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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, November 7, 2013

Janet Napoles should tell all, as Miriam proposed, as this could help set this hapless country of ours on the earnest road to a moral revolution. Coup plot vs. Drilon fizzles out, as he sat bulldog-like at the hearing, monitoring every word. De Lima promises 2nd and 3rd batches of implicated House reps---but no more senators daw. When? Popular perception of ‘selective justice.’



Today the entire nation was caught between monitoring the path of super-typhoon “Yolanda,” the 24th typhoon to enter the Philippine area of responsibility and following the political storm being kicked up by the much-debated and eagerly-anticipated appearance of Janet Lim Napoles during the six hours of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing. 

“Yolanda” progressed rapidly across Eastern Visayas and the Bicol region but typhoon Napoles turned out to be a dud. Or so it seemed.

Wearing a bullet-proof vest with the word “Pulis” boldly emblazoned across her chest, Napoles, looking quite sedated (to enable her to withstand all the anticipated grilling), appeared alternately disoriented or pained and about to break down and cry, especially when hearing the utterances of once faithful and longtime staffers who had betrayed her.

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But at times Janet seemed hostile, her eyes narrowing and turning steely when seemingly cornered and she didn’t quite know where to turn---especially since the two lawyers provided by the Public Attorney’s Office were new to her. I also thought those eyes narrowed whenever they would focus on Senate President Franklin Drilon sitting across from her.

Drilon sat beside Blue Ribbon chair Teofisto Guingona III and uttered not a word, but keenly monitored the proceedings like a bulldog. The buzz in the Senate was that if Napoles implicated Drilon in some manner---e.g., by admitting that she funneled enormous funds to the Liberal Party---there could be an immediate coup and perhaps Senator Serge Osmena, who has long been moist-eyed about that post, or  Ralph Recto would be ushered in as Senate Chief.

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Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago
But no one dared raise even a spectre of an attack vs. Drilon---even though feisty Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago had raised some hopes about it when she lambasted his gofer and protege, LWUA Chair Rene Villa, who had acted as Napoles’ lawyer and financial adviser for four years.

Miriam exclaimed that she has never seen such a thick bio-data with “unparalleled mediocrity” as Villa’s, whom she termed as “only an OFW masquerading as an international trade lawyer.” That remark reaped the ire of OFWs around the world, but failed to unseat Drilon.  

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Napoles refused to admit to anything, as though according to a script (by whom?), and later, upon suggestion of Miriam, simply invoking her right vs. self-incrimination. Just about the only thing she said spontaneously was to express pity for the three senators implicated in her scam (Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla). She also asserted that she couldn’t turn state witness to the scam as “there is NO scam.” 

Those two declarations provoked such gasps of incredulity among the gallery crowds in the packed Senate Session Hall---causing the pages to brandish their “Silence” signs.

But it was when the normally caustic senadora Miriam began to proposition Napoles to turn state witness and tell it all that she looked really attentive. 

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Miriam warned her in uncharacteristic soft tones that “so many senators, congressmen and even cabinet members are feeling murderous and homicidal toward you as you have destroyed their lives and families.” Before you are assassinated, said Miriam, why don’t you tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” in a “perpetuation of testimony” as provided by Rule 134 of the Rules of Court?  If you do that, said the senadora, nothing can happen to you afterwards.

In other words, said she, Napoles can turn state witness and not go to jail.

Napoles was listening intently and though she gave no indication on whether the senator’s counsel was sinking into her, I wouldn’t be surprised if she just might follow Miriam's advise one of these days. Not only because the alternative is, as Miriam stressed, to spend 20 to 40 years in jail (“Pag-labas mo sa bilangguan, 90 years old ka na, kasing tanda na ni Tanda!” she told the 50-year old scam operator), but because she has little to lose at this point.

I hope indeed that Napoles TELLS ALL BUT ALL, as the unvarnished truth about the rotten political system could perhaps usher this hapless country of ours into the beginnings of an earnest revolution in moral values.

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Miriam lectured that one of the five requisites for being allowed to turn state witness is that he or she should not be “the most guilty.” On this score, she said, many think that Napoles cannot qualify as she is the most guilty, being the conceptualizer of the multi-billion PDAF scam. 

But Miriam maintains that Janet is not the most guilty, and one can immediately infer that she believes that the guiltier one or ones are those who invested their pork barrel in Napoles’ scheme of fake NGOs, as endorsed by the solons to the DBM and coursed through the implementing agency of their choice.

It was evident that Miriam was referring to her wedding ninong-turned arch- enemy,  Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, and his cohorts.

Miriam’s insinuation about a scam conspiracy within the Senate led by JPE is debatable and subject to solid proof, but I will agree with her that this sedated woman from Basilan facing the nation today---a high school graduate who began earning a living by setting up a canteen in a military camp with her husband---couldn’t by herself have perfected the incredible syndicate of siphoned PDAFs and fake NGOs that she operated for ten years in Congress.  

This scam needed the collusion of brains that were thoroughly familiar with the executive-legislative ropes, and how these two systems work from within, whom to corrupt and how, etc. These brains need not be senators---they could be just staffers, but highly influential, bold and scheming ones.

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Justice Secretary Leila de Lima was asked pointedly why only three senators and a handful of representatives were implicated in the Napoles scam at this time. She admitted that there are only eight implicated at this point, but that chief whistle-blower Ben-Hur Luy had listed about 30 in a “second batch” that needed “some cleaning” as it involved items that look much like PDAFs but could actually be only referring to “congressional insertions,” another dog altogether.

De Lima said that the second batch could involve some 10-15 members of the House---no more senators to be implicated from hereon! Totoo ba?---while the “third batch” will involve “non-PDAF.”

An alert friend of mine read De Lima’s phrase about “some cleaning” as a slip-up that meant the list has to be sanitized first by the Palace, much like the COA special audit report of 2007-2009 that Chief Grace Pulido-Tan submitted to Malacanang first before making it public.  

De Lima also noted that COA was having some difficulty looking into the years preceding 2007-2009.

But the question that agitates many at this point is, what about 2010-2013?  Why is this taking so long when these are the current years?  No wonder there’s the popular perception of “selective justice.”


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