The calculated chaos created by the proliferation of lists alleging the participation of various lawmakers in the billion-peso pork barrel scam will grow even more complicated this week, when reputed mastermind Janet Lim Napoles releases her second affidavit—the second, that is, since she changed her mind and admitted her involvement in the scam.
But there has been a discernible pushback in the last few days; more and more people are airing skepticism about the lists (numbering six, as of last count), and wondering what the sudden harvest—the lists have “sprouted like mushrooms in the middle of a stormy night,” wryly noted columnist Randy David—really signifies. David argued that there was a need to understand “at least three perspectives … at work in the ongoing public conversation.” (He was referring to the legal, the political, and the journalistic.) We wish to offer a related prism, or lens, through which we can find clarity in all the confusion.
That is to ask a vital question: Who benefits?
Who benefits from the confusion created by the profusion of lists? Three possible answers: those implicated in the scam who argue that they had been unfairly singled out, because “everyone does it” anyway; those who have an interest in further blurring the line between legal and illegal, between right and wrong; not least, those who want to redirect public outrage away from a few politicians to the entire political class.
Who benefits from Napoles’ graduated release of damning information? One answer: Napoles herself.
Consider the information that she is about to release a second affidavit, after the one prepared during her hospital-bed interview with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. (She had previously denied her involvement or indeed any knowledge of the scam in a freewheeling exchange at the Inquirer offices and during her first appearance at the Senate blue ribbon committee.)
Now lawyer Bruce Rivera has said in a radio interview that Napoles will release a more “specific” affidavit, with more names implicated, by Wednesday or Thursday this week. An interesting disclosure, made even more remarkable by the following startling contradictions in his statements.
First, the first list (which De Lima submitted to Sen. Teofisto Guingona III under pain of contempt, and which Guingona released to the media) was insufficiently substantiated and therefore hearsay. “Initially,” Rivera said, “we never intended to show the list, until we are ready with everything. Because of course it is irresponsible… on our part [that] we will be dragging people’s names to the melee and then we cannot even substantiate that. It’s just pure hearsay.” (But he contradicts himself later by saying the list had “110 notes.”) So which is it? Hearsay or documented evidence?
Second: The first list was given to ex-senator Panfilo Lacson as a form of “insurance” or “protection” for Napoles. Rivera did not explain how a list he had himself just described as incomplete, not ready, mere hearsay, could protect Napoles. Does Lacson’s copy of the list carry the notes too? And if the source were the same, why is Lacson’s list different in parts from the one Napoles gave to De Lima?
Third, Napoles apparently wrote her second and third affidavits based on the records she kept, but were these records with her in her Fort Sto. Domingo cell? No, Rivera said. “She stashed it away [in] a safe place.” At another point in the interview, he said: Napoles “has her own way of keeping the records.”
So, we ask again: Who benefits from all this?
By all means, let Napoles name even more names in her second affidavit. We do not suggest stopping the flow of information, even if some or most of it is designed to be disinformation. That is democracy’s price. The Inquirer is currently engaged in an attempt to make sense of whistle-blower Benhur Luy’s digital records; inevitably, that means culling together lists from the data base. We do so in the knowledge that the contents of Luy’s records and notes and his generally credible and corroborated testimony are verifiable—that is, their truthfulness can be tested. Can the same be said of Napoles’ mysterious records? If yes, then we know the public will benefit. But if not, well, who benefits from squid tactics?
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