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.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How true is it that some lawyers are selling exclusions from Luy and Janet files for a fee? Two scenarios with enormous impact: the Thailand scenario and reprised Hyatt-10. COA Chief Pulido Tan admits---finally---before JBC that she has the 2010-2013 PDAF special report, but where is it? Talk of SC’s coming ruling on DAP as unconstitutional and how this could encourage filing of an impeachment complaint vs. P-Noy.

There is indication that despite the epic proportion of the  PDAF scandals and bogus NGOs, citizens won’t see justice rendered. Chances are, this issue that has destroyed the moral fabric of the nation as few have in our history won’t see anyone in jail and litigations, if any, would drag on for years. Why do I say this?

Look at the denials all over the place from those implicated in the scams. The senators and representatives involved exhibit sound and fury which signify nothing. Show us the proof, they all shout, bring out Janet Napoles' red book, but the more proof the louder their denial.

The Palace---at whose door the scam has come knocking following allegations about the activities of the “Tres Marias” and Napoles’ claim that former Batanes Rep. Florencio Abad had mentored her in setting up bogus NGO recipients of pork barrel---has circled the wagons. It has pooh-poohed both Napoles’ list and whistle-blower Ben Hur Luy’s files as “meaningless.”


But if these lists and files are meaningless, how come rumors abound in coffee shops and media circles that a number of lawyers close to the dispenser of justice, Secretary Leila de Lima, are in the brisk business of editing the files of Napoles and Luy for a fat fee. Recall recent stories that Luy’s hard disk files exhibited editing of certain personalities, but that the NBi, in whose custody these files had remained for weeks and months, were able to “restore” them.

As a result of the confusion arising from disclosures of the PDAF scams and fake NGOs and the administration’s tendency to protect its errant elements instead of letting it all out and punish the corrupt whoever they are, the people have become quite confused and cynical of possible positive results. And in their current mood, what is worrisome is that some sectors might just take advantage of the prevailing anger and despair that they could actually grab power.


There are two scenarios that are leaving some sectors worried. One is the fact that the grab of power by the Thai military could inspire elements here to imitate that model---sans the King's blessing. Through the various decades of political crisis in our country, I, along with all those who believe in civilian supremacy at all times, personally have never entertained the military option--- despite the fact that I was married for many years to a military man (who never believed in that option either---perhaps because he realized the grave dangers of such rule).

But I fear that this possibility could become a temptation if the civilian sector remains lethargic and fails to pursue the demands justice, truth and honest reforms in government.  We in the civilian sector must explore all means possible to resolve the impasse in our political life---lest we face an even greater problem from a messianic group. 

One way is to encourage as widely as possible citizen participation in writing a NEW CONSTITUTION that learns from the mistakes of our current Charter. I fully support the initiatives of Chief Justice Reynato Puno and my good friend Chit Pedrosa in BayanKo.


The other scenario--- and this is said to truly worry this administration---is the possibility of a reprised Hyatt 10 scenario. Of course the original Hyatt 10 members who resigned from the Arroyo administration in 2005 ostensibly because of its corruption are now deeply embedded in this current administration and---ironically enough---have become the major source of trouble and headaches for the ineffective President.  

I discussed this possibility of a Hyatt 10-2 scenario with some thoughtful pundits and they felt this is remote, given that the original members of that breakaway group from the Arroyo administration are now enjoying the perks of power and office of the current regime. To name a few, there's Senate President Franklin Drilon (who's said to be aspiring for the Presidency in 2016 in case Mar Roxas’ candidacy fails to fly), Butz Abad, Dinky Soliman, Cesar Purisima and his protégé, COA Chair Grace Pulido Tan who’s now aspiring earnestly to replace retired Justice Robert Abad in the Supreme Court. 


Speaking of Pulido Tan, in the recent public forum sponsored by the Judicial and Bar Council for applicants to the SC vacancy, she admitted that COA now has its special report covering 2010-2013, the first half of the P-Noy administration. Recall that the COA special report covering 2007-2009 first came out last year---which sensationalized the finding about the three prominent opposition leaders who supposedly grabbed the bigger pork allocations in those years and channeled them to bogus NGOs (namely, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla). The first reaction of many citizens after their initial shock at its mind-boggling data was, when would the 2010-2013 report come out?


COA promised to step up the investigation into the succeeding years, but its second report has not come out until now. This pussyfooting has prompted critics to assert that there is a deliberate attempt by the administration, through the supposedly constitutionally independent COA, to canal corruption findings only to the opposition---in an effort to destroy them in preparation for the 2016 elections.  

Subsequently, a report leaked out in media about a supposed Malacanang directive to concentrate on the opposition only. This tallies with recent news report about COA Chief Pulido-Tan’s possession of its 2010-2013 PDAF report, which she has failed to make public until now.


Very related to this issue is talk in media circles about a forthcoming much-awaited SC decision to rule on the constitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), said to be a brainchild of DBM Secretary Abad. DAP refers to unspent monies of the executive department that were allegedly channeled to the legislative department as incentive for quick and favorable action on various issues. Prominent among them were the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012 (is it true that each of the eight senators in JPE’s bloc got P100 million each in the last critical days of that trial?), and the passage of the controversial pet bill of P-Noy, the RH bill. 

Both pros and antis argued on the legality of DAP months ago and reports say the SC ruling should be forthcoming any time now. There’s rumors that SC voting would be 8-6 against DAP’s constitutionality, but there are also reports about the administration frantically wooing a couple of justices retiring in a year or two to quit NOW, so that P-Noy could appoint more jurists of his confidence.  

One offshoot of a strong SC vote vs. DAP would be that some sectors would be emboldened to file a case for impeachment of the President with the House because he used an illegally sourced fund. It’s entirely possible that an impeachment resolution would be thrown out even at the justice committee level only---given the House’s subservience. But some analysts maintain that that such motion, though unsuccessful, could still deliver the message with full impact that P-Noy’s time is up, and that clearly panahon na for system change.

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