At the forum for senatorial candidates organized by CNN Philippines last Sunday at the University of the Philippines Theatre in Quezon City, eight candidates showed up — anti-administration candidates Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, Jose Manuel Diokno and Gary Alejano, administration bets Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa, JV Ejercito and Francis Tolentino, and ex-Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Sergio Osmeña III.
Aquino, Diokno and Alejano, as well as Tolentino, were easily identifiable as the three stooges and a solo comedian.
As usual, Bam Aquino tried his best to look like his uncle, the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. While his resemblance to Ninoy could be noticed when he first ran for the Senate in 2013, a wide forehead and a beer belly now make him look like a cheap imitation of the real thing.
Aquino admitted the economy is doing well under President Rodrigo Duterte, but said the wealth is concentrated on the rich. He conveniently overlooked that the economic situation he was criticizing today was the same in place when he ran for the Senate. By his own admission, therefore, Aquino publicly confirmed that after his nearly six years as a senator, he was unable to do anything to solve the inequitable distribution of wealth in Philippine society.
Diokno criticized the justice system, saying it favors only the rich and the powerful.
Apparently, Diokno forgot that last week, three rogue policemen who mercilessly killed Kian de los Santos, a boy from a poor family in Caloocan City, in a drug-bust in Caloocan were convicted by a trial court and given long sentences.
Diokno also forgot that during the administration of his patron, President Benigno Aquino III, the Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, handpicked by Aquino himself, practiced selective justice. She threw the kitchen sink at anti-Aquino personalities like ex-Vice President Jejomar Binay and ex-Makati Vice Mayor Jejomar Binay Jr. while she treated administration allies in the Department of Transportation and Communications with kid gloves.
If Diokno really deplores the justice system, he should not have identified himself with Aquino’s Liberal Party (LP).
The third stooge in the election comedy is Gary Alejano, a military mutineer and a noisy partylist representative. What he lacked in substance, he made up with a loud voice.
Although Alejano opposed the drug menace in the country, he said only the poor have been killed or arrested and none of the drug lords has been apprehended. He scored the use of deadly force in drug busts, saying the killings violate democracy.
How shouldn’t our law enforcers use deadly force against drug syndicates that use high-powered firearms to avoid arrest? An armed drug pusher, whether big time or poor, is a dangerous personality capable of using his weapon against any law enforcer seeking to arrest him. Under the rules of engagement, a law enforcer is authorized to use deadly force if the drug dealer resists arrest.
Alejano’s reference to democracy is misplaced. Democracy is the rule of the majority and the majority of the electorate voted Duterte president. How can the execution of drug dealers be a violation of democracy?
More importantly, Alejano has no credibility. When he was still a soldier, he took an oath to defend the Constitution. He violated that oath when he staged a mutiny during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. That’s treason by any standard.
Why should we believe Alejano who cannot be trusted to live up to his oath?
Finally, there is Francis Tolentino, an ex-political adviser of President Duterte. He is on his second attempt to become a senator after losing miserably in 2016.
Although Tolentino cited his accomplishments as mayor of Tagaytay, which he now calls prosperous, he failed to reveal that he has not been its mayor for the past decade. How can today’s prosperity in Tagaytay be attributed to Tolentino who has not been its mayor for the longest time?
Tolentino also concealed his incompetent management of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) under President Aquino III. He was also silent on his use of the metropolitan film festival to promote his image for the 2016 senatorial election.
What happened to the scantily-clad girls the news media said Tolentino allegedly hired to entertain LP leaders at a meeting south of Manila back then? Where are the traffic lights meant for Tolentino’s MMDA but which ended up in Leni Robredo’s Bicol region prior to the 2016 elections? He has not answered these questions.
Many who watched the forum say they heard Tolentino declare “corruption should be a state policy.” They hope they heard incorrectly. Otherwise, that is a clear reason not to vote for Tolentino in the coming senate derby.