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There’s the Rub

The truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth

The first thing they ask you while your right hand rests on the Bible is: “Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth?” That is the test of a witness’ testimony. One or two do not suffice. All three must be there.

So far Benhur Luy and Ruby Tuason have passed the test, or at least Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Juan Ponce Enrile have not been able to punch any gaping holes in what they’ve said.

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Were they telling the truth? The richness and fineness of the detail they supplied in their accounts suggest so, both of them showing much confidence in their appearance at the Senate. They answered the questions of the senators without nervousness, refusing to be baited into speculation, talking only about things they knew. The three senators themselves made it a point not to attend the hearings to show that they did not take the witnesses seriously. But all they showed was that they were afraid to face them.

Were they telling the whole truth? The best proof of this is that from the start they admitted their malfeasance. Chavit Singson was a thoroughgoing scoundrel, too, then (as now), but that was what made him believable when he spoke out against partner-in-crime Erap. Luy admitted to getting a substantial fee for his services, and Tuason admitted to getting 5 percent all the way.

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Were they telling nothing but the truth? Well, there will always be suspicions about their underreporting, or mis-declaration, of the amounts they got. An operation that produced such oodles of cash that Janet Napoles allegedly could no longer stash it in the usual places she had to pack it in her (probably queen-sized) bathtub naturally lends itself to kupit. And barya in this case could mean tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of pesos.

Jinggoy’s attempts to defend himself from this, never mind try to turn the tables on the government once again, have only looked like grasping at straws. His attempts to discredit Tuason in particular are cringe-worthy. Of course Tuason would need to consult her notes to answer questions. Can he himself remember who he was with at Zirkoh five years ago? (Well, maybe he can.) And of course there would be no footage of Tuason entering the Senate; CCTV tapes are regularly erased.

But comes now Dennis Cunanan.

Is he telling the truth? Like the others, he gives a richly detailed account of how the three senators, including Enrile, who he says directly interceded on behalf of a Napoles NGO of his choice (a member of his staff supplied a letter naming the NGO), pressured him into approving and releasing funds for their favorite projects. In Jinggoy and Revilla’s case, he claims dealing with them directly, Jinggoy for the most part over the phone. Jinggoy has denied it and says whoever it was on the line wasn’t him. He could have been cleverer and said for all you know it might have been Willie Nepomuceno, but that has pretty much left him only with that line of defense.

Is Cunanan telling the whole truth?

That is the crux of the problem.

The part in his testimony where he faltered big-time was when Grace Poe asked him about Luy’s statement that he (Luy) prepared a bag containing P960,000 in cash on Napoles’ orders and he (Luy) saw him (Cunanan) leave Napoles’ office with it. That was when he suddenly became hesitant and evasive, refusing to verify or contradict Luy’s statement. It held echoes of Napoles’ own sustained bout with amnesia in her own appearance at the Senate, the joke about it being that it was an episode of “Maalala Mo Kaya,” which vastly amused P-Noy himself. “I can’t remember” was Napoles’ repeated answer to the questions, infuriating some of the senators.

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Cunanan’s answer did not infuriate Poe—she is not naturally given to infuriation, but she did threaten to lift the immunity of a provisional state’s witness from him.

She has a point. What was Cunanan thinking, that something like this could be hidden or snowed under? Quite apart from the fact that it is next to unbelievable that he succumbed only to the stick and not to the carrot when he allowed his office to be used and abused, what makes it so counterproductive is that the nation would have taken it in stride if he had admitted to it. It did with Luy and Tuason. Why be coy with something so easily verifiable?

Jinggoy’s camp was of course quick to pounce on it, making joyful noises about it being the death of the case against them. But it’s just a lot of whistling in the dark, rumors of the death of the prosecution are grossly exaggerated. Were the witness Cunanan alone, his detractors might have done greatly to dent his account. You violate the principle of “the whole truth,” you raise suspicions about the mettle of “the truth” and “the nothing but the truth.” But taken in conjunction with the other witnesses, it adds weight to the case.

It remains for Cunanan to own up to partaking of ill-gotten gains before he can enjoy the protection of law. Without of course prejudice to being compelled to return the loot, in the same way that Luy and Tuason have been compelled so, and who have promised to do so. But despite this, as they stand right now the accounts of the three witnesses taken together constitute one solid, humongous, and damning indictment of the accused. They do not contradict each other, they reinforce each other, except for a kink or two such as this one. Their core, their heart, their essence, which is how the three senators took part in Napoles’ scam, is there for all the world to see, for all the courts to punish. We may not be sidetracked once again. The culprits are not Luy, Tuason, and Cunanan, they are Estrada, Revilla and Enrile.

That is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

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TAGS: Benhur Luy, Bong Revilla, Chavit Singson, Dennis Cunanan, Janet Lim-Napoles, Janet Napoles, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, pork barrel scam, pork scam, Ruby Tuason
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