"Everything is your fault" (Part 2)

Image source: Otherland

“Why are you running for this position?”

That’s the first question I fired during my interview with this newbie politician (at that time) many years ago when I was still with the media.

After trying to mumble a garbled sentence, he blurted out, “Cut! Cut! Cut!” with matching two-finger, scissor-like gesture. On cue, his staff without bothering to whisper told him, “Sir, tell them it’s the will of the people.” Roll camera. I repeated the question. He answered with a newfound confidence, “It’s the will of the people.”

Then, I fired back, “So, what are you planning to do once you win the post?” He gave me this just-saw-a-ghost look. He blurted out again, “Cut! Cut! Cut!” Same gesture. His staff gave him the answer again. Roll camera. Repeat question. He then mouthed the answer fed to him.

I shot back my follow-up question. ‘So, how are you going to accomplish that?” He quickly snapped back. “Yun ang tanong!” (“That’s the question!”) Then he again uttered, “Cut! Cut! Cut!” (Yes, he always cried, “Cut!” in threes.)

Needless to say, it was a very short interview. It’s like trying to squeeze drops of juice from a dried orange pulp.

[Clue: He won. He went on to become a lawmaker. Another clue: He is also one of those whose names “favorably” appeared in the COA report on the PDAF scam.]

Image source: The Lion Star Blog
I always think of that interview whenever I would read in the newspaper or hear on the radio or see on TV that politician. He is now media savvy as far as interviews are concerned. I wonder if he got a better staff to cue him. I wonder if he is still a stringed puppet at the mercy of his staff.

I also thought of that interview when I heard Senator Juan Ponce Enrile through his lawyer blame his former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Gonzales-Reyes, for signing the PDAF papers for him. (Read my previous blog.) He would have us believe that he didn’t even bother checking what official papers his COS signed for him. That he trusted her so much that he didn’t check—or even wonder—where his annual P200M pork barrel went.

Yes, blame it on the staff.

Would Enrile have us believe that he was just a stringed puppet at the behest of his COS? But who’s really pulling the strings of whom? Gigi Reyes was his right hand. He handpicked her personally. Unless he is watching too much horror movies, the hand does not have a mind of its own.

Gigi Reyes, Chief of Staff of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. Image source: The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
When a lawmaker (and any government official for that matter) affixes his signature on anything and everything, he can only blame himself. And even if he authorized his chief of staff to sign for him (as in the case of Enrile), it was still on his behalf. In fact, when Gigi Reyes irrevocably resigned last January, Enrile said, “I delegate my powers to people that I trusted. They can sign cheques for me, they can decide for me because they know more or less how I think.” (Source: Rappler) He trusted her so she can decide for him. She knew how he thinks. She was even dubbed as “the 25th Senator” because “Reyes exercises extraordinary powers in the Senate. She signs cheques in behalf of the Senate President. She issues memos to Senate personnel. She is not only allowed inside the lounge that is supposedly exclusive to senators, she can also speak her mind during Senate caucuses.” (Ibid)

So, the buck stops on the name in that document or the name that authorized that staff’s signature. The proverbial three fingers are pointing back to him.

Happier times. "File photo shows (from left) President Aquino, Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, former President Joseph Estrada, and Enrile’s chief of staff Gigi Reyes at the presidential table during her birthday celebration at the Makati Shangri-La Hotel last October." Image and caption from The Philippine Star.

I remember hearing about this politician who only knows how to read and write his name. The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines clearly states that anybody running for an elective position must be “able to read and write.” But, as far as I know, it did not specify how much he could read and write. Since he could do just that, even if he could only read and write his name, he ran—and won—the top post in that place.

So, he would look at a document, find his name and then sign on it. But, he usually signed on top of his name everytime he would see it on the document. So his ever-faithful staff would shade with a colored marker where he should sign his name on the contract.

Yes, his staff could have duped the politician. But since it was his signature, the buck was his. 

The proverbial three fingers are pointing back to Senator Enrile. Image source: Philippine News
My take? If you’re a leader, everything is your fault.

Read Part 1 Part 3


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