As usual, the folks at my favorite watering hole in Daly City are depending on me to explain the way the Philippine government works, not that I understand it, either. But they think that I have access to the grapevine in Manila. And, frankly, I encourage that perception. It impresses them.
What they find most perplexing is the number of Senate investigations, ostensibly conducted in aid of legislation, that never resolve the issues being investigated and never result in anyone being convicted or jailed.
"I’m still waiting for the results of the Senate investigation of scandalous salaries, allowances, and bonuses of directors of government-owned and -controlled corporations," says Pete, looking up from a game of chess.
"That’s right," chimes in Ben, after making a move on the chess board. "President Noynoy made a big deal out of it in his inaugural address. And Sen. Franklin Drilon and his committee skewered and roasted several top executives of GOCCs."
"So what do you think will happen now?" Pete continues, following up on his earlier remark.
"Well," I said, "I understand P-Noy his ordered the suspension of the fat bonuses and allowances of the directors of the GOCCS."
"But that’s like closing the gate of the chicken coop after the foxes have had their fill," quips Ben. "Shouldn’t those directors be made to pay back what they took and shouldn’t they be indicted?"
"That’s not the job of the Senate," I explain. "The investigation was simply in aid of legislation. Another branch of government is supposed to take care of indicting them."
"So a bill will be filed, as a result of the investigation?"
"I guess so," I reply. "Something like, setting a limit on the number of bonuses and allowances that directors of GOCCs can give themselves after they receive their 13th month, 14th month, 15th month, and 16th month bonuses."
"What about the Senate inquiry into jueteng payoffs?" asks Ben. "The senators appeared dead serious there!"
"Oh, yes," I agree. "The exposés of Archbishop Cruz and Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago were very revealing."
"And they conducted that in aid of legislation?"
"Of course," I reply. "That will help them determine whether or not jueteng should be legalized."
"In fact, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada has already filed a bill calling for the legalization of jueteng," Jimmy butts in from the bar.
"What about the charges made by Miriam and Archbishop Cruz?" Pete asks.
"Everyone in their list has denied the charges," I say.
"So what happens now?"
"Nothing," butts in Ben. "Once the accused deny the charges and no one can come up with proof, that’s the end of it."
"So what was the investigation for?"
"In aid of legislation," I reiterate. "The Senate is not expected to send anyone to jail."
"What about the investigation of the hostage crisis?" Johnny chimes in from another table. "Was that also in aid of legislation?"
"I guess so," I reply. "The findings in the investigation will help the senators pass a bill calling for snipers to be better shooters and for SWAT team members to know how to pry open the door of a bus used for hostage taking."
"What about the Senate investigation of the housing scandal?" Johnny presses.
"You mean, the allegations of multibillion-peso PAG-IBIG fund payouts to ghost borrowers applying for ghost loans for ghost houses?" I ask. "According to Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institution and Currencies, his committee will investigate the matter."
"Is that also in aid of legislation?"
"Of course," I reply. "It will help the Senate file a bill that will ensure that ghost loans are not given for ghost houses to ghost borrowers."
"What about the billions paid out to the ghosts? Shouldn’t Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp. be asked to pay back the money?
"Well," I explain, "that’s not supposed to be the job of the Senate. Besides, the executives of Globe Asiatique insist that they don’t have money to pay back."
"Don’t they go to jail for that?"
"Someone else is supposed to take care of that part," I explain.
"What about the Senate investigation of the reported collusion in the bidding of the Department of Public Works and Highways road repair projects funded by the World Bank?" asks George, who has just joined the group.
"I understand Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago severely scolded the secretary of Finance and the Public Works and Highways over that scandal," Pete cuts in.
"Oh, yes," I reply. "No less than the World Bank called attention to the scandal."
"So what has happened to that case?"
"Well, the Senate waited for the World Bank to provide all the evidence needed to convict," I reply. "Short of that, the Senate could not proceed."
"In other words, all of these investigations conducted by the Senate have been left hanging, without any resolution and without anyone going to jail?"
"Sending people to jail isn’t the job of the Senate," I reiterate. "Its job is simply to conduct investigations in aid of legislation."
"Okay, okay, so what happened to the Senate investigation conducted by the Senate on the sex scandal involving the Katrina Halili and Hayden Koh?"
"Well, according to Senators Loren Legarda and Bong Revilla, that was an important investigation because that had to do with legislation that would penalize the use of the Internet for salacious materials."
"Was a bill ever filed?"
"No, that investigation was mainly in aid of media mileage."