Merci's ploy won't work
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-04-19
It’s easy to agree with former Senator Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay when he commented that the recent filing by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez of plunder charges against the suspects behind the Fertilizer Scam could just be a ploy to counter the impeachment case — a sort of planting the arguments for the defense.

Jun headed the Senate investigation into the Fertilizer Scam in 2006 which produced documentary evidence as well as testimonies with which to bring the suspects to court. The Ombudsman has failed to act on this case for seven years — believed to be the strongest basis for her impeachment. Thus, the perceived hurried filing of the case strikes many folks as a ploy to plant defense points for the impeachment trial.

Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., head of the impeachment case prosecution panel and the House Committee on Justice, feels the same way as Jun Magsaysay. “The betrayal of public trust has already been committed and a much delayed cover-up cannot cure it,” Tupas said.

Impeachment being political in nature and with public opinion very much against the besieged Ombudsman — it’s doubted if the filing of the Fertilizer Scam case in the Sandiganbayan will impress the public. For Gutierrez, getting the support of the Senators to acquit her will depend a lot on how public opinion is formed.

Senators who are up for reelection in 2013, like Migz Zubiri, will be very careful not to support the Ombudsman’s cause if public opinion is very much against her. Senators with an eye for higher office, like Bong Revilla, will also think twice before supporting an Ombudsman that the Court of Public Opinion has already condemned. Both Zubiri and Revilla are among those who are considered as likely Merci Gutierrez supporters in the impeachment trial.

The Senators who openly supported former president Joseph Estrada during his impeachment trial — Tessie Oreta and Miriam Santiago, notably — suffered public rejection in the May 2001 mid-term elections. That’s too recent to be forgotten by our present crop of Senators. If public opinion is overwhelmingly primed to want a conviction of the Ombudsman, any Senator-Juror who works for Merci’s acquittal will pay a heavy price.

Despite his recent dips in the surveys, President Noynoy Aquino III (PNoy) remains very popular and many Filipinos still want to see him succeed in paving the DAANG MATUWID (the straight path). Filipinos are supporting PNoy in weeding out corruption because they want to see justice served to the crooks and reap the benefits of more monies for public welfare that’s otherwise lost to corruption.

Representative Danilo Suarez announced last week that the Opposition allied with former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) will start to openly attack PNoy and his administration. Their likely goal is to erode the administration’s public support and ease the pressure to convict the Ombudsman. Although subsequently denied by the other Opposition leaders like Rep. Edcel Lagman — there is reason to believe that Suarez let the cat out of the bag.

With the recent filing of tax evasion charges against Rep. Mikey Arroyo, GMA and her ilk must be feeling the noose tightening. Keeping Merci in her post until her term as Ombudsman expires next year is an important security blanket for the Arroyos. The GMA camp will exhaust all means to try to keep the PNoy administration off balance and on the defensive. They would want to divert the heat and public attention from the forthcoming Merci impeachment trial by keeping PNoy busy defending against a lot of issues that they’ll throw at him.

The GMA camp may even decide not to personally undertake the ventilation of attacks against PNoy. That would explain the instant denial by other Opposition leaders of the announced planned attacks. In a fight between PNoy and GMA — GMA will be clobbered in public opinion. That will make the attacks counter productive.

We cannot rule out a GMA camp tactical alliance with the Left which has been hounding PNoy from Day 1 of his administration. The Left front organizations could undertake the ventilation of issues for the GMA camp.

It won’t be surprising if the GMA camp resorts to fabricated or over magnified issues. There is hardly any big issue that can be raised against PNoy, certainly not to the stink level of the Fertilizer Scam or the NBN-ZTE deal.

In this confrontation, what could prove to be PNoy’s Achilles Heel is his weak Messaging Team. In Mafia language, the Palace Messaging Secretary, Ricky Carandang, does not qualify as a War Time Consigliore. In fact, Ricky Carandang may not even qualify as a Peace Time Consigliore. He cannot even get PNoy a fair shake in his former network, ABS-CBN, where the early evening TV Patrol has become very critical of the administration after the return of Noli de Castro and Korina Sanchez.

Compare the same Malacañang related issues when ventilated by TV Patrol versus that of 24 Oras of the GMA Network and you’ll see a marked difference. If Ricky Carandang cannot even get PNoy a balanced reporting from ABS-CBN, how can he cope with other media which are known to be open to favoring the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo propaganda line?

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