The late Sen. Genaro Magsaysay, the brother of President Ramon Magsaysay, had an iron-clad policy while serving in the Philippine Senate of his day which the honorable senators of our own time might do well to emulate as they desperately try to defend themselves against being unceremoniously included in the infamous list of Janet Lim Napoles and its various versions.
Senator Magsaysay worshipped in the church of “No talk, no mistake.” Literally, it preached that in public life, it is prudent not to talk, because this way one avoids making mistakes. Thus, he totally avoided delivering a privilege speech on the Senate floor and participating in parliamentary debates.
By scrupulously adhering to this policy, and banking on the reservoir of goodwill for his brother, he served two terms in the Senate. Magsaysay’s undistinguished career now comes to mind as I behold the various defenses and strategems being employed by senators and other public officials, to ward off and exorcise the public odium of being implicated in the pork barrel scandal.
Looking at the exhibits so far, I must say that our senators of the new millennium still have much to learn. Their defenses come in all shapes and sizes, some bizarre, some illiterate, some mendacious, and some wisely non-committal.
Let’s survey some of the exhibits:
Cayetano’s ‘destroy and destruct’ defense
Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano essayed what should be memorialized as the “destroy and destruct” defense.
He declared that the list submitted by former Senator Panfilo Lacson to the Senate was part of a game plan to “destroy and destruct” potential political opponents, particularly the presidential candidates, in the 2016 elections.
“How many presidentiables are there in (sic, “in” should be “on”) the list: Senator Miriam [Defensor-Santiago], Senator Ping [Lacson]. This is a very simple destroy and destruct case,” he said.
It’s not as simple as that, however. The word “destruct” does not exist in the English language. His point is nonsensical.
I’ve looked the word up in five famous English dictionaries: the Oxford Dictionary, the Cambridge International Dictionary of English, the American Heritage Dictionary, and Collins dictionary. And not one offered confirmation of Cayetano’s usage.
Is “destroy and destruct” an English idiom perhaps? No, it’s not mentioned either in the books of English idioms.
The closest thing to Cayetano’s ungrammatical construction is the verb “self-destruct”—which means to explode or disintegrate automatically as a result of pre-programming; or to destroy oneself or itself.
The TV series Mission Impossible popularized the term via the instructions which self-destructed once received by the team of heroes.
Cayetano’s defense is routed by an even bigger reason. It is belied by the documents furnished by Ping Lacson to the Senate.
In a revealing story in the Daily Tribune, reporter Angie Rosales reported that Lacson’s document states that “Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano usually gets a 50 percent commission through an agent named ‘Tito Boy’ who himself gets a five percent commission.
“Projects (of Cayetano) were implemented through Tito Boy. He uses a different company in projects. My role was mostly as financier. During the 2013 elections, Allan Peter Cayetano personally received cash for his campaign and this was given in Slice restaurant in the Fort,” it said. Napoles is presumably the one speaking in the document.
Cayetano ran under Team Pinoy in the 2013 elections and the Slice restaurant at Fort Bonifacio is run by his sister, Sen. Pia Cayetano.
Miriam’s ‘Lacson is Gay’ defense
After being named by Ping Lacson as one of the senators on Napoles’ list, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago resorted to her standard line during her various tiffs with Lacson and Senate Minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
First, Santiago said: “there is an affidavit, although unsigned, circulating in Metro Manila that Pinky Lacson has asked for a leave of absence from Malacañang. The highly confidential reason is that he is scheduled for a gender change operation in a remote clinic in the United States.”
Lacson replied in kind: “A high school classmate, who is now a psychiatrist, once advised me never to react to an insane person. It could be infectious.”
Second, she charged that Lacson is an attack dog of Enrile, and suggested that what he is doing is designed to destroy the case against Enrile et al.
A public inured to the hoary details of the pork barrel scandal is not likely to give much value or credence to Santiago’s line. It will want to look at what’s in the documentation provided by Napoles to support her claims.
Abad’s ‘never dealt with Napoles’ defense
Of all the names cited by Lacson and the Napoles list, no fish is bigger than Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, which brings the pork barrel scandal right at the door of President Aquino.
In a Tribune headline story, “Abad identified as pork overlord” (May 14), Angie Rosales reported that Abad was identified as the overlord of the PDAF scam operated by Janet Lim-Napoles in the narration she gave of the forming of her syndicate and in the documents that Lacson turned over to the Senate last Tuesday.
Among the documents that Lacson surrendered were an unsigned and unnotarized affidavit which was all of 33 pages, the list of legislators who Napoles or members of her family identified as having benefited from the scam, and six pages of notes which Lacson took down based on the narration given him.
Lacson supposedly obtained the affidavit and the list from Jimmy Napoles, the spouse of the alleged pork scam brains, during a meeting in March.
“In 2000, Butch Abad was introduced to Janet Lim-Napoles. Abad was lent money by JLN, which was returned with interest. When JLN asked how the money earned, she was introduced to foundations. JLN got curious and eventually JLN was taught how to form foundations. She bought the Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PDSFI) to be able to comply with the requirement that a non-government organization (NGO) has a track record,” the document said.
It was this information that led the Tribune to tag Abad as having tutored Napoles on how to milk the PDAF.
In his defense, Abad has protested that he was not involved in the pork barrel fund mess, and suggested that the attempts to link him to the mess is part of a plan to bring down the Aquino administration.
In his statement, Abad declared that he has never dealt with Janet Lim-Napoles in any capacity.
“I have never dealt with Janet Lim Napoles or any of her fake NGOs in any way throughout my career in public service: either as representative of Batanes, as Budget and Management Secretary, or as an official of any other public office that has been entrusted to me.”
Abad’s statement clashed head on with Napoles’s affidavit and documentation.
Something has to give when the time comes for the sides to show proof.
Many of those named on the Napoles list have resorted to the defense that they never dealt with the Napoles foundations. This is a weak defense, and will be exposed as such when a full investigation of the scam is conducted.
The bigger they are
When combined with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund mess looming over his head, Abad may have one too many scandals to cope with. He has become a major liability for President Aquino. And once the Supreme Court hands down its expected ruling that the DAP is unconstitutional, Abad’s goose is cooked. He may not survive up to the end of the year. And he will have several plunder charges to answer before the Sandiganbayan.
The immunity of the President from suit does not extend to members of his Cabinet.
It’s everyone for himself from hereon. This was Mar Roxas’s brutal message to the people of Tacloban in the immediate aftermath of Yolanda.
Abad is regarded as the chief strategist of the Aquino government and the Liberal Party. The bigger they are, the harder they fall.