Prisoner president in 2016?

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Sunday, June 22, 2014


I HAVE written enough about Bong Revilla. I really think I do. Which is rather strange since I cannot remember having written anything about him at all during the 10 years or so that he has been senator.

But I can’t resist writing one more time (I hope) about the gentleman from Cavite, one of the movie kingdom’s four sorry contributions to the Philippine Senate. No, not after watching him march into detention and melodramatically vowing that he would rise again.

“Who knows,” he said, “for the first time, we will have a president who is a prisoner.”

The fellow apparently forgot Erap, the president jailed also for plunder. People Power banished him from Malacañang but that, he said, did not mean that he was no longer president because he never resigned. And he was probably right.

But indeed, who knows if in 2016 we will have a prisoner president for the second time? The signs seem to point to that direction.

The day before he “surrendered”, Revilla was in Cavite where supporters kept vigil. They were as defiant as their idol, who declared that he was ready to be detained anywhere.

By “anywhere” he must also have meant jail, that smelly, overcrowded and oven-hot poor excuse of room where common people charged with ordinary crimes are usually hustled into after their arrest.

Revilla, of course, is anyone but common and his alleged crime anything but ordinary. He is a Senator of the Republic and he is accused of plundering the government’s coffers in the amount of a quarter of a billion pesos. So to Camp Crame he went, courtesy of his lawyer, who probably did not hear him in Cavite and who convinced the Sandiganbayan that it was in the best interests of all concerned that the accused be held in a police camp.

Along the way, people jostled to catch a glimpse of the prisoner. If their reaction was any indication, when they looked at him, they saw only his handsome face, not the cunning that allegedly resides behind his attractive exterior.

And he noticed it. The adulation that he witnessed in his adoring fans emboldened him to declare that he will rise again. He will be back like Phoenix rising from the ashes only that this time, it is our ashes.

***

Public utility drivers abandoned the streets last Thursday primarily to protest the new system of penalties imposed by the Land Transportation Office for traffic offenses. But they also took the occasion to voice their objections to the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) system which, they feared, would displace them, particularly the jeepney drivers.

While not openly endorsing the transport strike, the mayor agreed that the penalties were oppressive. “You don’t have to instill fear. You develop respect for the law. I don’t want people to be afraid, I want people to respect the law that’s why they comply.”

Rama’s speech would make a good declamation or oratorical piece. But who is he kidding? He has been mayor for more than four years but has he seen respect for traffic laws in his city? More importantly, what has he done to instill that respect other than penalizing erring drivers?

I think that the mayor was just trying to ingratiate himself with the jeepney drivers in the hope that they will not pose an obstacle to the implementation of the BRT system. The BRT may be former Tommy Osmeña’s idea but Mike sees its potential as a solution to the city’s worsening traffic problems and is pushing for it.

While the project has already been approved by Malacañang, Rama knows that he needs to keep all stakeholders happy to make it work. That is why he is cottoning up to the jeepney drivers.

Let’s hope that the gambit works. Good luck, Mayor Mike.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 22, 2014.

Opinion

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