The suspicion of President Duterte and his administration that Filipino-American businesswoman Loida Nicolas-Lewis is leading a plot from the US to topple the president is turning out to be an urban legend with no legs.
Ms. Lewis, because of her money (she is the widow of a wealthy American businessman), her connections with Democratic party politicians and US government officials, her chairmanship of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NAFFA), appears on paper as the most formidable and best connected Filipino- American (male or female) living today. In addition, she has had a long association with the yellow cult of the Aquinos and the Liberal Party in the Philippines.
Under scrutiny, however, this business of Lewis plotting the overthrow of Duterte is probably more paranoid than real. For a conspiracy directed from Washington, Lewis loses altitude as a person of interest, because in truth, she is not the most influential, best connected, or most well-entrenched Filipino-American today.
That distinction belongs to another lady, and she is none other than Ms. Marina Santos, the maid/housekeeper of Hillary Clinton at her Whitehaven home in Washington D.C.
In a major scoop on Sunday, the New York Post reported that Ms. Santos stands at the center of the e-mail controversy that has battered Clinton‘s campaign for the US presidency over the past few months
Handling state secrets and house chores
According to the Post report, Hillary Clinton as secretary of state routinely asked Ms. Santos to print out sensitive government e-mails and documents — including some containing classified information — from her house in Washington, DC, e-mails and FBI memos show. The housekeeper does not have the security clearance to handle such material.
Ms. Santos was called on so frequently to receive e-mails that she may hold the secrets to E-mailgate — if only the FBI and Congress would subpoena her and the equipment she used.
Clinton entrusted far more than the care of her DC residence to Santos. She expected the Filipino immigrant to handle state secrets, further opening the Democratic presidential nominee to criticism that she played fast and loose with national security.
Clinton would first receive highly sensitive e-mails from top aides at the State Department and then request that they, in turn, forward the messages and any attached documents to Santos to print out for her at her home.
Among other things, Clinton requested Santos to print out drafts of her speeches, confidential memos and “call sheets” — background information and talking points prepared for the secretary of state in advance of a phone call with a foreign head of state.
“Pls ask Marina to print for me in am,” Clinton e-mailed top aide Huma Abedin regarding a redacted 2011 message marked sensitive but unclassified.
In a classified 2012 e-mail dealing with the new president of Malawi, another Clinton aide, Monica Hanley, advised Clinton, “We can ask Marina to print this.”
“Revisions to the Iran points” was the subject line of a classified April 2012 e-mail to Clinton from Hanley. In it, the text reads, “Marina is trying to print for you.”
Both classified e-mails were marked “confidential,” the tier below “secret” or “top secret.”
Santos also had access to a highly secure room called an SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility) that diplomatic security agents set up at Whitehaven, according to FBI notes from an interview with Abedin.
From within the SCIF, Santos — who had no clearance — “collected documents from the secure facsimile machine for Clinton,” the FBI notes revealed.
Just how sensitive were the papers Santos presumably handled? The FBI noted that Clinton periodically received the Presidential Daily Brief — a top-secret document prepared by the CIA and other US intelligence agencies — via the secure fax.
A 2012 “sensitive” but unclassified e-mail from Hanley to Clinton refers to a fax the staff wanted Clinton “to see before your Netanyahu meeting. Marina will grab for you.”
Yet it appears Clinton was never asked by the FBI in its yearlong investigation to turn over the iMac Santos used to receive the e-mails, or the printer she used to print out the documents, or the printouts themselves.
FBI did not interview Santos
It also appears that the FBI did not formally interview Santos as a key witness in its investigation.
This is a major oversight: Santos may know the whereabouts of a missing Apple MacBook laptop and USB flash drive that contain all of Clinton’s e-mails archived over her four years in office.
In 2013, Hanley downloaded Clinton’s e-mails from her private server to the MacBook and flash drive.
“The two copies of the Clinton e-mail archive (one on the archive laptop and one on the thumb drive) were intended to be stored in Clinton’s Chappaqua and Whitehaven residences,” the FBI said in its case summary.
But Hanley says the devices were “lost,” and the FBI says it “does not have either item in its possession.”
In addition to Abedin, Santos worked closely with Hanley at Whitehaven and could shed light on the mystery — if only she were asked about it.
When a Post reporter confronted Santos at her DC apartment Friday, she would say only, “I do not speak to reporters.”
According to a 2010 profile in The Philippine Star, close Clinton friend Vernon Jordan recommended Santos to the Clintons after she worked part-time for him.
When Bill Clinton gave a speech in Manila as part of his foundation work, he took time to visit with the family of the “mayordoma [housekeeper]of his Washington, DC, home — Marina Santos.”
Clinton was quoted as describing Santos as the “wonderful woman who runs our home in Washington, without whom Hillary will not be able to serve as secretary of state.” The article ended with the remark: “Marina now runs his house so that he and his wife can better serve interests higher than their own.”
Milking connection to celebrity
If the closing polls for the US election prove accurate and Donald Trump does not stage a Truman-like surprise, Hillary Clinton will be proclaimed as the next president of the US come January.
Marina Santos will similarly rise in importance, as well as in pay and position.
She could become a top witness in the Clinton e-mailgate inquiry, because the Republicans are certain to press for further investigation of the scandal, whether they win or lose the White House.
We Filipinos have the shameful habit of milking the smallest connection to a celebrity, for every ounce of significance, as though the connection will confirms something worthy about us or our country.
If Hillary wins, Marina Santos will provide plenty of banality for us to wear on our sleeves.