I have known Armand Padilla for a very long time. More than a decade ago, he asked me to write a book on Casto Alejandrino, the patrician and Arayat, Pampanga, mayor who gave up everything to join the Hukbalahaps, then became the Number 2 man in the movement. Armand said I would view the movement with sympathy as my parents were foot soldiers in the Huk movement and fought fiercely against the Japanese.
I told Armand I can’t distinguish between past and present tenses and that I did not have a long view of history, which was required to put the heroic work of Casto in the proper context. I asked the late former Con-Con delegate and book author Manny Martinez to write the book on Casto Alejandrino. Manny finished the book, which, unfortunately did not see print.
Armand worked—pro bono—for the Hukvets and other worthy causes. Even during his stint as the chief of staff of the minority in Congress, it was clear that his motivation was the good of the broader society, not making money out of the pork barrel. His car was a beat-up Revo, the manual type that a diabetic like him would struggle with in the jams of Metro Manila’s streets.
So when his name was dragged as an “agent” of Janet Napoles in the Luy files and allegedly got more than P30 million in “commission” for his PDAF “brokering, “ I knew there were things terribly wrong with the Luy files. The Janet Napoles affidavit later amended the Luy files and said a total of P3.7 million worth of computers were given to the minority congressmen and Armand was the “agent.” The problem with the affidavit is this: Even if it whittled down the size of the supposed transaction from over a P100 million to just P3 million, not one of the accused members in the minority ceded a peso of their PDAF allocation to Napoles. How could Armand “transact” with Napoles without delivering the PDAFs of the minority congressmen he worked for to the Napoles NGOs?
Armand Padilla, I was told, recently underwent a triple bypass surgery, the brutal and unnecessary toll of being falsely tagged as a P30 million peso “commissioner.” We know the perils faced by a diabetic with a compounding cardiac problem who is forced to confront a personal crisis not of his own making.
For the sake of Armand and the collateral, but innocent, victims of the current mudslinging festival, there should be no cessation of the pork scam inquiry. The Luy hard disk, said Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, should be subpoenaed and looked into by the Senate blue ribbon committee. Along with the other affidavits as well. What is true and what is false? What are the hoaxes in the documents? Who were the innocents dragged into the mud, asked Cayetano. The filing of the plunder charges will not clear the really innocent bloodied by the mudslinging.
And who are the really, really guilty that now relish all the confusion and shading of the truth, which the muddling of the pork scam case precisely intends to do? Cayetano suspects that there is a dark, sinister agenda behind the expanded and ever-elastic list of supposed pork scammers. Drag the innocent and spread guilt all around.
Cayetano wants Justice Seceretary Leila de Lima and Napoles to testify before the blue ribbon committee. So it won’t be a one-sided grilling, Cayetano wants the waiving of the blue ribbon committee rules to allow de Lima and Napoles to get the equal opportunity to grill the senators.
Under that scenario proposed by Cayetano, Napoles can confront a senator and tell him: You received duffel bags of cash from me on this date, via an agent, your bagman. And with greed and anticipation in your eyes, you promised—via your bagman—to deliver more SAROs. Or, this: You partied me. In those parties, you took my cash and you drank my wine. And ate my food. Now, you are invoking amnesia.
Fair is fair. Such confrontations are necessary to demarcate falsehood from truth. And you have to agree with Cayetano to pursue two other celebrated scams that have yet to find closure: the P1 billion Malampaya fund scam and the Joc Joc Bolante fertilizer scam. There is, deep in our collective conscience, an intense desire to identify—and jail—the perpetrators of the two scams.
Going for the truth means an investigation that would go for the jugular. No-nonsense, no-holds barred. Unrelenting. In fact, there should be a multi-partisan, bicameral effort to unearth everything about the congressional corruption, said Cayetano, a deep, deep probe which should be supported by President Aquino.
The Manila Times was first to report that the Luy files was a mix of the “real deals,” or the corrupt transactions in which the senators and congressmen exchanged their SAROs for hard cash. Plus, the “ funding requests” to various senators and congressmen which Napoles intended to send but never did.. President Aquino was the addressee of a funding request himself. And so was the executive secretary. It was in the Luy files that Armand Padilla is said to hae got a P30 million plus “commission.”
In the Napoles affidavit, the “deal” supposedly brokered by Armand was worth P3.7 million, just a tiny fraction of the hefty “commission” he supposedly got under the Luy files. And it was accomplished without the minority congressmen supposedly represented by Armand channeling their SAROs to Napoles. This is not how scams work in the real world. No SARO, no deal.
We indeed need a deeper and harder look into these files and affidavits. We should not allow the innocent to get muddied and bloodied by false accusations and mudslinging running amok. Clearing the innocent is as important as jailing the crooks.