• The Napoles affidavit as satiric literature


    “I remember she wore a black duster type dress accented with pashmina shoal [sic]. I personally handed the cash to Ruby amounting to Ten Million Five Hundred Sixty Thousand Pesos.”

    The Janet Lim-Napoles’s affidavit submitted on May 26, 2014 reads less like a dry legal text than it does a yellow press weekend essay or an experimental piece of political satire. Expecting to slog through a dense legal text, I instead found the pages fly by as I avidly read the affidavit on my phone, unable to wait to reach a computer. Taken as a work of literature, it would be the darkest, best satire I’ve read in a very long time. That it is not deliberately a satire only makes it still darker and more searing as such. From the eating tour of Manila, the vivid description of mundane details, the tsismis, the cast of known characters, the abject state of our government, and the incredible scam details, to the sheer scale of governmental corruption, this affidavit is a would-be satirical masterpiece. Depressing, hilarious, and incredible, it shows the deep farce of our government.

    The superfluous, detailed description creates a nearly ironic tone—“During the delivery [of 18.525 million Php for Ruby Tuason and 12.825 million Php for Senator Enrile], Al brought a tray of Palabok and BBQ for my staff. He was wearing a green shirt at that time.” The tone of the piece is hardly contrite; it’s deadpan, with the egregious corruption merely part of the prosaic mundane. “The advance commission was picked up by Ruby Tuason in my unit at Pacific Plaza. We had small talk over lunch, I even gave her three (3) pieces of blouses [sic]that I got from Japan because she liked the same one that I was wearing that day. I showed her the cash and we counted it in my bedroom and I placed Senator Enrile’s cash in a colorful duffel bag (Ten Million Nine Hundred Twelve Thousand Five Hundred Pesos — Php 10,912,500.00) and hers in a s smaller [sic]shoulder bag (Two Million Four Hundred Twenty Five Thousand — Php 2,425,000.00). When she left I escorted her to the lobby of our condominium with her [sic]and saw her board a Toyota Camry.”

    The tour of local restaurants similarly sets the stage for satire, but its flat earnestness only makes the irony that much more effective. From Inagiku at EDSA Shangri-La Plaza Hotel, the Pancake House in Malayan Building in Ortigas, to the L’Opera on Fort Strip, the reader finds him or herself unmistakably in Manila. Moreover, we’re invited to incorporate the existence of corruption into our daily lives, from our next Pancake House meal to our sighting of Tips and Toes on Wilson St. in Greenhills. The affidavit satirizes us too if we presumed that the corruption was not taking place all around us.

    The true opening line of the piece is the first statement of her position on page three: “I am NOT THE MOST GUILTY and NOT THE ‘MASTERMIND’ of the alleged 10 billion pork barrel scam nor of the Malampaya fund scam.” Franz Kafka’s 1952 The Trial begins: “Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.” As does Kafka’s, Napoles’s opening gambit rests on interpretation and pits truth against Truth.

    The slippage of the spelling of names in the affidavit destabilizes the grounds of Napoles’s testimony as well as the reader’s ability to establish a stable, shared reality and to corroborate its facts. If this were a piece of literature, the slippage between Ruby Tuazon and Ruby Tuason, would be a masterful sleight of hand. In the affidavit, it consistently returns us to the question of interpretation and truth, and that is what is at stake in this case—with the multiplying lists, the incomplete evidence, the distracting ping pong of counter-claims, on what grounds does our Truth rest and is Truth expedient or possible?

    Indeed, Napoles raises our attention to the inconvenient Truth—that she is not the ultimate mastermind, for the problem is systemic, and, in which case, she truly is not The Most Guilty in a larger sense. “The Priority Development Allocation Fund (PDAF) existed even as early as 1922. I was not even born then nor my parents…Even as early as 1925, the misuse of the funds in the form of pork barrel was already questioned…Though it changed names over the years, the function and use of the said fund have remained the same.” Napoles is symptomatic of the much deeper malady. Even if we prosecute Napoles and her colleagues in crime, will we have changed anything in our system at all?

    Here we have a testimony of business as usual, of the normal functioning of our political system, and through her tone, Napoles invites her readers to remain as unfazed as she even as “business as usual” involves “two small sized balikbayan boxes, which contained Twenty Seven Million Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (Php 27,500,000.00) for the Senator.” Indeed, this fact is followed by another: “When I got there, [Pauline Labayen] met me outside the parlor and she transferred the box from my car to the trunk of her car.” Napoles continues, “I remember she had personalized plates.”

    The detailed realism and veracity of the world of prosaic corruption in which we reside provide us with the darkest lived satire, indeed.

    Nicole Del Rosario CuUnjieng is a PhD Student in Southeast Asian and International History at Yale University.


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    1. Finest article yet. Possibly the first of its kind to emerge in any local periodical/publication in long, long time! I only hope this wonderfully skilled columnist continues to generously utilize her talent as both an exceptional writer and an astute political/social analyst (at heart) to help activate our country’s collective conscience – especially in relation to the systemic cultural and governmental problem/s created by the increasing cognitive negligence of the elite and particularly their offspring.

      We need to teach our children much better, and the writer of this article demonstrates the expertise and intellectual enlightenment to help inspire the change we so desperately need if we want to reach our true potential as a great country.

      Our children are so maladjusted in the context of the REAL WORLD outside of their social cocoon. We must not limit them to a regrettably limited and mentally vacuous upper-societal bubble.

      We cannot in good conscience continue to hide one another from reality because we have become complacent and at-home with the normative political, cultural, social and economic corruption that we are allowing to define us.

      This journalist is so refreshing and I encourage (if not implore!) her to please inform and educate the readers of this newspaper.

      Excellent job yet again, Ms. Nicole Del Rosario CuUnjieng! You represent the fresh hope for the broader growth and enrichment of nation’s elite youth and their troubles.

      Richer substance of character is what we should not only encourage, but expect from a group of people so privileged and supposedly educated.

      Thank you!

      I (ever-eagerly) look forward to reading more of your articles and hearing more of your thoughts and insights in the future.

      Your articles are not only nicely informative, but they are brilliantly useful and applicable!

    2. mauricio palao on

      This isn’t how just the writer views the whole ‘Napoles situation’. This would be how civilized and more enlightened societies see us. A pitiful, pretentious and failed country..unable to understand morals, devoid of a value order and just incapable of self-government. It is sad because it is true; and, sadder even because we seem incapable to do needed correction. The Philippines has become to be defined by Napoles, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and their supporting cast in the senate and the congress. For good measure, I would include President/Mayor Estrada and President/Congress Woman Macapagal-Arroyo.

    3. So what if a name is spelt differently or wrongly does it take away from the truth. We know all money that went to her organisations were then stolen from the country & not aa single centavo of it went to the causes the politician said they would go to. Now also napolez says she is not the most guilty but did she say who was the most guilty who was the mastermind, no she didnt so that makes her the mastermind as if she knew who it was she would say as she has to tell all to be a state witness. I have no doubt napolz is playing some sort of game here & im not sure why but she needs to realise how serious this is as i dont think she for one second believes she could be going to jail for the rest of her life. When the reality of that sinks in she will then think about her silly games & probably regret them. I know i for one would have her in anormal jail & she should see what life is like there & if anyone murders her then so be it they murder here, i for one dont care as she is a despicable person with no morals or feelings for anyone other than herself.

    4. Indeed, the Napoles Affidavit seems like a satire, but no one is amused. Just chilled and disgusted to the bones with all the breakdown of SAROs galore and how casually described the serial plunder of these so-called statesmen! Que horror! UNLI greed, only in da Pilipins!

    5. All the literary gem of expose on corruption and cruelty of the Marcos regime were chronicled during and after Martial Law but the Marcoses were found innocent and keep their loot. Gloria regime was also the same with the exception that she is now “confined” at the Veterans Hospital BUT the charges are not moving and is being dropped one by one.

    6. D. Canastra on

      All very valid observations by Ms. CuUnjieng. But it all adds to the legal reality that in the end none of the affidavits from Mrs. Napoles and the whistleblowers Luy et al. will stand in court (contrary to what Sec. de Lima asserts). Only the enemies of President Aquino and the Liberal Party will be prosecuted and convicted, even if the evidence is faulty.

    7. mikhail hieronymus on

      I love this article! A literary gem, a legal brief, a closing statement all roll up into an easy reading panorama of our societal corruption.