‘You dirty rat’
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - October 26, 2020 - 12:00am

That famous line “You Dirty Rat” has long been attributed to the war hero and Hollywood legend James Cagney, but it seems that it was not exactly what Cagney said. Instead Cagney actually said, “You dirty yellow bellied rat.” But as editorial license would have it, someone shortened the lines but associated it with Cagney. The line has continued to serve its purpose of describing and vilifying hoodlums, crooks and cowards through history. In fact, I was reminded of the line as I read about the statement of anti-corruption czar Greco Belgica that “Congressmen involved in DPWH graft” as splashed on the front page of The Philippine STAR.

Sadly it is old news and many of us have just about given up on seeing justice meted out against the guilty. Yes, there have been members of Congress past and present who have been charged, judged guilty, sentenced and imprisoned for serious crimes such as murder or rape, but in these times thievery in government seems almost normal or expected from politicians, except when the party involved flaunts his or her wealth and excess. I confess that even I have become jaded on the matter and assumed that the claim of Commissioner Belgica will float just like water lilies on the Pasig River and disappear. But lo and behold, Congressman Mike Defensor rises on the occasion and decries the unfair generalization of Belgica’s statement, demanding that the latter name names.

I don’t know what Mike Defensor’s play is but it is the sort of move that would solicit suspicion, judgment and ultimately end up as a losing proposition on his part. Any sabungero or chicken man will tell you that there are only two kinds of chicken that cackle or make so much noise: the one that is being caught or the one that lays an egg. People in general would say that if you are not guilty or being accused, why would you take offense. Having known Mike Defensor for sometime, I know he can be wily and probably sees an opportune time for spotlight and sound byte. My opinion is that it’s purely acoustic on his part. I think Defensor is also experienced enough to know that the timing of President Duterte’s mention of graft in the DPWH involving contractors followed by Belgica’s slightly pointed swing at some unnamed congressmen indicates that both President Duterte and Belgica are reading the same report or sharing the same playbook.

I would not even discount the possibility that Belgica has the green light to shake the tree, perhaps to stop certain politicians from pressuring DPWH to realign, prioritize or create projects for their districts or personal gain. In fact, a couple of other government agencies have been under pressure by high ranking officials, both elected and selected, to fast track biddings, favor certain developers or prioritize certain projects to the point that officials in these agencies spend most of their time placating higher ups and dealing with favored parties. One very frustrated agency head is quoted as saying: “Sana sabihin nalang nila kung kanino ibigay para tapos na.” (It would be easier if they just told us who to give the project to!)

Giving Mike Defensor the benefit of the doubt, the challenge to Belgica to name names is absurd, given certain realities. First and foremost, the House of Representatives does not have an admirable track record of disciplining or punishing its members. Of the thousands of HOR members voted into office, out of the hundred or so instances when a congressman or congresswoman acted dishonorably, how many have actually been charged before the ethics committee, how many times has the House leadership in past Congress’ acted on its own to charge and discipline or even investigate claims or suspicions of wrongdoing of congressmen? Time and again we have heard of corruption, brown bags full of cash being distributed, “farm to pocket roads.” Recently there was even the big brouhaha over the “stimulus package” for tourism stakeholders that was allegedly being rerouted for use on roads under the DPWH. In spite of it all, we have yet to hear of an internal action to clean their ranks.

Aside from an almost non-existent track record to investigate and punish members of Congress, the members of the House of Representatives have an established reputation for being vindictive, vengeful and violent towards any and all accusers. Through the decades, members of the HOR have bullied, threatened and vilified “guests,” “witnesses” as well as victims during investigations in aid of legislation. It has reached a point that many government employees compare a House hearing to being a rape victim and being raped again in court proceedings. Let us also not forget the fact that time and again members of Congress have abused their power of the purse by taking away funds from government agencies they are displeased with or challenged by, thus the phrase “One Peso Budget.”

If Mike Defensor is sincerely slighted by the claim that members of Congress are involved in the DPWH graft, then by all means FIRST investigate it rather than milk it for media mileage. If he is serious on the matter, why not give Greco Belgica absolute immunity from suit, if that is at all possible since I have witnessed members of Congress pressure witnesses to violate “Confidentiality Agreements.” While Mike Defensor is a senior member of Congress, I expected no less than Speaker Lord Allan Velasco to speak and act on the matter, nonetheless it’s good that someone in Congress actually stood to speak on the matter. The question now is, will it be all talk and no show?

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

JAMES CAGNEY
Philstar
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