Lawmakers are suddenly shy
Members of Congress have suddenly become shy with the appearance of more and more names of lawmakers, Cabinet secretaries, and other government officials in the lists of public servants who allegedly received kickbacks from Janet Lim Napoles, the purported mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam. Public servants who used to covet invitations to media forums now turn down these invitations intended to give them an opportunity to defend themselves. They are content with issuing press statements in their defense, which are dutifully published by media outlets—but they do not want to be questioned by journalists at press forums.
What is the reason for this sudden shyness? Is it an indication of guilt?
If it is, then former senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr. is not guilty even though his name appears in one of the lists because he readily accepts invitations to these media forums and does not mind being grilled by journalists. He readily agreed to be a guest at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last May 19 after appearing at the forum at Annabel’s on May 17. With him at the Kapihan was Capt. Maricar Taquedan, the spokesperson of the Quezon City Police Department, which is now very much in the news because of the recent shooting spree in Fairview in which at least five persons were killed by two men on a motorcycle. A number of suspects have since been arrested by the QCPD but the alleged gunman is still at large.
Nene Pimentel was asked: “Couldn’t your name, Aquilino Pimentel Jr., have been confused with that of your son, Sen. Koko Pimentel, whose real name is Aquilino Pimentel III?”
“I don’t know,” the father answered. “But Koko himself has denied any involvement with Napoles or the pork barrel scam and has in fact filed libel charges against those who published his name in the list.”
“Have you had any dealings in the past with Napoles?”
Pimentel: “None whatsoever. I have never met her, never talked to her, never had anything to do with her. Neither has any of my staff members.”
“Why then is your name in Benhur Luy’s list?” According to whistle-blower Luy’s digital records, in 2003 and 2004, Nene Pimentel funneled his PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), or pork barrel, to Napoles’ nongovernment organizations and received cash advances totaling P76 million in cash and checks, all received by a Mon Arcenas between Sept. 9, 2003, and Nov. 6, 2003. Luy’s entry also showed that a check was delivered to “the Senate.”
Pimentel: “I said I don’t know. This Mon Arcenas was never in my employ. He called me after the list was published and told me that he never got any money or check from Napoles or any of her NGOs.”
“Did you allocate any [portion] of your PDAF to any of Napoles’ NGOs?”
Pimentel: “No. And the records will show that. You can check the records of the [Department of Budget Management] and the Senate.”
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Captain Taquedan was asked why Quezon City has become, first, “the carnap capital of the Philippines” and now “the murder capital of the Philippines.”
She answered that cases of car theft have been reduced in Quezon City through the efforts of the QCPD, and that the city is no longer a car theft capital.
As for the killings that occurred early on May 11, Taquedan pointed out that Quezon City has the biggest territory and population in the whole Philippines yet its police department does not have enough personnel.
“Barangay Holy Spirit, a squatter colony, has one of the highest crime rates in the country. Why did not the QCPD assign more policemen there?”
Taquedan: “Quezon City has many squatter colonies with high crime rates. The reason is that many criminal elements take shelter in these squatter colonies. We know that, but the city police force is spread too thin to be able to assign enough policemen to all of them. We try to make up for the lack of manpower by establishing checkpoints.”
“But the criminals know where those checkpoints are and they just go around them.”
Taquedan: “We move the checkpoints around every few nights to keep the criminals guessing.”
“Since many [killings] are being done by motorcyclists riding tandem, are not the police thinking of prohibiting motorcyclists from carrying passengers?”
Taquedan: “Policemen only implement the laws. If Congress passes a law prohibiting the practice of riding tandem, then we will implement that.”
“What about the helmets? The helmets hide the identities of the killers.”
Taquedan: “Again, if Congress passes a law prohibiting motorcyclists from using helmets, we will implement that, too. But helmets also protect motorcyclists in case of accidents.”
“There are admittedly too many guns in the hands of Filipinos. The Gunless Society has suggested that the carrying of guns be limited only to lawmen in uniform. What do you think of that?”
Taquedan: “The police are in favor of that. It will make our work that much easier. We would like it very much if Congress would pass a law to that effect.”
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