Good news, bad news
The good news is that the Office of the Ombudsman is throwing its net farther into the sea. It has recently dragged in 34 more representatives whom it accuses of having misused their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). This is the third batch so far. The first was the batch that included Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla. The second was the batch (including Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) it accused of spiriting away close to a billion pesos in Malampaya funds.
There will be five batches all in all, says Levito Baligod, lawyer of the whistle-blowers. The next two will be more heterogeneous, “halu-halo na, kasama non-PDAF, non-Janet Napoles.”
What makes this last one significant, however, is the inclusion for the first time of a fairly well-placed P-Noy ally. Who is Ruffy Biazon. The charge against him comes directly from Benhur Luy. In 2007, Luy says, Biazon plowed P2.7 million of his PDAF into one of Napoles’ nongovernment organizations from which he collected P1.95 million in commission. Not as huge an amount as the others but, if true, an even more astonishing rate of commission—the others shared half their spoils with Napoles. But this is a case where one may hang as much for a lamb as for a sheep.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima draws attention to the significance of the development in this wise: “This is proof that political affiliation is not a criterion here.” An observation that did not satisfy the reporters who promptly asked in a press conference why no P-Noy ally in the Senate had been included in the list and whether the Palace would go out of its way again to shield Biazon. The latter comes from Biazon retaining his post after P-Noy blasted Customs in his State of the Nation Address last July for persistent widespread corruption.
We’ll know soon enough. But while at this, government’s resolve and impartiality might have been far more demonstrable if Biazon had found himself in hot water in a case involving Customs. Doubtless it is good that we are clinging to pork, or Napoles, with a tenacity we’ve never shown about corruption before. But it must also be asked if we haven’t gotten so engrossed in it such that we’ve forgotten there are other, far more epic, forms and sources of corruption. Customs is chief of them. It makes even Napoles look like a penny-ante thief.
Surely it would be interesting to know how high up the looting there goes? Or who partakes of the division of spoils?
The bad news is that even as the net gets to be thrown wider and wider, we are nowhere near to catching anyone than when we first began. The question in fact is not how many people the Department of Justice is going to stick the charge to, the question is how well it is going to make the charge stick.
It’s more than three months since we put Johnny, Jinggoy and Bong on the dock, and all we’ve done is go around the world. Just when we thought we’d finally start to pin them down—the case against them looked pretty grim, Luy had appeared in the Senate and nothing appeared to faze him, he was on solid ground, he knew whereof he spoke—Jinggoy delivered a privilege speech and astonishingly managed to turn things around.
To be sure, much of that was government’s own fault. Jinggoy had never shown himself innocent, he had never refuted the charges, he hadn’t even denied them. He had merely implicated others. Specifically the President whom he tacitly accused of bribing them into convicting Renato Corona during his impeachment trial. Seemingly laughable, it triggered a series of events that ended up not with the three being resolutely prosecuted but with government resolutely pilloried.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad’s defense that the P50 million given to the senators was not a bribe but additional funds from DAP to accelerate development merely drew attention to DAP. P-Noy’s own defense of DAP as being different from PDAF served only to convince the public the difference lay only in that the second was legislative pork while the first was presidential pork. By the time Supertyphoon “Yolanda” came around, the winds were howling not at the three senators accused of colluding with Napoles but at the government that was poised to pounce on them.
Then last week, Enrile did a reprise of Jinggoy. He delivered a privilege speech as well, though in lieu of being grim and desperate he was bright and cheery. Like Jinggoy, he never refuted the charges, he said that was best done another day. Which makes you ask when that best time would be. At least he never refuted the charges directly, he did so indirectly by questioning his nemesis’ or archenemy’s grasp of reality, or mental state, or self-image, or all of the above. Who was of course Miriam Santiago. Santiago had accused him among others of masterminding Nur Misuari’s siege of Zamboanga to divert the public’s gaze elsewhere.
Of course it was vastly entertaining. I laughed out loud at the part where he thanked Miriam for saying he was still hot—“may asim pa”—but lamented the fact that he could not return the compliment. A little sexist maybe, but not undeserved: Miriam’s own comment was faint praise, a reference to Enrile being old and senile. I can’t wait for Miriam to take to the floor this Wednesday. It will be Senate’s version of Pacquiao vs. Rios and “Mommy” Dionisia vs. Kim Henares.
But it’s also the sort of thing that makes you wonder how far we’ve gotten to advancing the Napoles case. The way things are going, only Napoles will probably end up fighting for her life here. More to the point, it makes you wonder what new twist will visit government this time around. Three months ago, government’s popularity was at its highest, today it is at its lowest. That complicates things immeasurably.
The good news is that the justice department has added more people, including a government ally, into the bag. The question is:
When will we have justice?