Wow! Sorrowful and joyful mysteries in two Senate hearings
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2008-11-18

Lest you get the wrong impression — no, they did not pray the Rosary in the Senate.

What they did was to conduct two very important hearings last Thursday (on the Fertilizer Fund Mess) and Saturday (on the PNP Moscow Fund). And in those two Senate hearings some sorrowful and joyful mysteries unfolded.

Former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante was a sorrowful mystery. Others would say pathetic. Hardly any Senator believed Jocjoc Bolante. Even Arroyo regime ally Senator Miriam D. Santiago couldn’t stomach what Jocjoc Bolante was saying and let out a shudder and sigh to express her disbelief and exasperation.

Sen. Mar Roxas, who has worked in the Arroyo cabinet as Trade Secretary, attested to the fact that there is no way the P728 million Fertilizer Fund could have been operated and spent sans the approval of Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), a known micro-manager. But Jocjoc Bolante mysteriously stuck to his line that GMA was not in any way involved in the operation.

Jocjoc Bolante was a successful businessman and top corporate executive. He was a vital cog of the success story of the Prudential Group in the Philippine insurance game before he mysteriously opted to abandon the corporate suite with all its perks for the thankless and low-paying job of an Undersecretary of Agriculture.

Despite his corporate achievements, Jocjoc Bolante was mysteriously wanting as a manager of the Fertilizer Fund who suddenly lost sight of proper control procedures. He was the central operator of the Fertilizer Fund and yet if we are to believe his testimony in the Senate — everybody in the bureaucracy had committed far greater management mistakes than him.

In the PNP Moscow Fund hearing, former PNP Comptroller Eliseo de la Paz delivered a nearly tearful opening statement that intimated his great concern for the legacy of a good name that he wanted to pass on to his posterity. And yet, when the hearing unfolded, he mysteriously owned up to all the accountability and very possible conviction and jail sentence that his admission of wrongdoing could get him.

In what we are used to seeing as the tendency of our public officials to point to the next person in order to avoid blame, Eliseo de la Paz was mysteriously gallant and bold to assume all the blame for the PNP Moscow Fund Mess. We could only wish that he instead opted for the higher and bolder act of taking the moral high ground by telling the whole truth.

We can only join the Senators who expressed sympathy for Eliseo de la Paz. It is such sorrow to see a brave man become the perceived bad public servant who broke the law when all around us plunderers go Scot-free while posturing as honorable men.

Lo and behold - the Senate rose to one of its finest hours during the hearings last Thursday and Saturday. The Senate, especially during the Saturday hearing, was mysteriously free of grandstanding, childish antics and inquisition in search of media platforms.

The Thursday hearing would not have been marred by a cheap shot if Senator Panfilo Lacson did not try to have Senator Alan Cayetano inhibit himself over a document that turned out to be bogus. It was typically Lacson to suggest sentence before hearing and trial.

Wow! Senator Miriam D. Santiago was mysteriously undemonstrative of the theatrical displays we’ve come to anticipate when she investigates. Don’t you agree that this is just about the most gracious — and most effective — Sen. Santiago has been in a Senate investigation? There is a world of wisdom to be learned there.

Wow! Somewhat mysteriously, the Senate managed to discard the tendency of some Senators to behave like minions of Tomas de Torquemada (called “The hammer of heretics”) of the Spanish Inquisition. This Torquemada character of some Senators is what provides ammunition to those who are trying to erode public confidence in the Senate as an institution.

Wow! The Senate even praised some public servants during the PNP Moscow Fund Mess hearing. Supt. Samuel Rodriguez was praised for having officially raised (in writing) the questionable orders of Eliseo de la Paz to source a P10 million travel fund from intelligence funds. The same was extended to his boss, C/Supt. Orlando Pestano, for having acted on that letter of Supt. Rodriguez.

Wow! The PNP Moscow Fund hearing was just about the only hearing that we saw in a long, long time where we could see the necessary legislation and revised regulations emerging from the investigation and discussions.

We can see the formulation of stricter regulations on the issuance of travel funds to public officials. We can see a new law regarding the handling of the liquidation of intelligence funds which a Marcos decree kept as a tight secret between the agency involved and the COA Chairman. We can see stricter controls on the arbitrary shifting of public funds from that experience of using intelligence funds for travel expenses.

From such meaningful hearings, we can expect an atmosphere of cooperation from the executive after it sees the genuine merits of Senate investigations and how these probes can result in better legislation and governance.

Even a paranoid GMA regime will find it hard not attending Senate investigations if such decorum will become the standard and with the public acknowledging the improved legislation and other positive measures that result from such probes.

Wow! That will be such a joyful day for Philippine democracy!

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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