Sunday, May 17, 2009

Alien versus Predator: Jamby Madrigal versus Manny Villar

Monday, May 18, will be a very busy day for most Filipino reporters as the newest congressional sarsuela moro-moro makes its nth reiteration.

Perhaps millions of people will be watching the hearing on Senator Jamby Madrigal's ethics complaint against Senator Manny Villar in connection with the so-called C-5 double entry scam.

I am interested to find out if any of the evidence submitted by Jamby's lawyer last Thursday would hold up to scrutiny.

I sure hope it won't be like one of those hearings on the NBN ZTE deal where she made a big deal about a document which purportedly carried the initials of FG. She loudly asserted that the initials FG stood for First Gentleman and she seemed so convinced it was a real bomb.


To refresh your memory, here's a snippet of a report I fished out from

Negros Occidental Rep. Jose Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo made the appeal in reaction to Madrigal’s disclosure of an alleged National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) document on the NBN contract indicating that one copy went to the President’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo.

He said the senator "maliciously" linked his brother to the contract on the basis of a "falsified document."

He said Madrigal should have first verified the authenticity of the document.

"Instead, Senator Madrigal threw caution to the wind and immediately put to question the innocence of my brother in the ZTE issue with the falsified NEDA document as basis. With the bias that Senator Madrigal has shown, there is no more reason to hope for fairness and impartiality in her participation in the probe," he said.

The document is a letter of former NEDA director general Romulo Neri to the Chinese ambassador in Manila. Madrigal’s copy shows a marginal note on the right-hand top portion stating "Copy for FG 1/F."

Madrigal said the Chinese embassy employee who received the letter, and whose name is also indicated, wrote the note on the top portion of her copy.

She asked: "Does FG mean First Goon, First Gangster or First Gentleman?"

NEDA later clarified that FG is actually FGI, the initials of its officer who was furnished a copy of Neri’s letter.

The Senate's entire reputation, it seems, is hanging on the balance here. If Jamby's accusations turn out to be true and her evidence holds up, then perhaps we will see a magnificent display of justice being done. Jamby would, perhaps, really be able to stake a claim of being a champion of truth and an enemy of corruption.

But, if the evidence fails to prove any of Jamby's charges, then perhaps this would prove to be a big embarrassment -- to say the least.

I am not certain if Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senator Jamby Madrigal are sharing the same pool of evidence. If they are, then, that would be an ominous sign for Jamby int he days ahead.

Lacson presented evidence against then Senate President Manny Villar at the Finance Committee then headed by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile last year. It was said that Lacson failed to prove his case against Villar.

So, if Jamby and Lacson are sharing the same pool of evidence, there is a chance that the charges against Villar might be dismissed a second time.

Then again, there may be people reading this blog who will say that evidence is irrelevant as the Senators participating in the committee of the whole will vote along partisan lines.

But in reality, there are not enough senators to vote for Villar's suspension or expulsion from the upper chamber. What is needed is a vote of two-thirds of the members of the Senate and that mean's sixteen senators have to agree to mete out punishment on Villar.

I did the math and came up with a possible 10 senators who will give Villar a thumbs down. The number is 10, after subtracting the members of the minority, senators who are not present in the chamber, swing voters, and senators who have inhibited themselves.

The best they'll manage, says a Senate insider who has seen so many similar hearings, is that the senate will issue a reprimand against Villar.

This may seem a cynical assertion to you, but I think all this fuss will end up like all the other hearings the Senate has had.

All fizz, no pop. All whiz, no bang.

In any case, as it is playing out right now, Villar is already being thoroughly humiliated by the allegations of corruption. And so, he is playing the pathetic underdog accused of a crime he swears he did not commit or the sorry female OFW he saved after she was made a slave in the Middle East.

And Jamby Madrigal is playing the fierce defender of the truth and fighter against corruption. Which reminds me of the time when she spoke so passionately about fighting for her inheritance, not for herself, but for the people who are depending on the continued operation of the foundation founded by her deceased aunt.

The only ones who will win in this fight are the two major TV networks who will be broadcasting the hearings live.

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