The Napoles bombshell

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I AM consistent with my view on how to treat businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. My thinking has always been that if government wants to get to the bottom of the multi-billion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), it should work to have Napoles turn state witness.

I raised this point despite the stance of legal experts that Napoles could not qualify as state witness because she is supposedly one of the principals in the scam. Indeed, some media reports tagged her as the “PDAF scam mastermind,” a phrase I have refused to use in my columns.

In weighing the guilt of the PDAF scam participants, I consider the lawmakers who had their PDAF “laundered” by Napoles as the guiltiest, as they were the ones who took the money from public coffers, betraying the people’s trust in them. Also, they pocketed the bigger share of the loot.

Napoles and his group, which included the PDAF scam whistle-blowers like Benhur Luy, were mere conduits of a scam that began and ended with the lawmakers. Napoles and her people profited from the transactions they made, true, but they could not have enriched themselves without the lawmakers doing the pilfering. These lawmakers committed the original sin.

Of course, there are legal hurdles that Napoles has to go through before she is accepted as state witness. But I believe the hurdles were erected to ensure that truth, not lies, will come out of the testimonies of witnesses. These were not meant to scuttle the quest for truth.

I am reiterating this view because of reports that Napoles had “softened” before she would undergo operation to remove myoma from her uterus at the Ospital ng Makati. She talked for around five hours with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima starting at 10 p.m.

Monday until 3 a.m. yesterday. Napoles was with her lawyer Bruce Rivera.

“She was tearful when she saw me, she was clutching a rosary,” de Lima said in a press conference yesterday afternoon.

Apparently, Napoles had a change of heart several months after she testified before a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing and littered her testimony with denials and invocation of her right against self-incrimination. She sought out de Lima so she could tell all she knew.

De Lima has refused to narrate the details of her conversation with Napoles but she confirmed that the latter had spilt the beans on Sens. Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla and, obviously, other additional names. Napoles also executed an affidavit.

Now, that’s the real bombshell I have been waiting for. De Lima said that a team from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is set to follow-up her talk with Napoles and get more details from her about the scam. These will be evaluated further as to their veracity.

With Napoles’s testimony, I am sure more lawmakers and government functionaries will be implicated in the scam. Additional details about how the scam was perpetrated will also surface. Other scammers who have so far evaded exposure are jittery now.

I expect objections to Napoles becoming a state witness to also surface. So-called experts of the law will be debating on the matter in the coming days. Some of them will be honest with their opinions while the others will have dubious agenda, including preventing the truth about this mother of all pork barrel scams from coming out.

But many people will be happy with this turn of events. In the past, we were merely given a glimpse of the corruption that has bedeviled our brand of governance. This is the first time in recent memory that an entire scam involving billions of pesos is being unraveled before our very eyes. How we will proceed from here is the next best question.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 23, 2014.

Opinion

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