Mere ‘palabas’

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Saturday, February 15, 2014


LET'S make this clear. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam is in aid of legislation. The least the committee can do is to recommend to government investigative and prosecutorial bodies the prosecution of those involved in the scam.

The scam has already been investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Cases for plunder and violation of the anti-graft law have been filed before the Ombudsman against those involved.

Thus for me, the Senate investigation is a waste of time, effort and government funds. It’s just a mere “palabas” for some senators to get publicity mileage.

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What possible pieces of legislation can Congress formulate out of this? We already have enough laws against plunder and graft and yet only few corrupt government officials and politicians have been convicted. Most of those who pocketed government funds have remained free. Many of them are in Congress.

So what happened to those high-profile cases that Congress had investigated, like rice smuggling, the fertilizer scam, and anomalies in the police and military organizations? Nothing?

Admittedly, we are amazed by the Senate probe, especially on the revelations by “credible” witnesses and whistleblowers like Ruby Tuason.

If we are to believe Tuason, we can say that Sen. Jinggoy Estrada is guilty of receiving kickbacks from his pork barrel funds channeled through the fake non-government organizations put up by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind.

Tuason, former social secretary of ousted president Joseph Estrada, told senators she personally delivered to Jinggoy his “share,” which amounted to between P8 to P10 million from his pork barrel channeled through Napoles’s NGOs.

She also claimed to have contacted Gigi Reyes, former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, who received the money. Tuason, though, said she did not have direct contact with Enrile.

Some senators described Tuason as a credible witness. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who has a conflict with Enrile, described Tuason as a perfect witness.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the committee, said that if it was a basketball game, Tuason’s testimony was a three-point shot. “That was not only a buzzer beater but was a winning shot,” he said.

Bothered by her conscience and for fear that she might be jailed if she won't be granted immunity from suit by turning state witness, Tuason admitted her direct participation in the pork barrel scam as one of the contacts of Napoles. She is even willing to return to the government the share she got from the deal.

But can Tuason’s and the whistleblowers’ testimonies pin down those involved in the scam like Enrile, Estrada, Bong Revilla and Napoles? Can their testimonies stand in court once the hearings start? That remains to be seen.

In this early said stage, what we have is just a case of “she said, he said.” There’s no concrete and documentary pieces of evidence that would really prove their claims.

Jinggoy dismissed Tuason's claim saying he only released his pork barrel funds to government agencies that acted as conduit of the program.

I am not a fan of Enrile, Estrada and Revilla. I even want them jailed. But I doubt if they will be pinned down and put to jail. The criminal cases filed against them will take several years to decide. And if God forbid, Vice President Jejomar Binay wins the presidency in 2016, I am afraid that all these cases will be “gone with the wind.”

Ingna kog bakakon. Mahug ni sa bung-aw dayon katunaw.

(bobby.nalzaro@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 15, 2014.

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