Editorial: Need for sensitivity

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Monday, February 17, 2014

SEN. Jinggoy Estrada talked at the Senate floor yesterday about being tried by publicity.

That day incidentally was his 51st birthday and he hosted a lunch for his political allies, family and friends also in the Senate.

The video footage and photos of that gathering didn’t make for good publicity.


Admittedly, it would be wrong to expect people in a gathering to be serious all throughout. The mood should be upbeat, and jokes are naturally exchanged.

But it would have been good for Estrada and his allies, Sens. Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramong “Bong” Revilla Jr. to keep the jokes about the P10 billion pork barrel scam private.

Estrada, Enrile and Revilla are being accused of plunder in relation to the scam, meaning that the money they were supposed to have pocketed amounted to millions of pesos. That’s from public coffers.

While they have maintained their innocence, they also know, being politicians, where the wind of public opinion is blowing. It wouldn’t help their cause if they are insensitive to it.

In the 2001 impeachment trial of Jinggoy’s father, former president and currently Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada, majority of the senators voted to block the opening of the second envelope allegedly containing evidence against him.

Then senator Tessie Aquino-Oreta, who voted not to open the second envelope, was seen rejoicing over the majority decision even as private prosecutors walked out in rage. She earned the moniker “dancing queen.”

The decision to block the opening of the second envelope and Oreta’s dancing that was seen on national television didn’t show sensitivity to public temperament and helped trigger Edsa II and Erap’s ouster from the presidency. The dancing killed Oreta’s career as politician.

The joking by the senators (like Jinggoy calling Revilla, “Kakosa ko” or “My cellmate”) can be considered as a defense mechanism or a way of coping with the situation they are in. But these have the effect of making light of what to the public are very serious allegations.

The Office of the Ombudsman has said it will take months before it could decide on whether to file the plunder cases in the pork barrel scam or not.

That’s a rather long time for an increasingly impatient public.

Joking around in public by the accused could increase frustration over the slow turn of the wheel justice in the pork barrel scam cases—-and spark people’s rage.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 18, 2014.


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