Don’t let the joke be on us

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2015 - 12:00am

I have always been an admirer of Joker B. Arroyo. Ever since President Corazon Aquino appointed him as her executive secretary in her revolutionary government I thought that he was an excellent statesman. While in Aquino’s government, he served as her right hand in the issuance of Executive Orders and he received various awards and commendations for his significant contributions to both the law profession and public service.

He followed his stint in the Aquino administration by running for office once again. He ran for the position of Congressman for the lone district of Makati and served as a popular figure in the House of Representatives with a sterling 100% attendance record from the time of his election to his very last term and passed several national and local bills. After his service in Congress he went on to the Senate where he chaired the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, the Senate Justice, and the Human Rights Committee. He never touched his pork barrel allocation, never traveled abroad on government money, and his Statement of Assets and Liabilities has remained practically unchanged from the time he entered public service to the time he left in 2013.

I recall times back in the day when he used to call me up when I was still at my desk in the STAR newsroom. Joker did not have a secretary or public relations officer to help him do his job. If he had something to say, he would do it himself. Many of my colleagues can attest to this fact. It was admirable how much of himself he put into his job and into doing it well.

Now, as we are both in the twilight years of our lives, I am quite surprised that we find ourselves on opposite sides of the fence. After all, back in the day all of us were overjoyed to find ourselves free from the shackles of martial rule with Joker Arroyo, Senator Lorenzo Tanada, Manila Times owner Joaquin ‘Chino’ Roces and more leading the march to freedom.

So today, I am genuinely puzzled as to why Joker Arroyo, this wonderful public servant, and his band are helping Vice President Jejomar Binay in his bid for Malacanang. True, they say innocent until proven guilty, but do we really want another president that is embroiled in corruption charges? Are we truly ready to elect a new president without fully knowing whether or not he, or his staff, has been abusing government funds? Should we not learn from the mistakes of our past and be more vigilant? Are we ready to put another political dynasty in power?

I don’t pretend that I know all the answers for sure. After all, that is what hearings and gathering evidence is for. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea that we are seeing people rally behind a potential presidential candidate who still has so many issues to clear. Whether it’s over priced contracts or alleged hidden mansions, perhaps it’s time we put our trust in someone who is truly transparent?

Indeed, despite the calls for P-Noy’s resignation due to the recent problems the country has faced, not least of which was the tragedy of the Fallen 44, we have to pause and ask ourselves – if P-Noy does step down, who will take over? I don’t think it’s a good idea to turn over the reins just yet. As several colleagues have mentioned, this will just be “jumping from the frying pan into the fire.”

I truly wonder why Joker Arroyo is backing Binay now despite all the allegations. Does he know something we don’t? And if so, if there is truly nothing to hide, then why not come clean completely so that the people know – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that the Vice President is a trustworthy man who will lead the people fairly and justly? All of the accusing and dodging on both ends is tiresome and is getting nowhere. I fervently wish that we could just finally get to the bottom of things (in this and all corruption cases) so those who are found guilty with evidence are made to pay for their crimes and can finally be banished from public office once and for.

I still feel the huge weight of the tragedy of our fallen heroes and I am one with the nation when it comes to calling for justice for their deaths. However, we must also remain reasonable and intelligent when taking our next steps. Anger is a very normal emotion to feel, but we must not let it cloud our judgment or we may very well regret the eventual outcome of the actions.

As for Mr. Joker Arroyo, I am only left to wonder why you and your team are pushing for the candidacy of your former Mabini colleague. I can only hope the people finally set a higher standard for themselves when it comes to choosing their leaders. Choose leaders who have an exemplary record, who are not in the throes of a corruption scandal, and who will truly lead with humbleness and compassion. After all, if we end up electing the same people who pilfered from the government coffers and putting them back in power, then sadly the joke will be on us.

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