The first is: Should the Napoles list, or “Napolist” as everybody calls it now, be made public?
Ping Lacson of course warned against it last week and did so again over the weekend. You make the “Napolist” public, he said, and the Senate could collapse.
Not at all.
I agree that we should exercise some caution in this respect. Janet Napoles is not exactly the most credible person on earth. “Ang sinungaling ay kapatid ng magnanakaw,” as Susan Roces reminded her countrymen during the pit of the “Hello Garci” scandal, and the opposite is just as true, “Ang magnanakaw ay kapatid ng sinungaling.” Napoles is fighting for her life, a situation that is double-edged: She can be both incandescently honest and murkily deceitful, depending on what she perceives as her self-interest.
But that downside is more than offset by the upside.
One, and at the very least, keeping the list away from public view is counterproductive in so far as sparing the senators from a rush to judgment by the public once their names are officially revealed goes. Their identities are pretty much known already, courtesy of Lacson himself. And in any case you can’t really hide anything in this country, even coups are known well in advance. There’s very little to expect by way of a spectacular revelation. It’s just a question of getting it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Not making the Napoles list public is what’s going to make the public rush to judgment. It’s the one thing that’s guaranteed to give rise to speculation, rumor, gossip, quite apart from deliberate smear jobs in the social media, about who else is on the list. Or how far the rut goes.
So long as the list is kept away from the public eye, so long will that public suspect government wants to sanitize it first. Napoles is in the custody of government, and she can always be persuaded to see that her self-interest does not lie in being adamant about pinning down government allies. Or dwelling too much on the extent of her dealings with them. Butch Abad is among those reported to be on the list.
Two, so what if the Senate collapses under the weight of the accusations against its members? A fear that suggests the rut is fearfully extensive—Lacson himself counts 21 past and present senators in the combined Napoles and Benhur Luy lists. A Senate that cannot explain this scale of perfidy in a way that satisfies the public has no right to stay standing. It deserves to collapse.
Which is better for the governed, the constituents, the citizenry—that they have no Senate or a collapsed or barely existent one than that they have one that remains standing but is dedicated to depriving them of their substance? Lest we forget, the Senate is there to make laws, not dispel them. I personally wouldn’t mind not having a Senate or an impotent one than having one we constantly have to guard against.
Three, but who says the Senate will naturally collapse if it is found out that Napoles’ tentacles extended far beyond Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla? The Senate is more than the individual senators, the Senate is more than the sum of its parts.
The notion that the Senate will collapse because a great many, if not indeed most, of the senators are embroiled in the Napoles scandal is just a variation of Louis IV’s absolutist “l’etat c’est moi,” or “I am the state.” The current President is not the state, the current senators are not the Senate. The state will continue long after P-Noy is gone, the Senate will continue long after the individual senators—particularly the ones embroiled in the Napoles scandal—are gone.
The Senate will remain standing, however it will be tremendously enfeebled. Until such time as the next elections come along and we can get rid of its miserable members. They still manage to be there afterward and we richly deserve to have them.
The second question is: Should we allow Napoles to become a state’s witness?
A variation of it, yes.
The conventional wisdom, expressed by Miriam Santiago and others, is not at all, you cannot make the guiltiest party to a crime a state’s witness, only the least of them. Napoles is by no means the least guilty here. But I don’t know why we can’t strike a deal that gives her a commuted sentence and some degree of immunity, without prejudice of course to recovering what she stole from us.
It’s the only way you can persuade her to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help all those she will name as coconspirators. It will be the cornerstone of her self-interest. Otherwise, why would she agree to incriminate herself, along with everyone she would name?
It doesn’t fly in the face of the proscription against the guiltiest turning state’s witness. I go back to a proposition I’ve maintained from Day One. Napoles is not the guiltiest party here, even if she was probably the one who got the most money out of it. The lawmakers are, the public officials are. Napoles is only guilty of grand larceny, the public officials are guilty of high treason. Napoles is guilty only of thieving and looting, the public officials are guilty of betraying the public trust. Napoles is guilty only of lifting other people’s wallets on the streets, the public officials are guilty of carousing with money left behind by an impoverished relative for his son’s tuition.
Gravity is not just measured by quantity, it is also measured by quality. No, Napoles is not the guiltiest party here. She is not the one who deserves unqualified damnation here. Jailing Napoles and throwing away the key will only give a lesson in the value of honesty; doing the same thing to the wayward public officials will give a lesson in the meaning of public service.
About time that meaning was grasped.
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.