Where is the anger?
Where are the thousands, maybe millions, who took to the streets and flooded social media, virtually foaming at the mouth, denouncing the pork barrel and other forms of corruption?
It may not have anything to do for now with the pork barrel scam cases against Janet Napoles, but the manifestation by Solicitor General Jose Calida that the Makati Regional Trial Court “erred” in convicting Napoles of illegal detention sends chills down my spine.
If you will recall, Napoles was convicted and promptly slapped in jail in 2015 on charges that she had masterminded the detention of Benhur Luy, a distant relative and right-hand man in her operations,
inside a retreat house. Luy was able to gain his freedom only after a team of NBI operatives raided the retreat house at the behest of relatives. After this, the slimy underbelly of Napoles’ network was gradually exposed, revealing an intertwining tapestry of fake projects using fake NGOs and beneficiaries, with the active instigation and participation of legislators. The probe into Napoles—and other “operators”—siphoning of state funds in favor of private entities resulted in the conviction as well of three of the most powerful senators previously considered untouchable: Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who was granted bail for health reasons, Sen. Bong Revilla, and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. The trial of Napoles, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on the illegal detention charges, is still ongoing.
To explain his shocking reversal of the state’s charges against the “Pork Barrel Queen,” Calida said he could not “just close his eyes and allow an innocent person to go to jail.” Sounding more like a private lawyer on Napoles’ behalf, Calida is laying down the premise for the eventual “redemption” of Madame Janet. For if the rather straightforward charges of detention are supposedly spurious, then how to trace eventual blame for the labyrinth of fake projects, fake beneficiaries, fake NGOs and forged signatures and names that constituted the P10-billion scam?
Remember, save for the testimonies of Luy and his other colleagues, neither Napoles’ name nor signature appears on any document.
More than what motivated Calida and/or his bosses higher up in the administration, what I’m deeply curious about is the reaction of all those who rose up in indignation when the first news about the pork barrel and other forms of corruption were released.
Where is the righteous anger? The fury at the way our money has been systematically stolen by those in whom we entrusted our votes?
The Duterte campaign was catapulted into office on a promise of “change is coming,” heralded by the bloody, scary antidrugs campaign that has seen more than 7,000 killed (though held in check for now) and entire neighborhoods silenced by fear and intimidation.
But how were we to know that the “change” really meant reversing the gains made, at least in the drive versus corruption, by the Aquino administration? One would think all those enraged by PDAF or Priority Development Assistance Fund and other rackets by other names would be similarly incensed at how the gains made against Napoles and her ilk are being gradually and secretly reversed.
This paper’s main story quotes Luy’s lawyer who says he was “caught flat-footed” by Calida’s gambit. There was no call or obligation for the OSG to comment on the case, Raj Mendoza said. “We are not aware of any recent developments that would have necessitated the filing of such manifestation,” the lawyer added. Luy has been described as “disappointed” and “alarmed” by the latest development. As things add up and given the odd, inconsistent record of this administration, Luy could indeed end up holding the bag.
So, where’s the anger? Where is the public ire? Where are the memes and catchy slogans that would distill popular feeling about the theft of public money? In the face of the palpable indifference to tokhang and EJKs, are we now also numb to thievery?
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