Strange bedfellows

THINGS are starting to get weird on the political and criminal justice fronts. There is now a looming possibility that former Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who is now an incumbent senator shall be joining two former senators, Joseph “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla, at the PNP Custodial Center inside Camp Crame in Quezon City.

Wow. It was during Secretary De Lima’s time that the plunder cases against Senator Estrada and Senator Revilla were filed, leading to their arrests. The charges arose from investigations into the pork barrel scam during the Aquino administration. Next week, the lady senator’s camp expects that an arrest warrant will be served against her.

What are the specific charges against Secretary De Lima? She is accused of involvement in the illegal drug trade, specifically, for violations of Section 5 on the sale and trading of illegal drugs in relation to Section 3, Section 26, and Section 28, which delineates the criminal liability of government officials and employees under the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.

If by such a strange twist of fate, De Lima, Estrada and Revilla would find themselves as “neighbors” inside the PNP custodial center, what in heaven’s name would they talk about? Let me be bold enough to offer a few suggestions.

The three high-profile leaders could chat about diet tips and trying to keep in shape. Senator De Lima had lost a lot of weight during the campaign trail, while Senator Estrada had been branded as “sexy” in the past. Senator Revilla, a former action star, has his own exercise regimen to share. Yes, a conversation about fitness and the appropriate diet could lead to healthy friendships. I imagine that to be a safe topic, unless someone brings up the subject of pork. Now, that wouldn’t be such a good idea even from a dietary point of view. You know, too much cholesterol. Let’s scratch that from our list, shall we?

As elected officials, they could swap anecdotes about the Senate. When Jinggoy Estrada chaired the Senate labor committee, he was pro-active in defending the rights of our overseas workers. In fact, he spearheaded the “sex-for-flight” hearings. Remember those cases? Labor attaches became the subject of a Senate investigation for allegedly seeking sexual favors from their OFW wards. One of the recommendations during the hearings was to expand the coverage of the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act to include people in government, such as labor attaches and other diplomatic personnel.

On second thought, perhaps the three should veer away from any subject matter that mentions sex and sexual harassment in one sentence. Let’s keep the initial conversations wholesome, unlike some of the committee hearings held in Congress.

How about the three of them discussing the much awaited and overly delayed passage of the Freedom of Information Act? This measure aims to empower citizens to obtain facts and figures from any government agency. It operates on the basic principle of transparency as a hallmark of good governance. Government talks about transparency as if it was the easiest thing in the world to achieve. It’s not. Try sending a letter to a Cabinet secretary inviting him or her to a school event or forum, and asking for an official message for a souvenir program. Good luck in getting an answer before the week is over.

It may be too soon, perhaps, to be discussing any bill that has the word “Freedom” on its title. Let’s defer that as a topic, for now.

Each time I begin a very important meeting, I always ask my guests if we could bow our heads in prayer and collectively seek the Lord’s guidance. Offering a collective prayer helps usher peace into the room and into the hearts of those present. It’s like a cool breeze calming the spirit, and reminding everyone that God’s mercy is infinite, His understanding of our frailties, deep and gender-sensitive.

Last Saturday, Senator De Lima joined the “Walk for Life” rally organized by the Council of the Laity of the Philippines and supported by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. The rally was meant to drum up opposition against extra-judicial killings and the death penalty. One of the touchy points in the congressional debates is on whether plunder should be included a heinous crime punishable by death. The ongoing debates also focus on the inclusion of drug trafficking as a heinous crime. So, after saying a collective prayer, perhaps they could discuss the death penalty. Or better not. It’s too grim.

You know what’s not grim? Hair. Yes, Senators De Lima, Revilla and Estrada have healthy hair. They could share secrets about who doesn’t have any hair, at all. So yes, they could talk about hair, and hairpieces. Perhaps that would make them feel better. Until they think about getting a haircut. Something that PNP General Bato de la Rosa would need to know about. Oh, perhaps that’s not such a good topic after all.


Manila Times Link: Strange bedfellowsStrange bedfellows

Author: Susan Ople

Susan "Toots" Ople is the President of the Blas F. Ople Policy and Training Institute. She's an OFW and labor advocate based in the Philippines.

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