A good time to be alive for plunderers
The so-called “Arroyo doctrine” set forth by the Supreme Court in 2016 is now seen as the best defense available to plunderers with pending cases involving alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim Napoles. That doctrine requires the main plunderer or mastermind to be clearly identified and the principal role he/she played in the scheme of things specified.
Since time immemorial, a charge of conspiracy clearly alleged and proven, was enough to impute the crime committed by one against all participants without any need to specify whether the roles they played were principal or merely supporting. It was that simple. The “act of one is the act of all,” so mastermind or not, it was irrelevant!
In the case of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Supreme Court parsed the conspiracy charge to death and concluded that there existed no specific proof that she masterminded the plunder of state lottery funds other than the vague “OK” she wrote on a piece of paper seeking the go-signal her minions needed to set the scam in motion. To the Supreme Court, that marginal note meant nothing. But common sense says no such diversion of some P366 million in public funds would ever have happened without her nod!
The pending plunder charges against former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla involving hundreds of millions in public funds are said to have the same tenor and configuration. With an obviously VIP-friendly Supreme Court, Enrile earlier won bail on the most outlandish grounds: “humanitarian,” a reasoning never before applied to ordinary mortals. The “Arroyo doctrine” had not yet formed part of “jurisprudence” then.
Estrada is the first beneficiary of that doctrine. He is now out on bail (due to “insufficiency of evidence”) and free as a bird. With the Sandiganbayan taking its cue from the Supreme Court, is there really still any doubt about the final outcome of the useless trial? Revilla is now rushing his own bail bid. Not to be outdone, Napoles is preparing her own, also buoyed by the Supreme Court’s dictum that plunder can only be committed by a public official. Being a private citizen, and without any public official being alleged to be the “scammer in chief” with specificity, she can only be charged with much lesser (bailable) offenses.
A good day for all plunderers! Tuloy ang ligaya! How did this miserable state of our justice system ever come to pass? “A legal back hole,” the Inquirer’s Sept. 20 editorial (“The honorable Janet Napoles”) noted quite aptly. Needless to say, the supermajority of the justices who concocted that “Arroyo doctrine” were appointed by—who else?—former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo! Did they decide her case “with the cold neutrality of an impartial judge”? Tell it to the Marines!
ROGELIO S. CANDELARIO, firstname.lastname@example.org
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