Estrada vs. Guingona and the RoboCop Connection

by Bernadine Racoma, originally posted at the Philippine Online Chronicles


Looks like we will be having more of Estrada vs. Guingona 2014, the seeming remake of the feudbetween the fathers of the two senators back in 2000. However, just like the RoboCop remake of 2014, we’re seeing something that is not as impactful and poignant. The recent privilege speech of the younger Senator Guingona is nowhere as heavy as the “I accuse” speech of the older Guingona. It is remotely close to an anti-corruption fight of monumental scales. Just like the new RoboCop movie, the new tussle between the sons of two former high public officials is unlikely to become a classic.

RoboCop 2014’s box office performance is proportionately not as good as the original’s. Similarly, “Estrada vs. Guingona 2014” (the Guingona vs. Estrada speech in particular) didn’t attract as much attention most probably because of the focus on the expected “top grosser” of the day: the Supreme Court announcement on the Anti-Cybercrime Law petition ruling. The conflict between Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Senator TJ Guingona is more of a sideshow but it still merits some attention, especially on the aspect of how the senators approach the issues they are dealing with.


In his privilege speech on February 18, Senator TJ Guingona responded to accusations that he already prejudged his co-senators who were accused of involvement in the PDAF scam, especially Estrada. He aimed to clarify his comments about new witness Ruby Tuason’s testimony being a “3-point buzzer beater.”

Earlier, Ruby Tuason testified how she allegedly delivered money to Estrada, at the senator’s office and his residence at Greenhills, San Juan. She also mentioned that Senator Enrile’s former chief of staff, Gigi Reyes, got cash from her in Dasmariñas Village, Makati City and through meetings at restaurants in Makati and Taguig.

Senator Guingona delivered an 8-minute speech to deny that he had any intention of prejudging his colleagues. He admitted that he may have offended people or caused many to have the impression that he already made his mind on the outcome of the Senate committee investigation.

“I understand that the offense and the perception were apparently the result of the use of an analogy from the favorite national pastime – basketball. True, I have made such reference,” Guingona said. The senator previously described Tuason’s testimony as “a three-point shot, a buzzer beater but also a winning shot.”


If prejudgment is arguable on Senator Guingona’s description of Tuason’s testimony, there’s at least one thing that is very clear – his reluctance to slug it out with his colleagues. For some, this is a “stateman-ly” behavior. For others, it is simple trepidness. Either way, this is not something people would likely want to see for a 2014 remake of “Estrada vs. Guingona.” It’s like the more polished and visually appealing RoboCop 2014 without the wit, humor, and social commentary dimensions of its predecessor.

If calling a very incriminating statement a “winning shot” does not indicate prejudgment, we wonder how differently Senator Guingona and Secretary Leila de Lima are thinking. The Department of Justice head described Tuason’s testimony with another basketball metaphor – calling it a “slam dunk.” This description is not even as enthusiastic as Senator Guingona’s “three-point shot” and “winning shot” metaphors. A slam dunk is only worth 2 points and yet Secretary de Lima is very confident of the level of incrimination Tuason’s testimony delivered.

It would appear that Senator Guingona wants to avoid the kind of situation Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has been creating for herself as she blatantly and scathingly expressed her belief in the guilt of those accused in the PDAF mess, noting how Tuason’s testimony is supposedly enough to convict Senator Enrile.

Toned Down

We’re not sure if the desire to demonstrate “stately” behavior is really the reason why Senator Guingona preferred to avoid any direct confrontation with those implicated in the PDAF scandal. He seems to prefer a toned down approach similar to how RoboCop 2014 avoided the same amount of gore and violence of the R-rated RoboCop in 1987 to secure a PG-13 rating. It’s hard to assume that there’s nothing behind all of it when the Estradas are no longer that popular and with all the witnesses and documents appearing to be more compelling than those used in 2000 against then President Joseph Estrada.

Well, it’s reasonable to avoid being confrontational with the accused when you are the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman. However, we’d have preferred it and it would have been more exciting if Senator Guingona’s approach was just like his father’s. Of course, this is just a matter of personal opinion. We just think that Senator Estrada’s “If he chooses that battle, I will give him that battle,” challenge deserves an equally assertive response. Yes, fans of the gorier RoboCop would be disappointed to not see something similar to the torn and exposed ligaments, busted groin, and bloody fight scenes in the remake.

Family Involvement

In the 1987 RoboCop movie, Murphy’s family had very minimal involvement. In the 2014 version, however, there is greater participation of the family, with Murphy’s wife actually enrolling him to the RoboCop experiment. This is somewhat comparable to what is happening in “Estrada vs. Guingona 2014,” albeit not in a similar sense. There are more Estradas in the picture this time. JV Ejercito, Senator Estrada’s brother from another mother, is already a senator. Former Senator Loi Ejercito, Estrada’s mother, is also being dragged to the controversy.

Cryptic Details

RoboCop 2014 is said to lack the depth of its predecessor but it still features some cryptic but unmistakably intentional details. The painting of a twisted half-man, half-bacon trio on the wall of the OmniCorp CEO office is believed to show Francis Bacon’s “bleak existential outlook of the human condition.” There are also other grin-inducing details with somewhat deeper meanings in the movie, which include the “I’m just from marketing” line by Jay Baruchel and the part where it was mentioned that the factories that build and test OmniCorp’s drones are in China, not in Detroit.

With the Estrada vs. Guingona “remake,” it’s impossible to miss Jinggoy’s cryptic line: “The food that she gave me, she delivered to me, I also shared it with some senators because she brought trays full of snacks.” The senator also challenged his colleagues to have the CCTVs checked to identify Tuason’s other “senator clients.” Of course, we expect the long-time senator to already know that the CCTV records back then had to be routinely erased (so the recording media can be reused) within relatively short intervals so his challenge was more or less empty. He may have just wanted to emphasize the idea that almost everybody else is unclean.

The current Estrada-Guingona rift is arguably a non-major development in the Philippine political landscape. You may enjoy seeing the two fight but you won’t feel like you will be missing anything if you skip it. Unless Senator Jinggoy Estrada steps up his game and completely unleashes that self-destructing but liberating weapon he has been hinting, the senator who was once already convicted of plunder can only expect his future to be anything but comfortable.


Photo by Noemi Lardizabal-Dado. Some rights reserved.