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The Manila Times - Drilon has no shame

News & Interviews
2 August 2018

By Jojo Robles | The Manila Times

YES, Sen. Franklin Magtunao Drilon has no shame. And I don’t mean that as an insult, since only senators are allowed to insult us, a privilege apparently granted to no one else.

First of all, Drilon has no call pretending to be one of the senators interested in getting to the bottom of the reports of alleged massive cheating in the May 2016 elections, as exposed by Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd in two privilege speeches. As someone who garnered more than 18 million votes to top the Senate elections that year, simple delicadeza should have made Drilon skip the investigation of the committee chaired by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd.

But Drilon seems to have abandoned any appearance of propriety. Not only did the Iloilo senator attend the hearing, he also took it upon himself to act as de facto defender of the Commission on Elections and its automation partner Smartmatic, especially when he repeatedly did a number on resource person and anti-electoral fraud crusader Glenn Chiong.

That’s where Drilon’s now-viral “insult” comment comes in. Chiong, who as a former congressman knows his parliamentary procedure, asked former Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim through Pimentel if perhaps he did not understand him (Chiong) or was not paying attention to his questions.

Drilon quickly pounced on Chiong, saying that resource persons like the former congressman from Biliran were not allowed to insult other Senate guests. Only senators, Drilon explained huffily, could insult other people.

Now don’t get me wrong. I admire Chiong for his work and have even endorsed him as Comelec chairman under the Duterte administration.

But if I had been bullied by Drilon in that manner, I would certainly have replied in kind. I would (respectfully, of course) asked the senator why he could insult me, a citizen who pays his salary, and be prohibited from doing the same to him, for example.

I would also have asked him to clarify for me, for instance, if calling a senator a big, fat, lying pig would qualify as an insult. Only so that I may not make the mistake of insulting a member of the Senate in future statements, of course.

Chiong backed down from Drilon’s bully tactics in that instance, even if he had done nothing wrong. But he also redeemed himself when Drilon once again attempted to destroy his credibility by producing a document which purported to show that Chiong had been contracted, among other lawyers, as an alternate counsel of former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Chiong correctly pointed out that while he may have been included in a list of lawyers for Marcos, who is protesting the election victory of Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, he never accepted the appointment, much less appeared as counsel on Marcos’ behalf. And Drilon scored no points at all for getting his information from another lawyer, Anna Bernadette Sardillo, who was seen handing the sheet of paper with Chiong’s name on it to Drilon, the same document that the senator proudly waved at the resource person, as if to say that he caught him in a lie.

What Drilon was really doing was trying to divert the attention of the committee away from generalized cheating in the last elections, which could possibly lead to a probe of his own controversial victory over front-running candidates like Sotto and Manny Pacquiao, to name just two. By making it appear that Chiong was a Marcos operative, Drilon hoped to hijack the proceedings and convert them into yet another round in the long-running Marcos-Robredo match.

Which leads me again to question Drilon’s attendance at the Pimentel committee hearing. Like the president of his party, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, Drilon’s presence was only intended to scare off Chiong and other witnesses called in to bolster Sotto’s case of massive cheating — except that Pangilinan was not a surprise topnotcher in a Senate race that was being investigated in a hearing of the chamber.

Drilon’s naked attempts to destroy the credibility of Chiong prompted Sotto to declare that the former congressman was not the source of his information of widespread, computerized cheating in the last elections. Sotto pointedly told the hearing — with Drilon apparently as his audience of one — to lay off Chiong because his real witnesses were persons “whose testimony could not be overturned.”

I think we will be treated to more shameless attempts by Drilon to treat this investigation — one of the few Senate probes that has captured the attention of the public — as a venue to protect himself, his partymates like Robredo and the Comelec-Smartmatic syndicate that Chiong speaks so eloquently about. I’m sure that Sotto will not allow this investigation to end suddenly and inconclusively, just like other controversial quizzes started by his colleagues, especially now that he is head of the Senate.

But let this serve as fair warning for Drilon and the other Liberal senators who only want the Pimentel investigation to grind to a halt by besmirching Sotto’s witnesses: the people are watching this probe intently, and they will see through the usual self-interested scare tactics employed by well-known bullies like Drilon.

And by the way, it will not help the cause of Drilon and his like-minded senators to keep the public in the dark about the investigation of Sotto’s earth-shaking allegations by conspiring with the mainstream media to suppress news reports about it. I fully expect the blogging community and social media to cover the proceedings completely from hereon in, especially since mainstream outlets have proven that they cannot be trusted to report on this matter, which is of great concern to them.

Having said all that, I just want everyone to remember how Drilon acted during the first hearing last Tuesday and to expect that he will act in the same way in the hearings to come. Because Drilon simply has no shame.