Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Was Napoles allowed to escape? It’s now De Lima’s added dilemma, but studied opinions say l'affaire Napoles could also be tipping point for P-Noy. SC Justice Abad’s ‘boiling water’ theory stumps former Rep. Lagman

If in the administrations of Presidents Macapagal Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino, there has been a conspiracy among some members of Congress and Janet Napoles to channel their PDAF to bogus NGOs under a 70-30 sharing scheme, in this reigning regime there could have been a conspiracy among personnel of the Justice Department, as Secretary Leila de Lima is now investigating, security personnel and perhaps even members of Congress to allow this notorious woman to escape arrest.

The query everyone’s now asking: why was the impending arrest ordered by the court publicly announced? As a FB habitué argued, it should have been arrest first and then announcement. This may be because a good number of politicians stand to gain plenty from her disappearance.  


Secretary De Lima, appointed by President Aquino in July 2010, is one of several Cabinet members who have repeatedly failed to get confirmation from the Commission on Appointments (many lost count of how many rebuffs she has faced in the CA). Very soon, however, as Senate President Franklin Drilon, who also heads the CA, said recently, De Lima will again face the CA as obviously the President retains full trust and confidence in her.  

De Lima’s dilemma (to borrow a Manila Standard phrase) is that she was already twisting in the CA at the time when investigation of the P10 billion scam perpetrated by Janet Napoles was being conducted by the NBI under her department. Now that Napoles has flown the coop, De Lima has to answer for this in the CA and to the people. And P-Noy should fire her asap. 

In fact, the nation will be watching what P-Noy would do from hereon---some pundits opine that the Napoles saga could well be the tipping point for him.

My friend, Star columnist Boo Chanco, put it well: "Yes indeed, this pork barrel scam may define the P-Noy presidency. History may remember his watch as the time when public officials were raiding the National Treasury in the tens of billions of pesos and the President considered it as all in a day's work."


Despite enormous public demand, leaders of both chambers of Congress have turned down any investigation of the PDAF scams that have involved past and present members of Congress, and now she’s missing in action. Hence an outraged citizenry appears to have no choice but to press Congress to conduct this inquiry itself.

De Lima has been under tremendous pressure to name names in the pork barrel scandals, and so was Commission on Audit Chair Grace Tan-Pulido---but up to now nothing has come out. Then came the RTC’s order to arrest Napoles---not for masterminding the P10 billion scams, but for illegal detention of her former right-hand man, Benhur Luy who turned witness against her. Even that court order was infirm in itself.

Given this latest crisis in the Napoles saga, it now behooves the citizens of this country and respected institutions to apply pressures on Congress to have the guts to investigate its ranks---if only to get to the bottom of the PDAF mess and undergo its much-needed purgation and catharsis.


But there’s another angle to the pork barrel scams. Now that the Napoles drama has played out for over two weeks already, pundits are beginning to look at the whys and wherefores of how it began. Some analysts are happy that the fertilizer scam of the past administration is meriting a second look, if only to vindicate Marlene Esperat, the journalist who first began poking into it in 2005 and paid for her zeal with her life.

I’ve also heard other pundits opine that this whole mess may have been raked up by a rightist group fearful of the growing power of the Left, so that the former wants to foment trouble with various scandals, in order to preempt the moves of the Left.

Another theory popular earlier was that the Palace blew up this scam in media to cover up for huge un-detailed pork items for the executive department in the 2014 national budget, such as the President's P100 billion from the Malampaya funds. But this theory doesn’t wash, for precisely the PDAF scams opened a can of worms and those executive budget items are now being scrutinized by media and left-wing representatives, more than ever.

All these theories about conflicting conspiracies provide unceasing analyses in cocktail and media circles. The plot thickens.


I have religiously followed three of the four long-winded hearings held by the Supreme Court on the constitutionality or the lack of it of the RH Law and I must say that each hearing is as fascinating for the interplay of personalities and force of arguments as the other. 

Because I missed the third session I was confined only to what was written in media about the verbal skirmish two Tuesdays ago between Solicitor-General Francis Jardaleza, who defended the law, and Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who leads the anti-RH justices. Pro-administration media portrayed Abad as walloped by an arrogant and extremely self-important Sol-Gen, while anti-RH analysts painted Abad, a former Dean of the UST College of Law, as their champion and hero. 


SC Associate Justice Roberto Abad

In last Tueday’s fourth session Justice Abad again grabbed center stage as he tussled with lead RH proponent, former Rep. Edcel Lagman.  Abad came well-prepared and briefed by his anti-RH counsels and he succeeded in getting Lagman, who made a presentation for the first time, quite twisted up on certain aspects of the law. Abad got the former law-maker to admit certain inconsistencies with the earlier testimony of Jardaleza.

Pressed by Abad about the harm that certain contraceptives could render to the fertilized ovum,  Lagman, for instance, was forced to make the stunning declaration that while this “fertilized ovum may  already be a living organism, it is not a human person.”

But what is it then? A mouse?


Carrying the verbal wrangling into the realm of statistics, Lagman pointed out that there were about 84 maternal deaths a year per 100,000 women in 2008 (down from 103 per 100,000 in year 2000); hence, he said, the CONTINUING need for effective contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and subsequent deaths. 

Abad, however, cited adverse effects of some contraceptives such as cancer 1 and bleeding (for IUDs), as acknowledged by the WHO itself, and he put this reality in the perspective of our female population of about 50 million, of which approximately 23 million are of child-bearing age. 

The Justice then raised a valid dilemma. He noted that pro-RH legislators argue that the RH Law would target half of those 23 million child-bearing women, or around 12.2 million, for widespread and intense birth-control campaign. But he queried: what advantage would be gained by pushing contraceptives, such as those with known abortifacient effects and the bleeding-inducing IUD, that could seriously endanger the health of many millions of our women, just so that we can save only a few of them from maternal deaths yearly? 

Isn’t this akin to washing one’s hand in boiling water just to kill some germs? Abad queried.

The magistrate then answered his own question: wouldn’t the many billions the RH Law will make the state spend on contraceptives, whose efficacy is questioned by the WHO itself, be better invested in more hospitals, better facilities (such as ultrasound machines most crucial in early and midway pregnancies---BOC), more adequate training for health personnel and a campaign among married couples to practice various safe methods such as use of condoms ("97% effective"), fertility awareness and even abstinence "that’s '100% effective?' ”

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  1. 1. in this country - powerful people who are to be arrested are given advance notice so they can either check in to a hospital or at the airport.
    2.fertilized ovum - i believe the verdict is still out on this in the medical community.but i guess Abad is more knowledgeable than all the doctors.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. "i believe the verdict is still out on this in the medical community.but i guess Abad is more knowledgeable than all the doctors."

      Nice ad hominem rhetoric but whether Abad is knowledgeable or not, does not diminish the reasonable arguments as challenged by the anti-RH. It was settled by the medical communities but it was changed in 1970s after Roe vs. Wade since it is bad for abortion business.

  2. Indeed, you are right, iamjustjuan, powerful people have an entirely different status from the ordinary citizens. But here's our prayer and hope tht the social and political malady that Janet Napoles represents may never revisit our land again.