missions, drawing huge crowds and causing monstrous traffic jams. Motorists complained, but really, blame should be put on local politicians, wanting to score political goodwill from the INC, for allowing the holding of such medical missions even during weekdays.
Its medical missions have a two-fold purpose: to attract potential recruits and show the Aquino government it is a political force to reckon with. Like the Catholic Church, the INC currently has frosty relations with President Aquino.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV
The betrayed coup plotter gets even. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Seven years ago, Trillanes staged the Manila Pen siege, hoping it would pull the critical mass that would finally put the Arroyo government on its knees. Under the plan, Vice President Jejomar Binay supposedly vowed to deliver the warm bodies but he was left holding an empty bag.
It was a betrayal he has never forgotten and forgiven.
The former mutineer got his revenge in 2014, courtesy of former vice mayor Ernesto Mercado, who Binay also allegedly betrayed with a broken vow. Mercado was searching for someone who would hear his side and Trillanes was more than willing to listen.
The Senate hearings on Binay’s alleged excesses have allowed Trillanes a ready launching pad for a higher position in the 2016 national elections. He has declared his intention to seek a higher post in 2016, possibly the presidency, for which Binay, tongue in cheek, said Trillanes can always dream. Did Binay have his fingers crossed when he said this? Who knows.
Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares
Everybody’s bride. Only in her first year-and-a-half as a lawmaker, the greenhorn senator is teaching the veterans how to properly package themselves. While her colleagues paid lip service to the plight of MRT commuters, she dashed to the next train for an experiential journey. Whether it was for research or a publicity stunt, it did not matter. The public loved her for it.
A Pulse Asia survey conducted last November and released this month showed her inching closer to Vice President Jejomar Binay whose survey ratings have plummeted. The same Pulse survey also showed her ahead as vice presidential choice, leaving others eating her dust.
Reports said Poe is being wooed by both the Liberal Party and Binay to be vice presidential candidate. With her still unblemished record, she could bring credibility and integrity to her chosen partner. She has, thus far, however, refused to take the bite.
Supreme Court Justice Francis Jardeleza
Never give up. The former Solicitor General’s ascent to the High Court was as testy as Filipino-Sino relations in the West Philippine Sea. Twice, he gently knocked on the SC, only to be shut out. The third time, he decided to barge in, dragging the Palace as padrino.
Who wouldn’t when the biggest stumbling block has been no less than Chief Justice (CJ) Maria Lourdes Sereno herself? The CJ accused Jardeleza of disloyalty to the Constitution when he allegedly sought to delete a portion in the Philippine pleading on the maritime dispute with China that would have weakened the country’s position. That deleted portion was put back, by the way.
Having gotten his way, Jardeleza was magnanimous in victory. He asked Sereno to administer his oath, and the CJ gladly obliged.
Big Brother’s watching. The law is intended to prevent cyber prostitution, white slavery and pornography. Sustained as constitutional by the SC early this year, the Cybercrime law is both a blessing and a curse, depending on who’s involved. To the law enforcement authorities, it adds teeth to their pursuit of child pornographers and those who engage in cybersex for financial gain. For the media, however, it is an added weapon to curtail press freedom.
The SC, however, made a distinction between online libel committed against private persons and public officials. For public officials, the “higher standard of malice” must be satisfied to obtain conviction.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano
I can dream, can’t I?. Even before the results of the 2013 mid term race, where Cayetano won a second term, he had set his eyes on the presidency. He had wanted to top the senatorial race, creating enmity with Senator Loren Legarda in the process. But neophyte Grace Poe-Llamanzares and Legarda herself stood in the way. Poe topped the race, followed by Legarda. Cayetano was relegated in third place.
Cayetano made a career out of hounding former first gentleman Mike Arroyo and his excesses. With President Arroyo out of power, he sought to reinvent himself, taking on job generation and livelihood. But it didn’t quite work and he was back as an anti-corruption crusader, this time targeting Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Still, his numbers are not encouraging. In the latest Pulse Asia survey, he barely moved, from 1% in September to 3% in November. His rating was even better last June, where he managed 5%.
He has better chances in the vice presidential race, placing 3rd behind Poe and Senator Francis Escudero. He has reportedly thrown in the towel as far as the presidency is concerned. But even the second best position may be far from his reach.
Senator Jinggoy Estrada
Been there, done that. In jail that is. And for plunder. Again. He got away the first time, but there’s no telling the second time around.
Betrayal seems to hound the Estradas. His father, former president Joseph Estrada, had former Ilocos governor Chavit Singson as his back stabber. The younger Estrada had family friend Ruby Tuason doing the same.
Unlike his macho colleague Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla who cried buckets of tears when the prospect of getting jailed became imminent, Estrada appeared to have accepted his fate with a Zen-like attitude. But his incarceration appears to be getting on his nerve lately. He called Benhur Luy a “lying gay” in one hearing, after the pork barrel witness said Estrada complained one time about a missing P10,000-amount from his pork barrel commission.
Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr
Panday is now Kakosa. At first he found it funny, but the joke’s on him. After all, being in jail is no laughing matter.
Before the pork barrel scandal, Revilla, who is on his second term as senator, is eyeing a higher position in the 2016 national race. He may be a non-performer in the Senate, but his movies were performing well in the box office. Perhaps the reasoning was: if people pay to watch your movies, then you are good enough to be voted as vice president or even as president.
In true showbiz fashion, Revilla left his fans with something to remember him by, while he took an extended vacation from his acting and political career behind bars. WATCH his farewell video below:
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile
Memoir Part 2? Two years ago, Enrile launched his autobiographical book at the height of his popularity with his deft handling of the Corona impeachment trial. His recollection of history provoked controversy. Will he now have time to review his memory and perhaps write a follow-up?
At 90 years old, karma finally caught up with the lawmaker, who during the martial law regime, put hundreds of dissidents and Marcos critics in jail. Sure, he was arrested twice before, but this time, he’s staying in detention longer than usual.
Citing a number of illnesses, Enrile has asked for hospital detention which the anti-graft court granted. With his advanced age, it is likely he’ll enjoy the special treatment for the duration of the plunder trial.
Sandiganbayan Justice Gregory Ong
No more photo ops. The religious icon of Quiapo, revered by many Catholics for its miraculous powers, failed to whip up a miracle for Ong. A self-confessed devotee of the Black Nazarene, Ong said he sought the help of Janet Napoles to gain access to its robe so he could be cured of an illness.
Absurd as it may sound, that’s what Ong actually told former Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez in his defense. He later visited Napoles in her office to express his gratitude, but most of the SC justices no longer bought it. His story that is.
Ong was found guilty of gross misconduct, dishonesty and impropriety. His appeal was rejected by the SC.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno
Outlasting the Aquino presidency. She certainly was not the first Chief Justice with whom President Aquino had an issue. Just ask former chief justice Renato Corona. But it certainly helps if she has less enemies.
Already at odds with certain members of the SC, Sereno angered the President when the Tribunal declared 3 schemes under the Disbursement Acceleration Program unconstitutional. How could she, his own appointee, join the rest in striking down DAP? Why didn’t she lift a finger to help soften the embarrassing ruling?
Sereno stood her ground in defending the integrity of her institution saying, SC rulings outlast presidencies. But the Palace wanted to teach her a lesson by insisting on the inclusion of former solicitor-general Francis Jardeleza in the shortlist for a vacant SC seat. Sereno had blocked Jardeleza’s nomination over his alleged questionable position on the West Philippine Sea.
Malacañang got what it wanted, as well as Jardeleza’s wish. But not without inflicting a fatal wound on the independence of the Judicial and Bar Council, which vets nominees to the judiciary and which is headed by the CJ.
From TOYM awardee to alleged Binay dummy. A recipient of the Ten Most Outstanding Young Men award, Tiu is a self-made billionaire who knows how to mix business and politics. Alas, politics is tricky and dangerous ground and he soon found himself on quicksand.
Tiu considers himself collateral damage in the demolition job on Vice President Jejomar Binay. As if this was not enough, his companies are being monitored by the Philippine Stock Exchange while the Securities and Exchange Commission wants him to explain “incomplete disclosures” pertaining to his companies. Worse, his companies have lost P1.3 billion in stock value since he was dragged to the Senate probe over the 350-hectare property allegedly owned by the Binays.
From Makati to Iloilo. Hilmarc’s Construction, which was behind the Makati City Hall parking building and the Iloilo Convention Center, is now synonymous with overpricing and “chop-chop” construction. Among the top 1,000 Philippine corporations, its reputation has been tarnished on allegations that it engages in under-the-table deals, particularly in its dealings with the Makati City government, which is a major client.
Vice President Jejomar Binay
From Boy Scout to Boy Scat. The Vice President, who is also the long reigning president of the Boy Scout of the Philippines, has always adhered to its motto of “always prepared.” In fact, he had long been preparing for the presidency even before he contested the vice presidential race in 2010. With his stratospheric survey ratings, the presidency was practically his for the taking.
But he was caught flat-footed when former ally, now worst enemy former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado surfaced and regaled the public about the behind-the-scenes events when Binay was mayor of Makati.
Surprised at what hit him, the Vice President has been fumbling on his PR offensive. He refused to attend a Senate invitation despite most Filipinos wanting him to answer the allegations squarely; he backed out from a scheduled debate with Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, citing flimsy reasons; and his camp resorted to squid tactics by diverting attention to the Iloilo Convention Center which backfired.
The surveys partly tell the story. From a high of 41% in a June 2014 survey by Pulse Asia, his numbers dropped to 31% in September, which went further down to 26% by November. His trust ratings also suffered, shedding off 15 percentage points from June to September. In November, his trust ratings slid from 66% in September to 45%. A separate survey by the Laylo Research Strategies however paints a rosier picture.
Binay thinks the worst is over. But is it, really? – Rappler.com
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