Bato was sobbing while Kerwin, awkwardly, hands him a tissue. The sight of this in a Senate hearing on national television says something of our nation, what exactly I am not certain.
Bato is, of course, our beloved Philippine National Police Brig. Gen. “Bato” de la Rosa, the man tasked by the President to erase the drug menace in our country. Kerwin is Kerwin Espinosa, allegedly one of the top drug lords in the Philippines. Kerwin is 31 years old.
Bato was in tears over his failure to fix the nation’s drug problem and the corruption within his ranks. Derwin had just fingered Police Superintendent Espenido, the man Bato had hand-picked to curb drugs in Kerwin’s hometown of Albuera, Leyte as receiving protection money. Kerwin also testified to paying Sen. Leila de Lima some P8 million for her election campaign through her driver and lover one Ronnie Dayan.
As it happened, across town this same Ronnie Dayan was testifying about things he apparently knew nothing about. In a House hearing called “in aid of legislation”, Dayan confessed to indeed delivering paper bags from Kerwin to De Lima but was unaware of their content. Eight million pesos in cash in paper bags and Dayan never thought of taking a peek. This should tell you about the veracity of the rest of his testimony but the Congressmen were not listening. Committee Chair Umali had to continually and lengthily remind his colleagues that theirs was not to judicially inquire into any one person i.e. Sen. De Lima; but the smell of blood was just too strong. They were so excited at the prospect of delivering the head of the lady Senator to the President, they had no ears for anything else. Leila could be in trouble.
The hearings were the latest in a series that has been going on for months. One would think the Senate and the House had other preoccupations like crafting laws to make ours a better place; but this is so much more fun. I mean how often do legislators get to preen on national television? Power, drugs, illicit sex, jealousy and the frailties of a woman, it does not get much better than this.
What we have so far is an accumulation of “he said, she said” testimonies, all of course under oath, from a motley of low-lifers, drug lords and corrupt law enforcers offered immunity and other goodies for whatever truths and lies they have to offer, generally lies I suspect. The witnesses are mostly serving or soon to be serving multiple life sentences for drugs, murder, kidnapping and such; so the threat of perjury and whatever modest jail sentence comes with it is really not a problem.
I imagine those already incarcerated are assured of better prison conditions –airconditioning, karaokes, overnight conjugal visits, and cell phones to allow them to ply their drug trade. Those not are invited to join the Witness Protection Program and everything wonderful that comes with it.
There is also the promise of security a fate which Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa, Kerwin’s father, was sadly unable to enjoy. He was shot by some twenty policemen at 4.30 in the morning for reportedly resisting arrest. These policemen were serving him a search warrant even while he was already in jail. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre admitted the scenario was “unusual”. Now you understand why PNP Chief Bato was in tears.
What is it about our men in blue that they are so emotionally fragile? Is it the pressure of work, the headlights or the holier-than-thou demeanor of our Senators? I recall PNP Dep. Director Leonardo Espina weeping at the Senate hearing on the Mamasapano affair. Another police officer, PNP Supt. Melvin Marcos, broke down with Bato at this last Senate event. Marcos is accused of being a drug protector. He lamented how his family and his reputation were being dragged through the mud. Somehow, though, his actuation was not as compelling.
What are we to make of all of this? What are we to say of conflicting statements by criminals fueled by proffers we will never know about? How should we react when self-confessed drug lords are openly feted and hailed as prodigal heroes by our elected officials and highest law enforcers (PNP Chief Bato: “I am torn between two lovers, between my men and Kerwin Espinosa who I admire for telling the truth”); while their victims, poor ordinary people, tricycle drivers, fathers and husbands, druggies we are told, are gunned down in the stealth of the night?
Maybe it is we 100 million Filipinos who should be doing the sobbing.