Overacting and under acting at the ZTE Senate hearing
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-09-30
Politics and showbiz come together very naturally in the Philippines. Joseph "Erap" Estrada must have realized that our leaders were only acting like leaders and so he probably presumed that a real actor should perform better.

We have some of the biggest hams in our political theater. You'll see election officials trying to project themselves as models of uncompromising integrity, the exact opposite of the story told by the track record of elections under their watch. We have a woman who acts as though she really won the 2004 presidential elections. Until recently, we had a Justice Secretary who played his role as though he was the anointed dispenser of divine justice.

We have many people in Congress and the Senate referred to as "Honorable" despite the fact that many of them are the very people we would least regard as honorable. We voted to have an Opposition dominated Senate last May but owing to crass horse trading the regime allies still managed to be part of the majority.

How many more times must we witness our "Honorable" Congressmen vote in favor of narrow party interests on issues that demand patriotic decisions? Had we not waged a strong protest last December, our Congressmen would have doomed any chance for reform by forcing a new system of government that would have secured them more power and control of the country's resources.

The recent ZTE Senate hearing again treated us to an extensive exhibition of Philippine political theatre. What a spectacle we saw. "Honorable" pro-regime Senators were quoting principles of law in order to hide clear overpricing.

The perpetually entertaining Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago outdid herself last Wednesday. Forgetting that she was Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, she committed a very serious racial slur in her references to the Chinese, accusing them of introducing corruption in the world. Not even bothering to cite exceptions, she made a sweeping reference to the Chinese as a totally corrupt people.

This was of course delivered with her signature hysterical histrionics, or something we will all call a classic case of stage overacting. I have been in professional theater long enough to know when people are acting, including those who do poorly at it.

Stage actors need to over-emote because they are communicating with audiences from a distance. But when that same stage actor is scrutinized up-close by TV cameras, the overacting becomes very obvious. Senator Santiago's song and dance routine last Wednesday was a premeditated, staged outburst cum walkout.

The local Filipino-Chinese Business Community and the Chinese Embassy reacted vehemently and we saw a usually over-articulate Senator Santiago the next day suddenly groping for the right words to explain away her monstrous gaffe. Senator Santiago unwittingly offended the biggest contributors to Philippine election campaigns and the biggest country supporter now of the Arroyo regime.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) has been known to dump allies for much less considerations. It stands to reason that losing the local Chinese campaign donors and the Chinese government that is now pouring a lot of monies and projects into the country are resources GMA will not easily part with.

Whenever I see these antics of Senator Santiago, somehow, I feel thankful that Ronnie Puno initiated that infamous Sulo Hotel Operation that many were crediting for aborting a Miriam Defensor-Santiago presidency in 1992. Any head of state spewing such irresponsible anti-Chinese insults would have dragged us into a war with China.

In contrast to Senator Santiago's overacting last Wednesday at the Senate ZTE hearing, former NEDA Secretary (now CHED Chairman) Romulo Neri was a case of terrible under acting, a performance that left the audience clamoring for more.

Neri exploded a bombshell when he confirmed that Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos offered him a P200-million bribe to provide NEDA clearance for the ZTE deal. However, Neri would hide behind "executive privilege" to dodge questions which implicated GMA — such as when asked about what her reaction was that led to NEDA approval of the ZTE deal despite the bribe offer.

The days before his Senate appearance, Neri's Ateneo batchmates of High School '66 (I am one myself) were texting each other to go to the Senate (wearing our Batch '66 blue T-shirts) in order to support Romy Neri and encourage him to tell the whole truth.

Among us Ateneans, there is this overwhelming desire to assert anew the "Man for others" standard of the Blue Eagle, the Ateneo mascot, and remove the stigma that the mutated Blue Vultures created. Blue Vultures are Ateneans who participated in the destruction of this country through all the past and present regimes where Ateneans walked the corridors of power. Our Jesuit mentors always warned us that Ateneo manages to produce "Men for others" who are dedicated to serving the least of our brethren but occasionally Ateneo also produces the antithesis — the Blue Vultures.

Personally, I felt something in my bones before last Wednesday's ZTE Senate hearing that Romy Neri was not exactly going to level up and tell the whole truth. I felt that when GMA changed her mind and allowed Neri to testify. I thought that she would use Neri to divert attention from herself by giving the dogs at the Senate a bone to chew on.

For many of us Ateneans, Romy Neri failed to fly like a Blue Eagle last Wednesday. We can only pray that his love of God and God’s truth will overpower his fear of the Blue Vultures or his dependence on their bounty.

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