The surrender of Janet Lim-Napoles to President Aquino marked the opening of a new phase of the unfolding saga over the colossal swindle of the congressional slush fund, called pork barrel.
With Napoles safely under the custody of the Philippine National Police, she has become a hostage of the government and is putty in its hands as she is being prepared to testify on what to reveal and not to reveal in the case the Department of Justice intends to file against her in connection with the hijacking of P10 billion from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) by Napoles’ group of dummy NGOs (nongovernment organizations) with the complicity of some senators and congressmen.
Her surrender paved the way for chapter two of the grand inquisition in the search of scapegoats other than Napoles—not necessarily truth, as claimed by Mr. Aquino, when he declared on Thursday the “hunt for the truth” would now begin following the arrest of Napoles.
“She will undergo due process and face charges (in the next few weeks, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima) … The hunt for the truth, which I have pledged of our people, will go wherever—and to whomever—evidence will lead,” said the President.
The President’s statement laid down the guidelines for the Department of Justice in the interrogation of Napoles to produce the evidence that will “lead to the truth,” according to his version of “the truth” extracted from Napoles.
That is why, in this context, his declaration is pure self-serving subjective claptrap that stretches credulity.
In captivity, there’s no conceivable way for Napoles to escape the tampering or rigging of her testimony to interrogators who are now vulnerable to second guessing on what “truth” may be acceptable to the government.
The unfolding drama of the Napoles escapade has crossed over to the realm of a political Roman circus or a parody of a fake public trial that pays lip process to due process and fair administration of justice.
This shift has moved the pork barrel diversion case into an arena where the next target, designated by the administration after Napoles, will have to face a lynch mob, lusting for blood, to pay for this massive hemorrhage of public funds out of the PDAF.
This is why the public, outraged by this pilferage of taxpayers’ money, is watching anxiously the next moves the administration will take to pin down responsibility for this fund diversion, and to exact reparation or retribution for this abominable malversation of public funds.
Who will take the rap is the burning issue of the day. Who will be fed to the beasts in this coliseum of Filipino politics? Will it be Napoles or those she will tag as consenting partners in crime?
There is now plenty of hand washing and passing the buck in an atmosphere where officials in the executive and legislative branches are smeared with toxic charges of abetting the redistribution of slush funds that have found their way to the bank accounts of racketeering NGOs—away from the projects for general public good, mainly in the rural areas.
For now, the surrender of Napoles has lifted public pressure off her back and has redirected it toward the members of Congress tagged by affidavits of her employees as complicit in giving access to their pork barrel allegedly in exchange for cash kickbacks.
Million People March
The arrest of Napoles has momentarily pushed to the sidelines demands by the Million People March last week for the abolition of the pork barrel, not only of the PDAF, but also the President’s special purpose funds.
The demand for the scrapping of the pork barrel in all of its forms, which is the fundamental source of corruption in the redistribution of this slush fund to buy electoral support, has all but been blotted out by the effort to revive criminal prosecution of those responsible for the diversion of the pork barrel funds.
The scrapping of the pork barrel is at the heart of the reforms to eliminate opportunities for corruption. The administration deflected the pressure for its abolition by proposing a new mechanism for an equitable and responsible distribution of this largesse without passing through the conduits of the NGOs. The P27-billion allocation for PDAF is proposed in the 2014 national budget, up by P2 billion from this year’s P25 billion.
There is no lack of events to entertain the public while it waits for the decision of whether the government will use Napoles as a state witness against her accomplices in both the executive and legislative branches in the diversion of the pork barrel in exchange for immunity or reduced punishment.
According to lawyers, this option is not available to those who appeal to be the guiltiest among those implicated in the fund transfer scandal. This has developed in a critical issue that can determine the outcome of the cases the government intends to file against her.
According to De lima, Napoles appeared to be the “most guilty” in the alleged racket, although the justice secretary did not rule out using the businesswoman as a state witness. “If there is sufficient evidence to pin down the other accused, that means that you don’t need the accused to be discharged as a state witness,” she said.
If the justice department eventually files a plunder case, Napoles will be considered the “principal by direct participation … a coconspirator,” referring by implication to the five senators and 23 members of the House who gave Napoles’ group of NGOs access to their pork barrel. The legislators were tagged on the basis of the affidavits of whistle-blowers.
But De Lima also pointed out that these affidavits revealed inconsistencies. Still, De Lima said it would be best to see whether Napoles was willing to “tell all.”
She added: “It would depend on what she would say or what she knows. It’s also different if she knows a lot, but she might not say what all these are.”
That’s the dilemma of government for anchoring taking the risk of anchoring its case on a dubious witness.