published in The Philippine Online Chronicles, Saturday, 19 April 2014
A week or two ago, I was watching a late-night gag show, Banana Split, whilst waiting to be overcome with sleep. A segment in the show, however, was enough to pull me from my half-dozed state as it negated claims that the Filipino public is generally apathetic.
There was a portion in said show wherein one of the hosts did ambush interviews with random people on the streets, asking them the question, “Kakanta na raw si Napoles, ano’ng masasabi mo? (They’re saying that Napoles will do a tell-all, what have you got to say?)” To my surprise, none of the masa interviewed were clueless as to what the host was talking about. Nay. In fact, all of them had their own opinions on the matter, from the fishball vendor to the parlorista to the otherwise middle-class-looking kolehiyala.
In gist, apart from the innuendos and comedic anecdotes tailor-fitted for the gag show format, all of them had a common response: “Mabuti naman kung kakanta siya. Dapat matagal na niyang ginawa. (Good. She should have done that a long time ago.)”
Needless to say, that one segment stuck to mind only to be later over-shadowed by the revelation of several versions of so-called Napolists that brought the whole pork barrel scam to a whole new, and much more complex, dimension. I was assigned by my editor to write a piece on a “wish list for Janet Lim Napoles” in light of the disclosure of various lists of alleged politician-benefactors of the pork barrel scam. After much thought, thanks to the Banana Split episode, here is what I came up with:
Just one wish. By all means, Napoles, do a tell-all.
Do not miss a thing. Do not let any piece of the lechon go to waste, so to speak. Identify all who partook. Corroborate your tell-all with substantive and legally-viable evidence. Make them sweat, crash and burn. Be merciless and leave no one out. No one, regardless of political affiliations or powerful positions in society. The public has the right to know. The Filipino people are clever enough to see through whatever you have to say. They can tell right from wrong, lie from truth. Pandora, open your box.
BUT please do not for one second fantasize that the Filipino people will accept you as a state witness. No way. Remember when you first appeared before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee? You had your chance then, but you blew it by perjuring yourself. So anything you have to say now will be subject to tight scrutiny and assessment by no less than the most astute general Filipino public.
Which brings us back to the story of the “Napolists”.
We are now aware of the existence of at least five lists – Ping Lacson’s, Benhur Luy’s, Atty. Banigod’s, Sandra Cam’s, and two more which Pres. BS Aquino himself claims to have seen. How should we view these lists?
The general sentiment is that the lists, notwithstanding their cryptic contents, are meant to sow confusion especially if taken into account the timing by which they were one by one revealed. If anything, each and all lists now seem suspect and unreliable given the circumstances by which they were presented, not to mention who presented which list and his or her motives for doing so.
If we are to do a simple deduction, we are now being led to deem that at least 16 senators, 82 congressmen, top military officials, at least one Supreme Court justice, influential media people, showbiz personalities and hundreds of others have benefited from the pork barrel scam. Is this too hard to believe? No. After all, it is no secret that Philippine government is an intricate web of lies, deception and corruption.
De Lima says that she has been loathe to reveal the contents of Napoles’ list because it won’t be “fair”, that those included in the list all deserve to be given due process and only those proven guilty should be named. The problem with De Lima’s “dilemma” is that it is not a question of judicial, or even moral, ethics. As the head of the Justice Department, she could have revealed the list the moment she got hold of it and in the process preempted accusations that the list is now being “sanitized” to protect administration allies. Worse, the DOJ through de Lima’s conflicting statements, now appears to be inclined into making Napoles a state witness.
Lacson says that the contents of the list he acquired from Napoles’ husband will “destroy the Senate”, but that he would be more than willing to comply if the Senate Blue Ribbon committee summons him and asks him to name names, administration allies included. Hurrah for Lacson! He now holds the ace in his sleeve, and could just have bagged the Liberal Party vote for standard-bearer in the 2016 elections. His standing is further supported by insinuations that he and Cam may just be holding similar lists.
For its part, Malacanang is trying to play righteous indignant but is hardly succeeding in pulling it off. Pres. BS Aquino’s claim that he saw two lists prior, and coming out just now when every Tom, Dick and Harry are free to claim that they have THE list, is nothing but a major boo-boo. What comes to mind is a flashback of then Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye holding two copies of the “Hello Garci” CD, one he claimed was authentic and one fake, and saying that then Pres. Arroyo was a victim of illegal wire-tapping while she was speaking with a certain “Gary” and not Garci. He then went on to warn the media that whoever played the “fake” tape on air would be sanctioned. What did this poor attempt at a cover-up earn Malacanang then? Nothing but a half-hearted publicly televised “I am sorry”.
Luy’s list, on the other hand, while appearing to be the most detailed and properly-documented, has now become “just another list” because the Philippine Daily Inquirer, who claims to have had a copy since early April, has also chosen to come out just now – muddling things even more when we now have an abundance of lists while their sources are presently clawing at each others’ throats on whose list should be given the time of day.
The people are clamoring for a release of the Napolist, at this point any list, because as mentioned above the Filipino public can discern. Give any and all included in any of the lists their days in court or any other proper proceedings. Heck, charge them all if need be. We have enough denials and statements coursed through the media, but none, apart from three senators, have been thoroughly investigated.
So allow me to tweak the theme of this piece a bit. I have but one wish for Napoles, but have five other wishes for the Filipino people in light of this Napolist brouhaha:
- That Sec. De Lima does good her promise and not sanitize the list. IF it hasn’t been yet. Sen. Jinggoy Estrada made a sound point when he said that de Lima, on her own volition and good judgment, does not have to wait for the Senate to compel her to divulge. If she wants to restore the public’s faith on how the DOJ is handling the pork barrel scam, all she has to do is reveal the list now and direct all concerned agencies to do their jobs.
- That administration allies included in the list, namely, Sec. Abad, Sec. Alacala, and yes, Pres. BS Aquino, be investigated and given prompt action by the Ombudsman and the Senate Blue Ribbon Committe with the same quick resolution that found probable cause to charge Tanda, Pogi and Sexy with plunder and graft and corruption.
- That, once and for all, ALL pork barrel be abolished. Especially the trillion-peso-worth presidential pork. We did not even get so much as an “I am sorry” yet the president and his Cabinet are still free to enjoy their pork and eat it too. Pres. BS Aquino should be made accountable for his P1.3 trillion pork barrel funds and the illegal P173 billion Disbursement Acceleration Program.
- In light of the former, that we cease to simply accept the misnomer that Napoles was the “mastermind” of the pork barrel scam. At best, she was an enabler, a middle-man. But she couldn’t have done it so blatantly and massively without the protection and blessing of those who are further up the food chain. Napoles was hardly THE mastermind. We have a president who, despite considerable public clamor, is still stubbornly refusing to give up his pork. Ponder on that.
- Lastly, that the Napolists serve their one noble purpose – to make the Filipino people realize how endemic and systemic corruption is in the Philippines. Politics has long been considered a big lucrative business by politicians and the ruling class alike, at the expense of good governance and the people’s welfare. If the release of all Napolists should create an irreversible damage in the very system that created it, and in the process change it, then so be it.
The people in the streets are ready for change. Ask the parlorista. ###