Already paid hacks are working overtime to deflect attention from the real issue. It is unfortunate that even well meaning individuals and groups are lending themselves to the scheme, if only unwittingly.
The real issue, of course, is the prosecution of the senators and congressmen involved in the pork barrel scam.
Certain radio and TV commentators distract the nation by harping on the supposed impropriety of President Benigno Aquino 3rd receiving Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged brains, in the palace itself and personally bringing her to Camp Crame.
But Mrs. Napoles would surrender only to the President, who alone could assure her safety. Should he tell her to go to the nearest police outpost instead? That would be stupid, after offering a P10 million bounty for her capture.
As to the supposed special treatment, the authorities needed to keep her away from other inmates, and the room available at Camp Crame and Makati City Jail happened to be air-conditioned.
The arrangement, in the words of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas was made “to keep Mrs. Napoles alive.” And besides, what does it matter? Give her all the air-conditioning she needs, if that is what it takes to assure us that she’ll be able to testify in court.
No less than 12 senators and at least a hundred congressmen have been implicated in the pork barrel scam, the biggest theft of government funds so far. Mrs. Napoles could be forgiven if she thought that some of these legislators would want her dead.
It is suggested that this administration will use Mrs. Napoles to persecute those in the opposition. President Aquino did talk to Mrs. Napoles, but only for ten minutes. Did he hate Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and the others who had been implicated in the pork barrel scam so much that he would use that brief span of time to get the woman to agree to such a vicious proposition?
Very unlikely. There had been no indication that President Aquino harbored ill will against members of the opposition. In fact, he had been very friendly with them. The only major issue that put him on collision course with them was the Reproductive Health Bill, and the debate in the Senate and the House of Representatives did not leave any lasting animosity.
According to depositions made by her former employees, Mrs. Napoles conspired with legislators to funnel billions of pesos in pork barrel allocations to sham non-government organizations (NGOs) she had set up for the purpose. Then, the witnesses state, their employer had the money withdrawn, remitted 70 percent to the legislator who owned the PDAF and kept the rest for herself.
So far ten employees have turned state witnesses, and their numbers is growing by the day. All said they withdrew at one time or another money, on Mrs. Napoles’ orders, and deposited it in the legislators’ accounts. And they have the bank transaction receipts to prove it.
The evidence is overwhelming. Mrs. Napoles, contemplating the prospect of a long prison sentence, could very well rat on the legislators she has dealt with and bring them down with her. The possibility of her admission as state witness is remote, but her testimony could earn for her a lenient sentence.
Although technically the most guilty, Mrs. Napoles is only a pawn in this whole sordid affair. She is in custody, and there should be no difficulty to keep her behind bars all her natural life. That is something we cannot say of the legislators. They are free and they have the power to intimidate or order the liquidation of witnesses. They have the connection to the Sandiganbayan justices, who will try the cases. They also have unlimited funds, if it should come to that.
The real issue, to re-state it, is the prosecution of the senators and congressmen and, of course, their co-conspirators at Public Works, Social Welfare, Agriculture, Land Reform, and practically all agencies of the government, without whom the scam could not have come to fruition.
Of course, we should demand the pork abolition, but the overriding objective now is to put the thieves behind bars.