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Before the fat lady sings

Given the ample evidence, so-called “pork barrel scam queen” Janet Lim Napoles should be very familiar by now with the ins and outs of Malacañang. Not many (actually, very few) Filipinos would have the chance to even step through the portals of the country’s seat of power. But it seems that Napoles, her lawyers and sponsors no longer need a map to make their way through Malacañang, negotiating their way not just from the Palace gates to the inner sanctums, but also from factotums to the big guns themselves.

Testifying at the Sandiganbayan which is hearing the plunder case filed against his client, Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David admitted that he recently had a meeting in Malacañang with Executive Secretary
Salvador Medialdea and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to discuss his client’s appeal that she be moved from her present jail in Bicutan to the custody of the Department of Justice.

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This by itself would cause many eyebrows to rise, given that Napoles is at the center of one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country. That she would now enjoy such access to Malacañang officials gives the lie to President Duterte’s avowed “hatred” of corruption and his declarations of his determined drive to cleanse the bureaucracy.

The more sensational aspect of lawyer David’s testimony is that it was Medialdea himself who gave him some legal advice. And this was for the lawyer to “file a formal motion at the Sandiganbayan instead of immediately taking Napoles out of the BJMP.”

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It’s difficult to believe that Medialdea would offer this piece of advice if, in the first place, his principal was so bent on ending corruption, which the case versus Napoles happens to be an exemplar. Second, would Medialdea sound off on this matter if, as the President himself claims, he knew nothing about the pending arrangement with Napoles?

Either Mr. Duterte is surrounded by duplicitous officials who contradict his beliefs by acting behind his back—which would make them ideal candidates for the purported revamp that the President has threatened. Or the President is secretly sympathizing with Napoles, or hoping to use her for hidden reasons, and pretending to be surprised by her admission into the witness protection program.

In this paper’s editorial, Sen. Risa Hontiveros is quoted as describing the protection order as a “travesty of justice,” adding that “she would not be surprised if Napoles would also be used as a ‘political weapon,’ as those who will not toe the line and have strong opinions against the government’s policies and the President himself could easily be included in Napoles’ pork barrel list.”

Sen. Leila de Lima, who was justice secretary when Napoles was taken into custody, knows the ways of the “pork barrel queen” only too well. The first thing Napoles asked of officials, according to De Lima, was “who they would want her to include in her list of pork barrel beneficiaries.”

So, the reason behind the coddling of Napoles seems clear: She is ready to sing, but before the proverbial fat lady sings, she needs assurances of protection.

No one’s pretending that this is all about getting to the roots of corruption, or even of “protecting” a controversial figure from those who may have reason to want to harm her. We all know that this is all about getting back at perceived enemies who refuse to kowtow to and accept every word and assertion,
every example of doublespeak, that Malacañang dishes out.

This, even at the expense of dispensing justice to those who used their power and influence to steal from the people and enrich themselves. One remembers the anger and indignation that swelled in the wake of Napoles’ arrest and the revelations of the whistle-blowers. Where is that anger and indignation now?

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TAGS: Janet Lim-Napoles, pork barrel scam queen
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