Difficult to be the President-A A +A
Saturday, August 31, 2013
IF President Aquino had, after being informed that fugitive Janet Lim Napoles was willing to surrender but only to him, refused to meet her, people would have said that he was not interested in finding the truth or, worse, that he wanted to hide it.
If, after having been spurned by the President, something untoward happened to Napoles, people would have seen his hand in it. He wanted her eliminated in order to protect his friends, they’d say.
If, after having surrendered to him in Malacañang, Aquiino had let the usual process take its course and something untoward happened to Napoles, people would have blamed the President for not assuring the fugitive’s safety, if not for putting her in harm’s way.
It is difficult to be the President.
People say that Aquino cut a deal with Napoles so that she would not rat on his allies and train her guns only on the opposition.
If the President wanted her silence, was there a need for him to buy it? Wouldn’t it have served the purpose if he had refused to see her and let her hide forever, assuming that those whose interests are best served if she were silenced permanently would not find her?
Assuming that the President was able to secure Napoles’ vow to spare his partymates, what is his guarantee that she would not renege on it? The promise of being discharged as a state witness? But that is not within the President’s power, however vast it is. Only the Sandiganbayan can make that call.
Note that Aquino will be President only up to June 30, 2016. If, as widely believed, many others will be indicted with Napoles, including senators and congressmen, it will take, at the very least, five years for the Sandiganbayan to render a verdict. There are just too many motions that a smart lawyer can make to delay the proceedings. Some of these incidents will probably go up all the way to the Supreme Court.
After June 30, 2016, why would Napoles keep the vow of silence that she made to Aquiino, if such has been made? If she had to go down, what would keep her from dragging the others along with her?
On the other hand, dead men (and women) tell no tales. What better guarantee is there that Napoles would not be able to tell the truth about the pork barrel – a truth that could be inconvenient to some of the President’s friends – than to wipe her off the face of the earth?
So why is the President moving heaven and earth to preserve her? Why does he want to keep Napoles safe, to the point that he had to accompany her to Camp Crame where she was detained on the first night after her surrender?
Has it occurred to us that the President may really be interested in finding the truth, regardless of who gets hurt and, hopefully, is sent to jail?
There are people who think the President can never do wrong. There are also people to whom the President is never right. Shouldn’t we be past our 2010 election hangover by now?
The conviction of colleague Leo Lastimosa for libel is a sad development, especially when you consider that in a few weeks, we will be marking Press Freedom Week. But the decision is not yet final. Leo lost only the first round. If an error has been made, I’m sure the reviewing courts will be able to spot it.
In the meantime, we should not let the conviction dampen our enthusiasm to seek the truth or cow us from making critical comments on the behavior of public men.
To quote Justice Holmes in Abrams vs. U.S., “we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 01, 2013.