Sunday, August 14, 2011

Profile in Cowardice BY ALLEN GABORRO

FILAM STAR (August 12, 2011)

One of the tasks of any double-dealing politician willing to do whatever it takes to protect his or her self-interests is to dupe his or her constituents into thinking that their elected leader is there solely to serve them. This is so that the electorate would be assured that their chosen representative could be counted on to do the best they possibly can for their welfare and advancement.

The epitome of this smoke-and-mirrors political strategy is the now former Philippine senator Juan Miguel Zubiri. He is best known perhaps for his family name, his mestizo-looks, and for the frivolous fact that he once dated singer Vina Morales. Zubiri recently did the “honorable” thing by resigning in the face of cheating allegations arising from the 2007 Senate midterm election. The charges—made by former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) governor Zaldy Ampatuan and Lintang Bedol, a former Comelec election supervisor—have called into question Zubiri’s win over Aquilino Pimentel Jr. for the contested 12th Senate position in that controversial election. Pimentel has strongly asserted that Zubiri electorally-profited from the cheating.

By suddenly resigning the way he did, Zubiri expanded the limits of his die-hard supporters’ loyalty and faith, already knowing that they would stand by his side, right or wrong, good or bad. He “honorably” lived up to the amoral task of making his constituents believe, without basis, that his dramatic decision was in their best interests as much as it was in his and his family’s.

What Zubiri’s resignation really did was to reveal two things about him as a politician and as a person: first, that he has followed in his father’s footsteps and become as Machiavellian a politico as they come; and second, that he is for lack of a better word, a coward. He is a Machiavellian in that he played the blind love and faith of his supporters like a violin on the stage of political expediency and craven deniability. He is a coward for running away from the cheating allegations made by Pimentel and others.

For once I agree with Jinggoy Estrada who reportedly said to Zubiri that “You have to fight it out if you really did nothing. You really have to fight it out.” But there is nothing new about a Philippine senator who is ready to flee like hell at the first sign of trouble over the horizon. Just ask Panfilo Lacson and Gringo Honasan.

It should be the philosophy of any sincere and honest human being to be willing to stand and fight if they are wrongfully accused of something even though it may mean subjecting your family to the powerful glare of the media and other forms of public scrutiny. Besides, being a politician requires being constantly in the public eye. It comes with the territory. If you cannot handle the publicity, don’t become a politician.

For Zubiri—whose opponents say he has been trying these past four years to suppress the truth of the allegations surrounding his election—to sanctimoniously appeal to “delicadeza” as well as to the “burrows of my conscience” as he said in his resignation speech, and then to quit without any wrongdoing on his part having been firmly established—as of yet anyway—is a gutless betrayal of the trust and resolution that his voters imagine he has in him to this day. If only they knew.

Why only now, with the large majority of his senatorial term expired, did Zubiri abruptly decide to delve into the “burrows of his conscience”? Because as any political coward would, he turned his back on his duty and responsibility as a public servant and absconded as fast as he could once he starting feeling the heat coming around the corner.

Never mind the fact that he reworded a quote from Douglas MacArthur and passionately dished out his “accomplishments” as a senator in his well-rehearsed, melodramatic farewell. Zubiri showed by his actions that he never deserved to be a senator from the beginning.

But keep an eye peeled out for Zubiri’s political return. The 2013 senatorial election in the Philippines is not that far away. Filipinos are no strangers to political resurrections, however egregious the transgressions involved are. Have no doubt that the vicious cycle of corruption-duplicity-amnesty-revival will continue to crowd out any sense of statesmanship and selflessness in Philippine politics.

ALLEN GABORRO

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