By Jojo Robles | Manila Standard Today
On the surface, Senator Franklin Drilon appears to be the voice of reason amid the various calls for a congressional investigation of embattled Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista on ill-gotten wealth charges. But that’s only on the surface.
Drilon, apparently full of legal gravitas, has pointed out that Bautista is an impeachable official who may come before the Senate in a trial, if the House of Representatives impeaches him. The implication being that the impartiality of the senator-judges may be compromised, if they do the investigating before becoming the magistrates who will decide Bautista’s eventual fate.
This is hogwash, if you’ll pardon the word. And Drilon’s own famous role in the last impeachment case that went before the Senate—that of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012—proves that the senator is just up to his old tricks of misdirection.
I think many people still remember just how “impartial” a senator-judge Drilon was during the Corona impeachment trial. In fact, I’m willing to bet that there are those who still recall how Drilon stood up in the Senate to denounce Corona for his various alleged offenses, even before the House received the articles of impeachment against the chief justice.
If the Corona impeachment was the Balangiga Massacre, Drilon’s speech was the ringing of the bells that signaled the start of the attack. Right after the senator’s speech, the articles were filed, the House —by a huge majority of 188—impeached Corona and by January 2012, the trial in the Senate began.
Several times during the trial, which ended with Corona’s conviction and removal from office in May, Drilon was accused of acting like a prosecutor in the case—by the defense, by some of his colleagues and even by ordinary observers like former Senator Francisco Tatad. Tatad, during a break in one hearing, even had a memorable verbal altercation with Drilon over the latter’s unseemly prosecutorial actuations.
There were several calls for Drilon to inhibit himself during the course of the Corona trial, but he brushed them all aside. And later, thanks to Jinggoy Estrada, another senator-judge who exposed the Disbursement Acceleration Program that was used in part to pay back senators for convicting Corona, we understood why.
Soon after the Corona conviction, Estrada was arrested for allegedly misusing his pork barrel fund. He then exposed the DAP scandal and how practically the entire Senate was bribed the mastermind of the whole show, then President Noynoy Aquino, to do it; Drilon, apart from getting a big chunk of the DAP funds as his own reward, was also gifted by Aquino with the Senate presidency.
Now Drilon has the temerity to proclaim that the Senate is an impartial body and should not be influenced in the Bautista case by prejudging it through a blue ribbon committee investigation? I don’t really know about the other senators, but Drilon will only be impartial, as the idiom goes, when pigs fly.
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My own suspicion is that Drilon has a huge motive for not investigating Bautista on charges leveled by his own wife that he amassed billions as head of the government agency that oversaw the conduct of the 2016 elections. If you will recall, Drilon pulled an incredible upset in the last senatorial race, handily beating even such great vote-getters as Vicente “Tito” Sotto (who was backed by the phenomenal AlDub Nation of star-struck fans) and Manny Pacquiao.
Ultimately, Drilon even beat President Rodrigo Duterte himself, garnering 18.6 million votes to Duterte’s 16 million. And Duterte was adjudged a runaway winner, winning by one of the most convincing margins in Philippine electoral history.
Bautista, of course, has been accused by his wife Patricia of being in bed with Comelec’s Venezuelan election automation provider, Smartmatic, whom he referred to the Divina Law firm as a client. Patricia, the overnight political celebrity, accused Bautista of amassing billions in funds that were not declared in the election boss’ mandatory Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth or even to her, as the estranged spouse.
To be fair, the accusations of massive fraud that marred the last elections were not limited to the Senate race, which saw several survey frontrunners losing and some unusual and unexpected names garnering top spots, like Drilon. The election protest of former Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who lost by a razor-thin 200,000-vote margin to the proclaimed winner, Vice President Leni Robredo, is just the most prominent of these alleged anomalies.
But at least Robredo and the others who won on questioned and questionable grounds have all decided to take a vow of silence in the Bautista case. All of them, that is, expect Drilon, who is “worried” that Bautista may not get a fair shake before a Senate convened again as an impeachment court on the same grounds—but on a much greater magnitude—that Corona lost his job over.
Drilon seems to think that everyone has forgotten what he did just five years ago, which is why he can now pretend to be a stickler for the laws and the impeachment rules. That’s what he thinks.
I say: In a pig’s eye.