Chief Justice Corona has had
his day in court. But he has left a lot of questions hanging. But
rather than speculate on how he will satisfactorily explain his
seemingly unexplainable dollar deposits and the alleged millions
in his alleged multiple bank accounts, it may be worth our while
to turn our attention to all the other Honorable TNTs who have been
unwittingly caught in the glare of the revelations of Ombudsman
Conchita Carpio-Morales and are being used by Corona to justify
his own hidden wealth.
I mean, TNTs as in Tago Ng Tago.
While this term refers to the hapless undocumented Pinoys who are
constantly hiding from immigration authorities while trying to survive
in America, Tago Ng Tago applies just as aptly to those public officials
who have hidden unexplained and unexplainable wealth.
One is inclined to believe that many of them are honorable senators
and congressmen. It should, therefore, not surprise anyone that
these Honorable TNTs have so vehemently protested the threat to
their peace of mind ostensibly being poised by the Ombudsman.
Wouldn’t you be extremely bothered yourself if the treasures
you have been carefully stockpiling for years, to care for your
children, their children and their children’s children were
to be exhumed and exposed to the public?
And wouldn’t you lose sleep if you had to explain how you
managed to accumulate such untold wealth on your meager salary as
an honorable member of the legislature?
The Honorable Joker Arroyo wasn’t joking (and wasn’t
even blushing) when he said that he had warned Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
that she would be sorry for signing the Anti-Money Laundering Bill,
ostensibly because “her enemies could use it against her.”
“This bill will be the scourge of future officials,”
the non-joking Arroyo claimed to have warned the other Arroyo. “This
is the bill that will haunt you.”
One would think that a lawmaker would be more prudent about pointing
out a president’s potential lawlessness – but it appears
that the honorable senator can no longer tell between right and
The Joker al so conveniently ignores the fact that the Philippines,
at the time, had no choice but to pass the anti-money laundering
law under pain of international sanctions – affecting, most
of all, the billions in dollar remittances to the Philippines.
Concerning the investigative powers of the Ombudsman, the Honorable
Senator Jinggoy Estrada reportedly said that “the vice president,
the senators and all politicians down to the lowly government employee
could be vulnerable to attack once they offended the President.”
The Honorable Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Francis Escudero
and Alan Peter Cayetano questioned the “legality” of
the Ombudsman’s action when she secured the assistance of
the Anti-Money Laundering Council in what they alleged was a “fishing
expedition” concerning Corona’s hidden wealth.
“What this government is doing is alarming and worrisome,”
Estrada was said to have warned. “If they can do that to the
chief justice, then all of us have a reason to worry. Even if you
have nothing to hide, they will throw everything at you.”
Yes, of course – even if you have nothing to hide. And most
especially if you have something to hide. Estrada’s father,
the honorable former President Erap knows this only too well.
The Honorable Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. was just as agitated.
He accused the Aquino government of a “grand conspiracy”
to pin down the chief justice and warned that “the laws guaranteeing
human rights were no protection if government officials were willing
to break them.”
The honorable senator should know. His late father was a past master
The Honorable Senator Alan Peter Cayetano did not hide his disgust.
“I am equally disgusted,” he declared, over the revelations
of Harvey Keh concerning Corona’s dollar accounts. “Public
servants and celebrities work hard to establish their reputations
and suddenly a fake document surfaces and criticism is heaped on
them. No matter how you try to explain your side, it is so difficult.”
The Honorable Senator Marcos, Jr. put it darkly: “The grand
conspiracy has become public policy.”
While Marcos, Jr. appeared to be referring to the “grand conspiracy”
to convict Corona, he was, in fact, warning against a broader grand
conspiracy to expose the hidden wealth of his fellow legislatures
– and, who knows, his own, too?
But while these pained, self-righteous protestations may impress
the bleeding hearts among us, they ought to be viewed in the context
of what other countries are doing.
In the United States, “fishing expeditions” come in
an even more blatant form. They call it THE STING.
The FBI is pretty good at this. Once the Justice Department smells
something fishy in the actuations of public officials, the FBI literally
sets up a trap to catch the suspected crooks in flagrante delicto.
It’s perfectly legal and it has succeeded in exposing highly-placed
crooks, among them, members of the U.S. Congress, and sending them
The honorable members of the Philippine Congress are indeed fortunate
that the NBI does not dare pull a sting on them. One can easily
imagine where the remains of the perpetrators may be found afterwards.
In his book, “From Third World to First,” Singapore’s
Lee Kuan Yew wrote about unexplained wealth and the efforts of his
government to exhume them:
“In 1960, we changed the outdated 1937 anticorruption law
and widened the definition of gratuity to include anything of value.
The amendments gave wide powers to investigators, including arrest
and search and investigation of bank accounts and bank books of
suspected persons and their wives, children or agents…The
most effective change we made in 1960 was to allow the courts to
treat proof that an accused was living beyond his or her means or
had property his or her income could not explain as corroborating
evidence that the accused had accepted or obtained a bribe. With
a keen nose to the ground and the power to investigate every officer
and every minister, the director of the CPIB (Corrupt Practices
Investigation Bureau ) working from the Prime Minister’s Office,
developed a justly formidable reputation for sniffing out those
betraying the public trust.”
Again, the honorable members of the Philippine Congress, as well
as all other public officials, from the barangay up to Malacañang,
are very lucky that our beautiful country does not have the equivalent
of a CPIB (in theory we may have it, but not in practice).
Which is why it’s more fun being an Honorable TNT in the Philippines.