RUDY Fariñas is no doubt a brilliant lawyer and a skillful politician. He can amaze you with his analytical mind perfectly matched with his gift of gab. He can dazzle you with the wit and humor that go well with his good looks. This congressman, who loves to remind people that he is an Ateneo graduate and a bar topnotcher, can indeed make so-so lawyers look like total idiots.
I once wrote after his successful comeback to the national consciousness through the Corona impeachment trial that he should run for the Senate and that it will be a great disservice to the nation and a great injustice to his gifts if he doesn’t. And in another article after his glorious resurrection from political death, I sang my hallelujahs for the triumph of the human spirit. “You have seen the worst in me, now is time to see the best of me,” he said. And most of us believed him.
In 2010, he ran with Imee Marcos under the slate of One Ilocos Norte. Imee won as Governor. Rudy was elected congressman of the province’s First District. Such political union was short lived and in 2013, it was One Ilocos Norte no more.
But the rift between Rudy and Imee climaxed in recent weeks with the congressional investigations on the supposed misuse of R.A. 7171 funds. The House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability Committee, of which Rudy is part, alleged that some P66 million in funds intended for the welfare of tobacco framers were wrongfully used for the purchase of vehicles, and that there were obvious irregularities in procurement procedures.
I will leave the facts and legalities to the experts, for I am neither a lawyer nor an accountant. But let me give my two cents on who is winning in this political battle.
Rudy is winning. He has managed to keep six Ilocos Norte Capitol employees under detention for contempt. He has also thrice defied the Court of Appeals which is hearing the petition for habeas corpus filed by the detainees’ lawyers. I say “he”, and not the “Committee” or the “House” because, come on, we know that it is all Rudy’s orchestrations. The congressmen, afraid to lose positions and perks they enjoy if they draw the ire of the majority leader, will always toe the line. Although a political butterfly who gracefully fluttered his wings from the Yellows to the current administration, Rudy enjoys the trust and confidence, not only of the House Speaker, but President Duterte himself. And with all his feats, we can say, with just a little exaggeration, that Rudy Fariñas is master of the universe.
But Rudy is, in fact, losing, for in every political issue that warrants a congressional investigation, the battle is always fought on two fronts: in the august halls of the legislature, and in the bar of public opinion. It is in the latter that Rudy fails, and miserably.
And there is a good reason why, despite the congressman’s skillful performance during the congressional investigations, the ordinary Ilocanos just say: it’s just politics.
For if it were not mere politics, and Rudy’s aim is really to safeguard public funds and exact accountability on those who betray the public trust, he did not have to look far. There’s Laoag’s missing funds he can, and should, look into.
At least 90-million—around fifty percent higher than Ilocos Norte’s allegedly misused funds—vanished from the Laoag City government’s coffers under the administration of Rudy’s relatives. Vanished. Lost. Gone.
In the case of the 7171 funds, money did not disappear. There are recorded testimonies of barangay officials and tobacco farmers who are grateful for the multipurpose vehicles. Even Congressman Fariñas looked really happy with the purchase of those buses and multicabs. He is yet to deny that the wide smile he flashed during the vehicles’ turnover to the barangays at a time when he was still allied with Imee, was just photoshopped.
Unless Rudy Fariñas looks into the Laoag fiasco with the same passion and diligence he exhibits in the 7171 probe, the people will look unkindly at his actions. He can do all the grandstanding in congress and show all the photocopied vouchers and other evidences he holds. He can gather a hundred more congressmen to say “aye” for whatever motion or decision he wants approved. He can send to jail 60 more employees, or maybe 600, and disbar all the Commission of Appeals justices, or impeach the Supreme Court justices, but in this 7171 case, our people just shrug their broad Ilocano shoulders and say, “It’s just politics”.
I still believe that Rodolfo “Rudy” Castro Fariñas is intellectually brilliant, politically skillful, and charming.
But I have never unedrestimated our people’s intelligence.