The presentation of evidence and the sharing of testimony in an investigation or trial are not mere exercises in establishing guilt or proving innocence, but the realization of justice. There is no hiding from – and there is no escaping – justice. The laws of the land, and the institutions that enforce and secure justice for all, exist without partiality to the accused and the accuser. Without regard to power, without partiality to wealth: “justice for all.”
Manny Villar has made it painfully clear (in more ways than one) that he has no intention of facing his accusers in the Senate. At the very root of this, Villar says, is politics: that ever since his survey numbers shot up, the C5 controversy is used against him to pull him down. For all intents and purposes, Villar is not being asked to face the chamber to shoot himself in the foot, but to establish and administer the very notion of justice and the system that ensures it: to prosecute the guilty, to uphold the rights of the innocent, and to keep society in harmony.
By boycotting the Senate hearings, Sen. Villar obstructs a lofty goal that is within the reach of citizens if they strive for it enough: justice. If anything, it is a most brazen, deliberate obstruction of justice, and an abandonment of the processes and institutions that make up a fair and just society. More importantly, it is the denial of the truth. It is injustice.
Villar chooses, instead, to explain the C5 imbroglio to the public, to elicit the sympathy and belief of the citizens to vindicate him and clear his name. As a citizen, my door is open for Mr. Villar and I am ready to entertain his grievances, but I cannot administer justice in behalf of the institution that seeks to investigate him and to make sure that justice is done. I do not have the power, I do not have the obligation, and the single vote that he may elicit from his calls for sympathy will not exonerate him or prove his innocence. The public awaits Villar to take his stand in the Senate and to explain his side to his colleagues regardless of flak or political consequence; not because it will hurt his ratings, but because it can close the issue once and for all.
There are more important things in politics than Villar’s survey ratings, like transparency and equity, and the confidence we have in our government officials to serve the public unconditionally and without the ulterior motive of personal gain. Even the most guilt-ridden of petty criminals will cry out for their innocence on the desk of a police officer. What more, then, for a sitting Senator who is asked to face his colleagues?
From a viewpoint of guilt and innocence, Mr. Villar has nothing to fear: a dialogue or investigation serves nothing more than the purpose of affirming either guilt or innocence. There is no reason for Mr. Villar to be afraid, even, of collateral damage to survey ratings: a man who occupies such an esteemed position should realize that truth is far more important than percentages in surveys. More than that, though, a bribe – if Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile is to be believed – is an affront to the notion of justice itself.
Mr. Villar, embroiled in the C5 fiasco, stands accused of exerting his political and economic influence so that his properties may benefit from the C5 realignment, resulting in his corporations’ monetary gain. That injustice has yet to be proven true or false, which is what the Senate is set and obliged to do. The good Senator cannot address an injustice with another injustice: by wearing the ring of Gyges, and rendering himself not responsible and without consequence to something he is accused of, without the benefit of him airing his side of the story and presenting his evidence in the venue accorded to him.
Manny Villar may not like the people investigating him. Manny Villar may not like the people accusing him. He may not even believe in the shared notions of justice that maybe we can all agree with. Yet for all his billions, his survey ratings, and his power he is not above the Senate, he is not above the law, and he is not above justice. For him to continue to hide behind the cloak of whatever he seeks to defend him, and for him to pin this all on personal vendetta and the threat against his political ambitions, is nothing short of wrong.
Plato writes that the wise man should rule because he understands what is good. I appeal to the wisdom of Senator Villar to understand that good: to face the music, to respond to the accusations leveled against him. It is there where the road to justice begins, and he should see through it – as we all do – to the very end.