Another Miriam surprise performance
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-09-27
The September 24 Senate committee on public order and illegal drugs hearing on the recent PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) controversies that was chaired by Senator Gringo Honasan, unveiled a Senator Miriam Santiago that was quite the opposite of her actuations during the September 14 hearing on former DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) Undersecretary Rico E. Puno.

In the Puno hearing, Santiago acted like a judge, jury and executioner, hardly allowing Puno the presumption of innocence even if no damning facts were presented against him. In last Monday’s PDEA hearing, Santiago was a model of sober questioning, at every move relying on the rule of law.

The PDEA hearing was triggered by the accusations that sacked Deputy Director-General Carlo Gadapan ventilated in media against his boss in the agency, Director-General Jose Gutierrez. Gadapan’s “exposes” reeked of vendetta — an angry official trying to inflict damage and inconvenience on the person suspected of having provided the basis for his sacking. Gadapan had suspected that Gutierrez provided the Office of the President with the information that led to his sacking. Gadapan failed to appreciate that the loss of confidence clause is all that’s needed to remove a presidential appointee like him.

A fuming Gadapan said a mouthful. First, he accused Gutierrez of extorting P8 million from a drug lord named Mark Sy Tan in exchange for his freedom. The accusation fell flat when Gutierrez cited that Sy was still very much under detention, the best proof that no payoff was ever consummated. Then Gadapan picked on the businesswoman wife of Gutierrez and accused her of big time gambling where she allegedly “used her PDEA” link as leverage to obtain loans and continue her alleged gambling addiction.

Santiago easily debunked Gadapan’s accusations against the wife of Director-General Gutierrez, saying that this was a private matter and that it’s natural for a businesswoman to borrow money and obtain loans. When Gadapan pressed the issue that Mrs. Gutierrez obtained loans by using her husband’s position, Santiago took him to task and Gadapan wasn’t able to prove anything. Sen. Santiago claimed during the hearing that she was aware that Mrs. Gutierrez operated a chain of flower shops that were well patronized. The loans are therefore well within the amounts that a businesswoman would borrow in the normal course of business. Her gambling, whether true or not, was a private matter and of no concern to the Senate hearing.

Like the same demolition job that was applied on Rico E. Puno, ABS-CBN, the very same character assassins of Puno, disclosed so-called bank payments, presumed to be for Gutierrez, citing the usual “reliable” but unnamed source. An unnamed source is as good as a fictitious source and it’s a wonder as to what kind of journalism standards ABS-CBN now follow to allow rubbish like this to be presented as news.

The very same reporter who alleged that Puno was under investigation by the late Jesse Robredo made the ABS-CBN news report on the alleged Gutierrez bank transactions. The DILG representatives’ visit to secure Robredo’s documents in his condo was made to appear as a “guilty” Puno’s attempt to steal documents that could damn him. No less than Leni Robredo debunked this claim when she said that the late Jesse was not investigating Puno. It was also clarified by the president that Puno merely exerted initiative in securing Robredo’s papers in the condo when informed that there were sensitive documents there.

Senator Santiago assessed former PDEA Deputy Director-General Gadapan’s revelations as more of fiction than fact. That’s amazing because the accusations against Rico E. Puno were also more of fiction than fact. To be precise, it was fiction repeated over and over again for people to perceive it as fact.

We must rejoice though that Santiago had recovered her legal bearings and is once again able to differentiate fiction from fact. That capability was glaringly absent when she conducted the September 14 Puno hearing. We should encourage Sen. Santiago to abide by this manner of conducting Senate hearings where sober, clear presentation of facts and legal procedure educate people on what is the issue and what is the truth.
Indeed, the strengthening of the laws that prohibit and penalize drug trafficking and distribution should be supported. Like jueteng (illegal numbers game) lords, the drug lords are financially capable of installing many elected public officials. If their revenue bases are not curtailed, we will be dragged from the one of the most promising economies in the world today — with thanks to the reforms that President Benigno S. Aquino III had injected — to what is called a failed state.

Drugs and jueteng are social cancers that corrode our values and institutions. Drug lords and jueteng lords can fund election campaigns for key positions as well as provide incentives for the best broadcast journalists that money can buy. The Puno controversy was partially about jueteng. The Gadapan controversy was about drugs. Are you surprised that there was a common denominator — a highly suspicious broadcast reporter with the knack for tapping an unnamed source?

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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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