Friday, October 31, 2008

Political Hodgepodge - Oil Prices, Bolante and Impeachment

With the oil companies dropping their prices dramatically, with a P2 decrease in gasoline and a whopping P5 drop in diesel, the public is probably satisfied, at least for now. However, considering that the price of oil has dropped even further, a few more rollbacks can probably be expected, especially for November. If we accept the oil companies' explanation that they base their prices on the previous month, and the average price of oil in October is probably hovering around $65-70, this is almost a certainty.

Now if the prices of other commodities can go down as well with the drop in gas prices, the public can breathe a little easier as the Christmas season goes into full swing.

* * *

The return of former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante has whipped up renewed interest in calls to oust the President. It should be remembered that Bolante is considered to be the major architect in orchestrating the so-called fertillizer fund scam, where either more than P700 million or P3.3 billion, depending on which version one follows, was allegedly rerouted from buying fertillizer and other farming equipment for the farmers to the 2004 campaign of incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her allies.

Senators, particularly Ping Lacson, are calling for Bolante's arrest on the strength of the warrant issued in 2005. It should be remembered that Bolante fled the country in 2006, and tried to seek asylum in the U.S., only to be rebuffed after two years of court wrangling and was deported back to the Philippines, where he arrived last Wednesday night. Bolante has since been confined at St. Luke's Medical Center in Quezon City.

Bolante's lawyers have responded by filing a petition at the Supreme Court, asking that a temporary restraining order be issued. The lawyers claim that the Senate arrest warrant has no legal standing, as the Agriculture Committee that issued the warrant already concluded its investigation.

While I will concede that the Ombudsman is probably the correct body to investigate Bolante, given the current Ombudsman's close links to the President and her spotty record in investigating corruption cases, I doubt anything substantial will come out of the investigation in terms of nailing down Arroyo for corruption. At the same time, it's possible and likely that Bolante will refuse to implicate the President in the scam. With these factors in play, I doubt that any concrete evidence will come out of such an investigation.

As for the Senate, I'm wondering what will come out of such an investigation led by this body. For those jockeying for position for the upcoming 2010 elections, it'll be another opportunity to grandstand and preen for the media.

Unless Bolante has an attack of conscience, and comes clean on the fund scam, we are not likely to nail down any big fish in the sea of Philippine corruption.

* * *

As for the current attempt to impeach the President, it is likely to fail as did the previous moves. The reason for this is that the President has a solid majority in the House of Representatives, and these honorable (hoch! Ptui!) congressmen have no interest in exploring the issues. They're only interested in how much they will be paid to bury this latest attempt to oust the President. With the President in control of the pork barrel, it will be easy for her to spread the wealth and ensure that she will be able to sit easy on her throne for the next year, until another impeachment complaint is filed.

If I were the opposition, I'd stop these futile impeachment attempts, and instead, concentrate on agreeing to field a single candidate to run against whoever the administration decides to field. This, in itself, is a Gordian knot of a problem, as the opposition has several presidential wannabes. Still, the opposition leaders must find a way to unify the fragments to find one who will be able to take advantage of the simmering discontent against the President.

The main reason why people have not risen up against the President despite the numerous scandals over the course of Arroyo's stay is that the opposition has not presented a viable option for change; how can they, considering their titular head was convicted of plunder? I think people are willing to wait until 2010, when Arroyo has no legal reason for holding on to her post. If Arroyo tries to overstay her welcome, I think that will be the time that the people will rise up and get rid of her.

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