Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Toby Tiangco felt awful about not being able to question anything at House caucus; Former President Erap declares he’ll respect Sen. Jinggoy’s independence; Is Senate trial court applying double standard in cases of lawyers Roy and Aguirre? Why has prosecution’s reckless bandying of “45 properties” and illegally-obtained bank documents of CJ Corona gone unpunished?

My elder brother, Edgardo “Ed” Olivares, who was married for 50 years to the redoubtable Ninez Cacho-Olivares, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Daily Tribune, died peacefully in their home in Paranaque last Monday, March 12, at the ripe age of 79, after a long bout with cancer. His wife and family as well as we his siblings were at his bedside as he breathed his last, after a good confession and the last sacraments were administered by his close friend and contemporary, Jesuit priest Fr. Bert Ampil the week earlier. Ed was the jolliest and easiest to get along among us ten siblings (six boys and four girls) and one of the things he liked best was hosting the entire Olivares clan at his home for Christmas Day dinner and exchange of gifts, year in and year out---where we would gorge ourselves on Ninez’s fabulous Spanish cooking and fine wines.


Having a huge family is so consoling in moments such as last Monday’s rainy evening, when we brought Ed to Loyola Guadalupe for a mass by Fr. Ampil and then a lusty send-off to his cremation, singing and shouting Ateneo basketball cheers (the Olivareses are a true-blue family for four generations). We all bade our goodbyes at his deathbed that afternoon and it was really tough; as I struggled through my own tears I thought I’d lighten the family’s mood a bit by whispering in Ed's ear, who by then was already in coma, that our Mom and Dad and eldest brother Rod were around to welcome him into the Great Beyond, along with my late husband and sister-in-law Nena Barretto Olivares.

I also warned my dying brother to be prepared again to be castigated by our Mommy with her shrill voice over his mischiefs as in the old days, and that he ought to bring an extra shirt to heaven, as during their bachelor days Rod used to get furious when he’d see Ed walking down the street wearing Rod’s favorite shirt given by his girl-friend then, noted interior designer Sonia Santiago (whom he later married). Amid tears everyone in the room broke into laughter with my little speech, and believe it or not, shortly afterwards Ed suddenly opened his eyes and gazed far away with a faint smile (did he see Mommy and Pappy waving to him?). Then Ed gently slipped into eternity and  God’s embrace.


Because Ninez has hobnobbed with politicians for decades, Ed’s wake at Santuario de San Antonio brought all manner of them; in his lifetime Ed truly enjoyed chatting with them. Sally Perez, Chit Pedrosa, Marietta Cuyegkeng and I were delighted to share a table with former President Joseph Estrada. And though it was a wake, I didn’t pass up the opportunity to query President Erap about an item in the internet, quoting him as already having “promised” the vote of his son, Senate President Protempore Jinggoy Estrada, to P-Noy.   Erap flatly denied that story, stressing that “I wouldn’t compromise my son” and that “I’ll respect his judgment and independence.”  We'll hold you to that promise, President Erap.

Erap asserted that Sen. Jinggoy is “very capable of making a good judgment” as he has had four years of law studies” (he didn’t get to finish his law degree as he was elected mayor of San Juan).  Erap’s parting shot: “Please write that in your blog.”


Another star guest at Ed’s wake was Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco with his inimitable “frightened-look” hair-style. He had testified last Monday at the Senate  on the manner whereby House leaders gathered majority of the members in a caucus last Dec. 12, 2011, to solicit signatures right then and there for the impeachment complaint to be filed against Chief Justice Renato Corona that same day.  For appearing before the Senate court and spilling the beans on that caucus, Tiangco was threatened by House Majority Leader Neptali “Boyet” Gonzalez Jr. with expulsion. Boyet’s threat was met with sadness by those of us who had known his distinguished father, the late Senate President Neptali Gonzalez Sr.---how different the son has become from the father!


Listening to Toby’s account, I think that more than being deprived of his pork barrel for a couple of months as “sanction,” what he found most odious was how the House members in that caucus were deprived of the opportunity to even raise questions about the most serious act they were being asked to do---to impeach the Chief Justice of the land.  I agree with Rep. Tiangco: such an act is most difficult for those who are used to think like free individuals.  Sources in the House say that after the members filed out of the caucus room with the 188 signing the impeachment complaint, many of them felt so resentful of the way they were treated; but they couldn’t complain obviously for fear of political reprisal.

Three months later, Toby’s act of defiance has resonated with his colleagues---sources say that around ¾ of the House members are in full sympathy with him, except that they’re keeping quiet for political survival.  I can see that, for how many can be like Tiangco whom the folks of Navotas have voted for mayor for three terms. Now on his first term as representative, he vows to continue his love-affair with his constituents for another two terms before seeking another option.


Speaking of sanctions, defense lawyer Jose “Judd” Roy, who articulated for the defense team in a press conference some weeks back reports about a Palace offer to the senators of P100 million each to vote conviction of CJ Corona, has been handed a “reprimand” by the Senate after a recent caucus.  Roy’s reprimand, which will be on his record as lawyer for life, came a full week after Senate Majority Leader Tito Sotto informed the chamber that the senators would deliberate on the course of action concerning him. Obviously the week-long interval was meant to time Roy’s reprimand with the Senate’s action on prosecution lawyer Vitaliano Aguirre, who was accused of disrespect toward Sen. Miriam Santiago (he covered his ears in full view of the TV cameras in the entire time that she perorated on the finer points of  conduct in a courtroom).


Interestingly, Aguirre was meted out only an admonition while Roy got the more severe reprimand; but apparently, to help lighten the impact on Roy, his penalty had to be served after Aguirre’s penalty.  Kunyari para patas, but it was far from  patas.

In the first place, he never accused any senator of accepting any bribe or even being remotely susceptible to any such attempt by the Palace.  It did not cast the senators in a bad light, but perhaps helped pre-empt any improper conduct toward them. Then too, the bribe disclosure by Roy and the other defense lawyers was far less serious than the obvious “sins” of the prosecution.


For instance, the prosecution was utterly irresponsible in disclosing the list of “45 properties’ to media, only to start subtracting from it after evidence began surfacing that the list was highly erroneous. By then, however, they had already cast CJ Corona and his family in a bad light. The same is true of the “fairy tales” Representatives Umali and Banal wove about how they got hold of the CJ’s bank documents through the “little lady” and how docus were left at Banal’s gate on a rainy night. As in the list of “45 properties,” the prosecution irresponsibly chose to attach those docus to their request for subpoena of CJ’s bank documents from the Senate court.

Sen. Miriam pointed out, however, that mere possession of such docus could already constitute a crime under the Foreign Currency Deposits Act, let alone Banal’s inquiring on their veracity from the PSB branch manager. Yet Umali and Banal, and Rep. Niel Tupas who attached those illegally-obtained bank docus to the request for subpoena, have until now gone unpunished. Worse, these bank records have been admitted by the Senate court as evidence. 

Clearly a double standard. 

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