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As I See It

Napoles should talk now to ensure her safety

/ 10:24 PM September 26, 2013

After Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s privilege speech in which he ratted on his colleagues but did not deny the accusations against him, a friend told me: “Jinggoy just violated the 11th and 12 commandments.”

“The 11th and 12th commandments? What are they? I thought there were only 10 commandments,” I said.

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“The 11th commandment is: Don’t get caught,” my friend said. “And the 12th is: If caught, don’t implicate others.”

Jinggoy did violate those two “commandments,” but he is right: Why only the three of them—Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. and himself, all members of the opposition—when there are other lawmakers mentioned in the special report of the Commission on Audit? Jinggoy mentioned Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, and former senators Manny Villar and Francis Pangilinan. (Pangilinan’s wife, “Megastar” Sharon Cuneta, made a spirited defense of him, offering P10 million to anyone who can prove that he had stolen from his pork barrel. Mega was saying two other things in that challenge: that she can afford the P10 million, and that her husband does not have to steal because “we have enough, thank you.”)

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Back to Jinggoy. Why only us, why not the others? was his question.

The answer of the Department of Justice to that is: Don’t be impatient. There will be a second batch, and maybe a third and a fourth. We are still gathering evidence. We cannot just file cases without enough evidence. The cases will just be dismissed.

There is another question: Why are there no Aquino allies in the COA report?

COA Chair Grace Pulido Tan had explained that earlier. The audit was ordered in 2010 by her predecessor. The report was submitted to her. Necessarily, that audit had to be only up to 2009. There were still no “Aquino allies” at that time.

But the incumbent members of Congress as well as Cabinet officials are being audited.  Wait for the results. You may be surprised.

Indeed, it appears that the P10-billion pork barrel scam is just the tip of the iceberg. There may be many others. Janet Lim-Napoles and her cohorts are only the first to be caught. Others will follow.

* * *

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Should Janet be made to appear before the Senate blue ribbon committee chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III?

Guingona and Senate President Franklin Drilon differ on that issue. Drilon has decided to respect the opinion of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales that it is not advisable “at this time” for Janet to appear before the Senate committee. Guingona thinks the Senate should defy the Ombudsman’s advice.

I ask Guingona et al. this question: Won’t Janet be intimidated by the presence of so many senators, some of whom may be her partners in the pork barrel scam? Imagine so many hostile eyes staring down at you while you squirm in the hot seat. Would she be able to answer truthfully and totally all the questions hurled at her? Who are the senators to whom you gave kickbacks? Are they present in this chamber? Can you point to them?

Janet will be so intimidated she will probably just lie: “Nobody.” Then the senators will use that testimony when it is their turn in court. So what is the blue ribbon committee’s investigation for, to help some senators get acquitted?

As I see it, the attempt to subpoena Janet to the Senate investigation may be a fishing expedition. Won’t the defense lawyers be delighted to know what Janet will say and what the other evidence against their clients is?

And the investigation of Janet may not be “in aid of legislation” but “in aid of publicity.” Imagine Janet appearing in public for the first time and questioned on what she knows about the pork barrel scam. That will attract hordes of journalists to the Senate. That will be the biggest story of the day. That will be the headline of all the newspapers and television and radio broadcasts.

The photographs and television footage will show Janet being questioned by senators. The senators will therefore try to grandstand to get as much publicity as possible.

So what will the Senate investigation achieve to get to the truth?

* * *

I don’t blame Janet for feeling threatened. With what she knows and all the powerful people she can drag down with her, there are plenty of characters who will want to silence her.

Permanently. After all, dead men (or women) tell no tales.

So it is to her advantage and safety to talk now, to give her sworn statement to the DOJ now, so that it will be useless for anyone to have her killed. Her testimony will already be recorded. Even if she is killed, this testimony will stand as evidence against her coaccused. In fact, it will be stronger evidence. She can no longer be cross-examined by defense lawyers, and therefore that testimony will go unchallenged.

She cannot be a state witness and be exempted from prosecution because she appears to be the mastermind of the scam and therefore the most guilty. But she can bargain for a lighter penalty in exchange for her testimony for the prosecution.

Acquittal is out of the question. Angry citizens will just lynch her. But her lawyers can save her with a plea bargain. Talk now and stay alive.

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