Let her come
Lorna Kapunan says Janet Lim-Napoles won’t be attending the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on the pork scam. To begin with, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has already ruled that she may not do so. But even if she could, as Teofisto Guingona III, head of the committee, insists on calling for her to be subpoenaed there, she, Kapunan, would block it. That is because her client’s appearance at the Senate “will be a carnival.”
Well, that rather insults the Senate, and I don’t know why it shouldn’t bristle at the suggestion. The Senate after all has been the site of no less than two impeachments, of a president and a chief justice, and it has acquitted itself well. A couple of weeks ago, it was the site as well of the hearing of the chief witness in the pork scam, Benhur Luy, and it acquitted itself just as well. The hearing did not just prove to be perfectly decorous, it proved to be vastly educational.
If by “carnival” Kapunan means that the senators will try to grandstand, set themselves at each other’s throats, or—which is probably what Kapunan worries about—set themselves at Napoles’ throat, what of it? At the very least, look at how Luy did during his own appearance before the Senate, answering questions with complete confidence, thoroughly unfazed by any attempts to rattle him. What, Napoles can’t do the same? That can only make Kapunan’s client look guilty to Luy’s innocent. Hiding her from the Senate won’t be doing her any favors.
As to the senators grandstanding and/or bickering, well that is their lookout. Drilon did say at the anniversary of the Malolos Congress, the first-ever Congress of the Philippines, that he was determined to see the Senate through its present crisis, that he was resolved to validate it and vindicate it from its present troubles, that he was confident he would see it emerge triumphant and stronger than before. How better to do that than meet adversity head-on? How better to do that than clear the air?
Keeping Napoles away from the Senate won’t just be bad for Napoles, it will be bad for the Senate. Napoles has nothing to lose, the Senate does. Keeping Napoles away from the Senate won’t vindicate the Senate, it will implicate it. Keeping Napoles away from the Senate won’t strengthen it, it will debilitate it. Keeping Napoles away from the Senate won’t keep the Senate’s authority intact, it will wreck it completely. It will bolster the suspicion in the mind of the public that the Senate has something to hide. It will encourage the belief that the scam goes farther than what has so far been ascertained. It will confirm the proposition, however badly put forward by Jinggoy Estrada, that the rot goes all the way to the top.
But more than all this, keeping Napoles away from the Senate won’t just be bad for the Senate, it will be bad for the people.
I’ve been saying it from the start, when several senators bucked the idea of turning Napoles into a state witness and of allowing her to appear before them on the ground that it could tarnish the reputation of the Senate, because it could impair the moral authority of the Senate. Who the hell cares about the reputation and moral authority of the Senate? An institution is only as good as, or worth preserving as, it continues to justify its right to exist. The Senate more than any other. If the Senate sucks, why on earth should we want to fall under its moral authority? If the Senate has fallen down like Humpty Dumpty, why should we want to put the pieces back together again?
The point is not to strengthen the Senate, it is to strengthen the people. The importance of making Napoles appear in the Senate is that it does. You see that from Luy’s own appearance there. It was the most educational thing in the world. For the first time, through Luy’s lucid, step-by-step, and thoroughly knowledgeable account of how the scam proceeded, we got to have a grasp of something that had been vague and abstract to us for a long time. We just knew that our money was being stolen, we did not know how. Hell, we just knew that money was being stolen, we did not know, or grasped, the fact that it was our money. Suddenly, like Paul being struck by light on the way to Damascus, we did.
That is what Napoles’ appearance at the Senate will do, if not more. It will be just as educational, if not more so. I don’t mind that Napoles is summoned there as a hostile witness, she will probably be reluctant to appear there herself for fear of incriminating herself, or indeed putting her life at greater risk. But more than Luy, Napoles is in the best position to name names. More than Luy, she is in the best position to show how truly far the rot goes. More than Luy, she is in the best position to give the public a lesson in the anatomy of a scam.
Will this infuriate us even more? Probably yes, but that is well and good. It is a fury that will have content, it is a fury that will have focus, it is a fury that will have purpose.
“’Pag walang corrupt, walang mahirap” may be a nice slogan, but it is just a slogan. It is just an abstraction, something we know vaguely, instinctively, to be true but can’t quite grasp in all its fullness, in all its viciousness. It is housecleaning of this sort—and you can’t have any more maxed-out housecleaning than Napoles appearing before the Senate—that drives home the true significance of “pag walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” By showing in all its lurid and scandalous aspects money that is taken away from us and frittered in gambling and other vices, money that could have gone to feeding and sheltering the street children, curing the sick and dying, plucking a mangy and grotesque throng from the mouth of hell. That is a lesson that needs learning.
Let Napoles come.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.