IT would be unfair to tar with the same brush all the celebrities who join politics in this country. Some, after all, have managed to prepare, perform and deliver results, especially in local government.

But we can’t blame citizens who endured Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s speech last Monday for bewailing, again, how our obsession with celebrity has damaged some of our political rituals and institutions.

Revilla, who gained the most number of votes in the Senate elections in 2010, now stands accused of pocketing at least P224.51 million in Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), allegedly through deals with Janet Lim-Napoles. He faces plunder and graft charges with two other senators, Juan Ponce-Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada; the latter had won the second highest number of votes in 2010.

On social media, many quickly mocked Revilla’s speech, particularly the music video “Salamat Kaibigan” that ended the whole sorry performance. They saw the farce for what it was and told Revilla to face the music.

But how did the performance affect the 19.51 million individuals who voted for Revilla in 2010? Did it help them understand better the loopholes that marred the PDAF system? Did it offer measured solutions, so that public funds would be spent more carefully in the future?

No, all Revilla did was put on a show, an unapologetic attempt to win the sympathy of his voter base; that is, when he wasn’t joking about his celebrity connections in and out of the Senate, or expressing the thanks he could just as easily have expressed in private.

It has been ages since we could convincingly say the Senate was an institution marked by the intelligence and caliber of all its senators. Revilla’s performance last Monday, done on official time and at the taxpayers’ expense, did nothing to halt this slide.


Roperos: Will to be free

Godofro M. Roperos

Politics also

MANY years ago, by the operation of a mutual agreement between a colonized country and its colonizer, independence was granted to the Philippines. And so, aping the historical reality of the colonial United States of America, which became a free nation on a July 4, the Philippines was granted its independence on July 4, 1946. It was a quite exhilarating event for Filipinos.

However, some years later, when the Philippines had somehow established a stronger democratic footing, national leaders, deciding to assert a more nationalistic image, opted to change the date of the country’s independence to June 12, a day that holds a more significant bearing on Philippine history.

And so tomorrow, we commemorate our birth as an independent and free nation in

Southeast Asia. It is something that should imbue each of us with sense of freedom.

I think that we were the first nation in this part of the globe to have been extended the experience of democracy. In the mid-1930s, we were allowed by our colonial mentor to become a semi-democratic country through the so-called Commonwealth government. We were allowed to have a president and a vice president, as well as, if I recall correctly, a Senate and a House of Representatives.

When the World War II broke out, our national officials safely went out of the country. I was all of eleven years old then in 1941, and I remember my public school teacher-father talk over breakfast about president Manuel Quezon being smuggled out of through Australia. As for then vice president Sergio Osmeña Sr., there were those who said that he went out of the country using a submarine.

That was great, I thought then. They were saving themselves for our country’s sake.

Some years later, when the Americans invented the atomic bomb, they chose to test it in Japan, their hated enemy in the war. They dropped their new toys on two Japanese cities. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so we were told, all but disappeared from the face of the earth.

It was gruesome news, but we celebrated because Japan was the enemy. But now, decades later, we sort of mourn the event. Japan is friend.

The Philippine Commonwealth was dissolved by the US in 1945 when Japan surrendered. Then Quezon died and Osmeña took over and returned to the Philippines. That was when our becoming independent was set. And it was “granted” in July 1946.

An election for the first president of independent Philippines was set. Manuel Roxas, a Commonwealth senator, challenged old man Osmeña. The latter lost to Roxas, who became the first president of free Philippines.

That was how we became the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946. But our leaders some years later, wanting to be more Filipino and nationalistic, changed the date to June 12. So tomorrow, savor our freedom, our independence and our democratic way of life.