Thank you, Senator Revilla!

Sylvia Estrada Claudio
Thank you for reminding us that your trial must go forward and that you get the justice you deserve

Sylvia ClaudioYou have lessened my fears by your recent privilege speech. I was afraid that Filipinos might forget that you, and Senators Estrada and Ponce Enrile face plunder complaints before the Ombudsman. In our politics, there are just too many crimes that have been forgotten and remain unresolved. 

I know, “innocent until proven guilty.” Criminals say this, in hopes that we suspend our critical capacities and not come to our own conclusions. In our flawed justice system you may eventually be acquitted of the crime of plunder. That does not make you innocent. “Not guilty” can still be  “immoral.” That is why in countries less inured to graft, corruption and politician-clowns, the 3 of you should have resigned already.

As a senator you’re supposed to know the fine points of our system. Judges are supposed to be impartial and non-judgmental until they assess all the evidence and all the arguments. That is because they have the capacity to throw you in jail, or take away your money or your job. So a higher standard of proof is necessary. In your case, for example, if your defense can prove that you stole less than the amount stipulated in the charges, the judge should find you not guilty of the crime of plunder. It does not mean you did not steal. 

Ordinary citizens, however, can use their better judgment to decide whether you are guilty. You cannot suppress these voices. And you cannot play victim if you and your family are suffering from the social ostracism that results from our judgment. You seem to like “trials by publicity” only when the verdict is “he is Mr. Pogi (handsome) and let’s watch his movie.” When the publicity leads to a verdict that says, “he is Sen. Mandarambong (plunderer) and let’s not vote for him,” you bewail it.

Allow me an aside for the sake of civility. I don’t think children should be bullied because we think their parents are scoundrels. In fact, there is no justification for bullying. I don’t think you should be bullied either, poor thing. But there is a difference between legitimate criticism and bullying.

Protestations of innocence

So let me get back to my legitimate criticism of your privilege speech. 

You have 3 main arguments. First, you are innocent because the signatures in those documents authorizing those large tranches of money to fake NGOs are equally fake. Second, that you are innocent because all this is a demolition job against President Aquino’s opponents. Third, that you are innocent because President Aquino is more of a criminal than you.

As to the third argument, I wish to point out that you too have made a judgment without hearing all the arguments and seeing all the evidence in court. Oh, wait. In fact there are no cases against President Aquino regarding all those accusations you made. But, to be fair, you have a right to use your better judgment to assess the President’s performance.

But you really should review your grade-school lessons in logic. Just because someone is worse than you, does not make you innocent.

It does make you look less honorable. It turns my stomach to see this mudslinging. Better yet to say it in the language of my emotions, “Ano ito? Tapunan na lang ng putik?”

Like the gangster Nardong Putik, you sound like someone who is convinced that our society is essentially corrupt and that you see nothing wrong in making a fortune out of that situation. The only honor among gangsters, they say, is the practice of omerta (code of silence). Practicing omerta, you kept silent about what you thought was unethical meddling in an impeachment trial. Now that they have betrayed you by bringing up your misdeeds, you will betray them too by bringing up theirs.

Which brings me to your second argument that all this is a political demolition job. 

You seem unable to concede that those who are against you may be motivated by a desire to reform the system. For you, political slogans like “Daang Matuwid” (The Righteous Path), are empty. They are merely pretty pictures that conceal the ugly workings behind the scenes. In looking for a reason for the trouble you are in, you can only think of motivations that are congruent with your world view: “They are putting me down because they want the power.”

I am not so naive as to believe that all of those who are working to bring you to justice are motivated by noble goals. But you should not be so cynical as to believe that all of it is just power play. We like to be inspired when we are able to glimpse into the minds of our leaders. What I glimpsed from the speech was a cesspool. It depressed me.

And our verdict is…

This brings me to your first argument. I find your defense against the facts of the case flimsy. Your main point was that your signatures were faked. Even your letter authenticating your signatures as requested by COA, was fake too. Explain to me, though,  how a real document from COA sent to your real office got answered by a fake letter. That could be a story worthy of a movie version.

But even if I were to suspend my disbelief and agree that all your signatures were faked and that there is this conspiracy against you, does that make you innocent? 

This is the argument of Senator Estrada. He says it isn’t a senator’s job to ensure that all that money he releases isn’t stolen by fake NGOs. Well, it is your job. There must be some law against such dereliction. But there can be no doubt that such dereliction is immoral. What reasons other than gross incompetence or overweening greed would explain your misbehavior?

Senator, we heard you. If the reactions so far are any indication, we find you even less innocent now.

Thank you for reminding us that your trial must go forward and that you get the justice you deserve. –

Sylvia Estrada-Claudio is a doctor of medicine who also holds a PhD in Psychology. She is Director of the University of the Philippines Center for Womens Studies and Professor of the Department of Women and Development Studies, College of Social Work and Community Development, University of the Philippines. She is also co-founder and Chair of the Board of Likhaan Center for Women’s Health.