At the Senators Lounge

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms. This was published in the April 7, 2010 edition of the Business Mirror, page A6.

“Last year, you were outraged when Sen.  Manny Villar said it would take at least P1B to run for president,” I reminded Senator Loren Legarda. “I was very upset,” she replied.

“Do you remember you said, ‘It’s sad to think we are going to reduce public service to a question of money. Are elections only about money? Does he believe money is the only thing our people care about? Is there no room left for love of country?’”

“Of course, I remember.”

“And you were dismayed that he said, ‘they say there is one rule. He who has the gold rules.’”
“I was more than dismayed,” she said.

Sen. Miriam Santiago, who was sitting at an adjoining table having an argument with herself over what to order for lunch, butted in our conversation and said, “She was irate, foaming at the mouth, homicidal, suicidal, humiliated, debased, degraded. And not only that, she felt like throwing up to be living her middle years in a country of this nature. She was nauseated.”

Legarda smiled at her colleague and told me, sotto voce, “The Comelec just dismissed the insanity case against her. They said there was no proof she is crazy.”

I replied, sotto vocce as well, “Then that proves the Comelec commissioners are.”

“Anyway,” I said, going back to my normal speaking voice, “you implied that Villar was a gang leader.”

I read to her what she had said, “If money politics will be the system, then we are no different from a gang. He who has the money will dictate everything. No one is allowed to question the boss because all the gang members are salivating for their share.”

“I was not attacking anyone personally,” she replied.

“But you said,” and I read it to her, “I want to avoid directly criticizing my fellow politician because I’m certain he will accuse me of politicking. But I cannot let his statement pass because it is an insult to the people of this country when he says that money is the only factor in the decision of every voter, in the exercise of their right to elect their leader.”

“I was angry at the time,” she explained.

Legarda joined her colleagues in ousting Villar from the Senate presidency. She criticized him severely when he refused to participate in the Senate ethics probe on C-5.

Sen. Jamby Madrigal recalled, “We in the majority knew that she was really angry at Villar.  She even had some unsavory names for him.”

I asked Legarda what made her change her mind about Villar.

“I woke up one day realizing that our platform and aspirations for this country, especially uplifting the poor’s lot in life, converged.”

“Just like that, you woke up and realized Villar was a good guy after all?”

Legarda said she wanted to talk about dinner with Villar in Makati shortly before she accepted his offer to become his running mate.

“He told me ‘I believe in your platform on environment, agriculture and climate change,’ and I said, ‘I believe in your platform on helping migrant workers and pushing for their rights.’ In that respect, we clicked right away,” she recounted.

And she added that he told her, “It’s not only me winning, both of us must win. You must believe—do you have any doubt?—that I really want you to be my vice.”

“That’s so romantic, it’s like he was proposing marriage,” I commented.

“Yes, isn’t it?” she said as she got up to leave.

I slid over to Sen. Santiago’s table after Legarda left.

“Any reaction, ma’am?” I asked her.

She replied, “Para silang mga talakitok.”

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