Failure of the government to dampen the growing unrest over the P10-billion PDAF (or pork barrel) scam could bring the whole government down. DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima was right when she said that baring the list to the public at this time would cause “havoc and confusion.”
Yet, keeping the people in the dark would increase the pressure on her to release the names. Her refusal to do so could unlock torrents of angry protests from a disgusted public, which would then engulf the Aquino administration.
I would have thought that President Benigno Aquino 3rd had learned his lessons from a series of crises he faced during his past three years in office. Unfortunately, the reverse is true. He loathes criticisms and brands his “critics” “destabilizers” or “enemies of his administration.” He categorizes the people into two groups: “Those who are for him” and “Those who are against him.” He has shunted his well-meaning sisters aside in favor of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, DBM Secretary Butch Abad and DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya. He now considers these three, “family.” He has failed miserably to demonstrate that he is President of all Filipinos, friend or foe alike.
Take the case of the MRT3. Guilty parties hastily came up with a pre-emptive black propaganda blitz accusing presidential sister, Ballsy Cruz, of attempting to extort $30 million from Inekon, a Czech company bidding for the supply and maintenance of the MRT3. It was patently a ruse to divert public attention away from them, the real extortionists.
Cruz reportedly cried and complained to the President, according to a highly reliable source, and pointed to a group inside the DOTC responsible for the malicious story. The President summoned the DOTC official to the Palace and admonished him but refrained from suspending him for his role in the sordid affair, the source added.
Now to the Napoles affidavit.
First, what de Lima has in her possession is not the signed affidavit, a source close to Napoles told The Manila Times over the weekend. What she has are notes she took during her meeting with Napoles at the Ospital ng Makati from the night of Monday until 3 a.m. of Tuesday. The affidavit was already signed by Napoles when the DOJ chief came for a visit. She was not given a copy but was allowed to read it.
Former senator Panfilo Lacson, too, does not have the signed affidavit. What he has, according to the same Times source, is the first unsigned draft among several drafts of the affidavit. It had undergone quite a few changes, but only in form, not in substance. The lawyers had to change the verbiage or the language in some instances, but the names, events and dates were consistent, the source emphasized.
So that when de Lima hurriedly went to Malacañang on Tuesday morning to brief the President, she must have read from her notes. It is therefore useless for us to step up the pressure on her to release a legal instrument she does not have. What we can do is to ask her to make public her own notes.
Napoles, we are told, would be releasing her signed affidavit soon, the same source told The Manila Times. She is resigned to the distinct possibility that she will be incarcerated and any help from her “friends” in high places is wishful thinking, the source added.
President summons Secretary Alcala and Secretary Abad
Immediately following de Lima’s briefing, President Aquino summoned Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and DBM Secretary Florencio Abad separately to the Palace, a Palace source said in a phone call to The Manila Times.
He said, “Hindi naman tatanggalin sina Abad at Alcala. Concerned pa nga.” (Alcala and Abad won’t be fired. In fact the President is concerned about them.)
Instead of suspending or firing them, the President was even protective of them and warned them, said the source, “Mag-ingat kayo, lumabas na mga pangalan ninyo.”(Be careful, your names have already come out).
It is logical to assume that the flurry of statements from the Palace, the Lower House and the Senate are in response to the President’s instruction to counter the fallout from the Napoles affidavit. These stories border on the pathetic and ridiculous. Their lines are the same; their appeal to the public clearly choreographed.
Sen. Franklin Drilon went the media rounds the other day even before his name could be made public. The two-part Times article (April 21 and 22), “They were my mentors,” purposely withheld the names of Napoles’ “mentors.” Still, the Senate President went on radio and TV to deny that his name “was on the list” and say that “it will never be” because, as he put it, he has never used any NGO to channel his funds except thru the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
It would be prudent of the good senator to just wait for the release of the Napoles affidavit before he protests. We would want to unmask the names of Napoles’ “mentors” were it not for the request of the Times’ source to momentarily withhold the names from the public.
Drilon added that it is OK for his name to be included and released if Napoles has “evidentiary documents” to back up her claim. What? When he, along with the other senators, ruled to accept the list of former SC Chief Justice Corona’s bank accounts that came from a fictitious “small lady,” did he ask Congressman Umali to show evidentiary documents to authenticate the list and the amounts? Did he even consider whether due process was served? Did he take any steps to determine the existence and identity of the small lady?
Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo “small lady” Umali echoed the Drilon script. He warned the public to be wary of Napoles’ sworn statement, which he said without any corroborating proof “is useless.” One wonders why, without any corroborating evidence and without identifying the “small lady” who allegedly handed him the envelope containing the bank records of former SC Chief Justice Rene Corona, he still went ahead to present them as evidence at the impeachment trial. The senators accepted his “evidence” without regard to due process.
Drilon is now crying wolf. He is demanding that evidentiary documents be provided first before accepting the Napoles sworn statement. Karma?
Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evaronde, for his part, defended Abad. He said that “reports claiming that the DBM chief was the main author of the irregularity are part of a grand design to confuse the public and divert the real issue from the perpetrators of the crime.”
“The public should be forewarned about these machinations. Those behind it will try every opportunity to bring the pork barrel anomaly issue to the doorsteps of Malacanang to deflect attention away from their principals,” (Phil. Star, Saturday, April 26, 2014) Evardone added. He accused the Public Relations handlers of the real scammers to have concocted the wild accusation against Abad. “Their strategy is to spread the mud and make everyone a suspect. I think the people will not fall for this tactic because they know better, and they now know who stole their money,” he emphasized.
We couldn’t agree more with that observation of Evardone. The people already know the identities of the thieves in Congress, in the Senate and in the Palace. Maybe the good congressman should just keep his mouth shut and concentrate instead on liquidating the millions and millions of government funds that went into his district during the incumbency of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and now President Aquino. As sure as the sun rises in the east, he will be made to account for the funds poured into his province. He should begin with the Typhoon Yolanda fund assistance that until now has not been properly liquidated.
DBM Secretary Butch Abad’s protestation of innocence is funny. He said “I’m no pork king” (Phil. Star, Saturday, April 26, 2014). He said, “These fresh allegations that I tutored Napoles in designing the PDAF scam are simply not true. I’ve been called several names since I began serving in this administration, but ‘pork king’ is certainly the most ridiculous. It would in fact be funny if it weren’t such a blatant lie.”
Maybe we should remind Abad that the Supreme Court has recently declared the PDAF unconstitutional. And he was right in the middle of it all. He was the principal architect of the illegal disbursements of the PDAF to the congressmen and senators that found their way to bogus NGOs. Pending still before the Supreme Court is the question of the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). He is also the chief architect of the DAP. Now the question: If Abad is not the “Pork King” who is? The President? Or are Abad and the President the two sides of the same liempo?
In the beginning, the Palace and its allies were in ecstasy. They thought that the P10-billion PDAF scam would be the opposition’s death knell. They thought that by singling out the three senators, they had the opposition by the balls. They thought making Napoles a state witness would cripple the opposition, and clear the road to the presidency in 2016 for their chosen one.
Wrong. Even the “best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men often go awry, an’ leave us nought but grief an’ pain” so wrote the poet Robert Burns in his poem “To a Mouse.” (Very apropos, isn’t it, since mice are related to rats.)
The Napoles caper has become a bane, an albatross around the administration’s neck. It has freed the worms that now threaten to inundate the Palace and its allies.
Sadly, President Aquino, the only one who can help bring justice to the Filipino people, is acting like a spoiled brat, protective of his playmates, bullying those who refuse to “play with him” and unmindful of the consequences to the people and country that he vowed to serve and protect.
Instead of firing those involved in the P10-billion PDAF scam, he has opted to embrace them, coddle them and reward them with their continued tenure in the government, allowing these crooks to amass ill-gotten wealth at the expense of the Filipino people.
Instead of acting like a statesman, President Aquino is behaving like a “conman.”