EDITORIAL - How the mighty have fallen

(The Freeman) - August 23, 2014 - 12:00am

In a recent survey of top business leaders in the Philippines, the Senate placed dead last (62nd place) among 62 national government agencies and offices whose performances were subjected to review. It fell 48 places from its previous net satisfaction ranking of 14th place. This is probably the worst drop ever of the Senate in any survey of any kind in recent memory.

Falling precipitously with the Senate was the Department of Budget and Management, which fell from 4th place to 50th place, or a fall of 46 notches. The huge drops of both clearly signify a rejection of their roles in the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Fund, seen by many as the presidential pork barrel which the Supreme Court recently declared unconstitutional.

Among the objectionable uses of the DAP, taken from budget allocations that the Supreme Court said were illegally siphoned off as savings, had been to bribe senators who voted to convict then chief justice Renato Corona, as alleged by no less than a senator himself, Jinggoy Estrada. The allegation has tainted the Senate in a way that many believe will be very hard to recover from.

But instead of moving in a direction that will help it regain the trust and confidence of the people, including among others the country's top business leaders who, expectedly, cannot easily be swayed by window dressing and lip service, the Senate seems to have gleefully jumped deeper into the mire from which it may not be able to extricate itself.

The Senate has allowed itself to be used for blatant politicking. Not that it comes as a surprise for an institution that is essentially political and peopled by politicians. But its most recent endeavor beats every other political activity for sheer lack of subtlety or guile. The Senate is now parading itself in a brazenly open and no-holds-barred political stunt. It has shorn itself of any pretense at decency and regularity.

Its blue ribbon committee, once the bulwark of good governance, is now being used as a political weapon to attack and discredit the political enemies of its members. The committee, using as pretext its desire to get to the bottom of alleged overpricing in the construction of a Makati City building, is hounding the Binay family whose head, the vice president, has openly declared his intention to run for president.

The committee can always claim it is only after good governance. But anyone who sees the proceedings on tv cannot come to any other conclusion but that the committee's authority has been hijacked for other purposes. The building in question has long been finished and occupied. That the probe is happening only now clearly suggests its real intent. If the Binays are guilty, dragging them through a Senate inquiry instead of suing them in court only underscores the obvious.

The people who are being subjected to this charade feel insulted and offended. It is not as if they cannot see through the ruses. It is not as if they do not get what is going on. The Senate is making the people look like fools. If the Senate even cares for its reputation, it should terminate the charade at once and, if it has the goods on the Binays, to have them sued in the proper forum. The Senate should not hijack its own self for the political agendas of its members.



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