This could be a case of my succumbing to scandal fatigue. Or a case of a scandal-monger detonating himself like a suicide bomber.
As a journalist who has seen many scandals come and go in our public life, I do not easily give credence to charges and claims of scandal, unless they are accompanied by a smoking gun. I treat them with skepticism.
As public characters go in this country, no one has been more assiduous in spreading tales of scandal in government than Atty. Levito Baligod.
As the lawyer of whistleblowers Ben-Hur Luy and Merlina Suñas, he helped craft a believable tale that induced the Daily Inquirer to bite, and then turned Janet Lim Napoles into a household name.
With whistleblowers and tabloid journalism spinning the tale together, the story became the P10-billion pork-barrel scam. It provoked a high profile blue ribbon inquiry in the Senate, and created a dragnet that would lead to the filing of charges against three senators and a host of congressmen and government officials
For a time, Baligod was a key part of the story. But then Luy dropped him as counsel. And the lawyer quickly receded from view.
He has been trying ever since to make a comeback on top of another scandal story.
‘Truckloads of evidence’
About a month ago, I heard and met Atty. Levito Baligod at the Saturday Forum at Annabel’s restaurant in Quezon City, where he discussed his plans to file charges of malversation of public funds against certain legislators and government officials.
At the forum, I asked Baligod this question: “Were you the one who characterized the evidence in the P10-billion PDAF scam as ‘truckloads of evidence?’ Was it Ben-Hur Luy, the whistleblower whom you were representing? Was it Justice Secretary Leila de Lima?”
The lawyer answered no to my series of questions. But then he said that he believed it was the media that christened the thing as “truckloads of evidence.” This struck me as strange because here he was begging for some media attention, and he was accusing media of inventing things.
To close the discussion, I suggested to Baligod and the assembled forum that one 10-page document, if photo-copied a hundred thousand times would probably produce a truckload of paper.
Another member of the forum asked what was the volume of evidence he had this time. Would it fit into a tricycle?
As I listened to Baligod explain his new charges, it struck me that we were watching a man who was desperately trying to recapture his 15 minutes of fame when he was lawyering for Benhur Luy.
Thanks to the man’s persistence, when he finally unveiled last week his P500-million malversation complaint against 20 assorted legislators, several papers and broadcast networks gave his complaint a little space. But he was struggling to keep his story afloat.
He got some help ironically from the Commission on Audit (COA) when its officer-in-charge Heidi Mendoza challenged him to name the COA commissioner and auditors that he alleged were involved in the scam.
“If he is that ready to accuse someone, he must have the evidence,” Mendoza said.
No substance to malversation scam
While Baligod mentioned a lot of names and cited a number of foundations in his complaint, it is now turning out that Baligod has absolutely nothing to substantiate his charges.
Baligod’s complaint is anchored on the sworn statements of four persons, who are already among those charged in the pork barrel scam cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan against Enrile, Revilla and Senator Jinggoy Estrada. They may have their reasons for coming up with this new story.
Several of the government agencies alleged to have participated in the scam have already been abolished.
Baligod now claims that much of the evidence to support his complaint may already have been lost because the agencies are now extinct. These government corporations that Baligod cited are Philippine Forest Corp., ZNAC Rubber Estate and National Agri-Business Corp., which were all used as PDAF conduits.
He sounds more pathetic as he talks.
Why did he file these cases when he has no evidence to support them, and the government firms are already extinct?
Some media organizatrions, like the Daily Tribune, suspect that Baligod is probably constructing a defense for members of the Liberal Party and the close allies of Aquino, who are also implicated in the pork barrel scam.
With the likelihood that the new charges will be dismissed by the ombudsman, Baligod will help create a smokescreen for Liberal politicians to escape the stigma of scandal going into the 2016 elections. They will be able to say that they were cleared by the Ombudsman.
Like a suicide bomber
Looking at Baligod’s plight as a scandal-monger, it occurred to me that he is like a suicide bomber from the Middle East. But unlike the Islamic extremist suicide bomber, Baligod \is hurting only himself. He is literally detonating his career to back up his scandal-mongering.
When the Ombudsman predictably throws out his malversation complaint, he will be hard put to find a new scandal to spin in the media.
But it is also our fault in the media that tall tales of scandal find their way into the pages of our papers and our broadcasts.
The first thing I learned in my first job in journalism was to be skeptical. Don’t believe every story you’re told. Don’t worry, another one will come along.
Another Baligod will come along.