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Wrapped in Grey
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
I HAVE a suspicion that the Pork Barrel Scam was a media plan gone wrong or gone right depending on which political camp you belong.
As an observer of how news are made and propagated, big issues do not come out in the open by chance. There are always political and economic interests that shape the flavor and tenor of information toward certain ends.
And this long meandering story of the Napoleses, the PDAF, involving both Houses of Congress, and for that matter President Benigno Aquino III's "matuwid na daan," is an interesting case study of how various entrenched interests have dipped their hands into its management and yet despite their best efforts and resources still yielded unexpected results.
Remember that whistleblower Benhur Luy was detained against his will by the Napoleses way back in December 2012 but news of his rescue by the NBI on March only surfaced last July this year. According to Jojo Robles, columnist of the Manila Standard, the story broke into a leading broadsheet when NBI agents, afraid for their lives after having seen Pnoy's marginal note favoring Napoles' complaints of harassment, brought Luy's affidavit to a newspaper executive for their protection. Note that there was a lot of time in the interim to stage manage Luy's affidavit and to craft a media plan to direct public opinion. As the paper's expose later revealed, none of the current administration's allies were included in the list of senators and congressmen who benefitted from the Napoles' operation.
The gameplan seemed to be to place media pressure on Napoles and his family so that public anger will be directed at them. The story about the high partying daughter followed suit which fanned public interest and then more recently their fleet of expensive cars and twenty eight mansions.
Then came the anonymous revelations in a blog first posted last August 1 which changed public discourse thoroughly. The effect of the series of comments from someone who seemed to be knowledgeable about the Napoles' modus was to further discredit the Napoleses and to cast the spotlight of the extent of pork barrel corruption on particular political players such as Mar Roxas, JPE, the Estradas, and the Revillas.
It is interesting to note that at this point the original anonymous posts were careful in not mentioning Pnoy and his allies' complicity to the pork barrel scam. It is also curious, however, that their political agenda was revealed to be a call for anarchy of sorts by the time they posted their last comment.
But in an interesting twist of events, the anonymous revelations inspired others to undertake their own research on the issue and even post their own experiences as well as detailing their knowledge about how pervasive the culture of corruption afflicting government is. It seemed that no amount of spin doctoring can contain the issue to just the Napoleses and arrest the people's clamor for change in the political system. And the torrent of information followed by outrage from an engaged public just kept coming.
As a consequence Pnoy's "daang matuwid," the cornerstone of his administration is unravelling at such a pace that all talk of dubious economic gain and his selective anti-corruption showcases for the past three years are now relegated to insignificance. He failed the litmust test when he came out to defend the PDAF recently and for the first time he now faces a serious political crisis.
It does not help that the trail of the PDAF scandal eventually leads to Malacanang since it is has been the preferred tool of the executive branch to assert control over local political fiefdoms. More so, when it has been revealed that Pnoy has his own personal pork barrel amounting to a trillion pesos, more than a third of the 2014 proposed budget which are released only upon his sole discretion. And that he almost tripled the PDAF during his term as compared to the time of the former president, his fave scapegoat.
The recent COA report on problematic PDAF releases was careful in issuing data which covered only the period before Pnoy's administration. However, it showed the possible complicity of even Liberal Party stalwarts and even more congressmen to the scheme as social media pundits have revealed.
The general consensus now among the enraged public is that the whole political establishment is afflicted by this scourge and drastic measures must be undertaken. The Pork Barrel must go and the guilty politicians jailed, that is the cry. In the meantime, the surprising silence of our usual grandstanding politicians and Malacanang speaks volumes about where they are in this debate.
The picture that we can paint so far show the many anonymous hands trying to shape public opinion for their political survival as the stench of the Pork Barrel Scandal follow them whether they be in their municipal office, Congress, and even Malacanang. But the people's clamor for change is formidable and, as the coming days will prove, sharp. Such that they will see beyond the bombs, the spin doctoring smoke screens, and the mirage that is Pnoy and his "matuwid na daan."
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 20, 2013.