It ain’t over-A A +A
The Point Being
Friday, August 30, 2013
YOU know the saying that goes “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings”. I’ve always found that colloquialism funny (Who is this lady? Why is it specified that she is fat? And what’s with the singing?) but it feels apropos in light of recent events.
Yes, Janet Napoles, the alleged mastermind in the P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, has surrendered mid-week to no less than the President of the country. But the pork barrel issue, which undeniably is fatty, is far from over until well, she sings and spills the truth. And not just her.
At the outset it needs to be said in no uncertain terms, that this is not a slur against fat people, the ranks of which include me. To my chagrin, I am at this point in my life well cushioned in all places. But I digress.
Set against the backdrop of loud criticisms over the past weeks and the mobilizations across the country on National Heroes Day, the surfacing of Napoles after she went into hiding deserves comment, and not just because she ran circles around the NBI. It has been pointed out that the manner of the surrender, and the possibility that she would turn state witness, are the elements that make the development less a triumph of law and more the spin of a showbiz-inspired stunt.
After all, how many fugitives can claim the honor of surrendering to and being escorted by no less than the highest official of the land and then being turned over to another official who has made no secret about his aspirations to be the next President in 2016? Other whistleblowers did not receive such courtesy and even got cases filed against them. Was Wednesday’s surrender an ill-advised publicity stunt or is Napoles’ reach really that deep and high that it goes all the way to and taints the offices surrounding the Presidency?
Suspicions abound that agreements are being brokered over who would and would not be spared by the much-anticipated interrogation of Napoles. The fear is that the detention of the prime suspect in the most dramatic political patronage scandal would only result in the further entrenchment of political patronage as complicit parties scramble to negotiate with the new handlers of Napoles to avoid being dragged into the investigation mess. Whereas before the PDAF funds became the instrument for securing compliance, now the political operators are trading in innocence as currency.
Another danger is that the investigation against specific public officials could be perceived as an attack against the institution, against government, itself and there would be a closing of ranks in defense of it. Already, that reasoning has been heard in the argument “If you abolish the pork barrel, you might as well abolish Congress”. It is possible that that logic would be expanded to “If you prosecute key executive and legislative officials linked to Napoles, you could be putting the PNoy administration and government itself at risk.” Because that scenario is a bogeyman for many, it could lead to the execution of an elaborate script where only a token few dispensable actors are prosecuted but with all the rest getting away scot-free.
The point of the singing fat lady colloquialism is that “one should not presume to know the outcome of an event that is still in progress” (Wikipedia) hence the need for citizens to stay informed and to keep the pressure on so that the Napoles scam does not end up in hogwash, este whitewash.
Wikipedia goes on to say that the colloquial phrase also refers to the final twenty-minute aria of Brunhilde, who is usually depicted as a curvaceous and well-endowed lady, in the Wagnerian opera Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). The song signals the end of the world of the Norse gods, thus literally for them it is over when the fat lady sings.
If only the aria of Napoles would signal the end of a much detested era in Philippine politics. But if the Philippine political gods already got to her, then the song is just going to be part of an entertainment routine played out on the national stage. A show meant to pacify and distract us from pursuing the bigger task of laying to rest the world of political patronage, corruption, dynasties, elitism and warlordism, and inaugurating a more transparent, accountable, representative and participatory Philippine political system.
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Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 31, 2013.