GENERAL SANTOS CITY, May 30, 2014 – Lawyer Bruce Rivera has done an excellent job in letting Janet Lim-Napoles take the offensive in the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) or pork barrel scam war. Members of the Congress and Malacañang including President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III are scrambling to mount their defenses.
Since the exposé of the scam on July 12, 2013, Napoles has been under siege. Since August 28, 2013 when she surrendered to President Aquino III after evading arrest for two weeks, she has been under detention. While being detained for serious illegal detention or kidnapping without bail, she has been charged with plunder t in connection with the PDAF scam together with three senators and five others before the Ombudsman. The case being now with the Sandiganbayan, she can be issued an arrest warrant for plunder, also without bail.
The PDAF scam has been affirmed in the audit report of the Commission on Audit. The Supreme Court validated the report and the scam by declaring the PDAF unconstitutional. Napoles’ role as brain of the scam is sustained by ten or so whistle blowers from her JLN Corporation led by her financial officer Benhur Luy, who submitted to the Department of Justice a copy of the computer disk containing JLN transaction from 2002 to 2012. A co-accused in the plunder case is now a state witness. She cannot leave the country nor draw money from banks.
Luy has allowed the Philippine Daily Inquirer to copy his disk. The PDI, in a 13-part serialized special report, published from the 12th of this month the contents of the disk including a list of senators and House representatives who, on record, had participated in the scam.
Rivera must have plotted the counterattack. The only way out for Napoles is to become a state witness with immunity from the crime of plunder. To do this, Napoles succeeded in meeting Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in her hospital suite (she was to have a major operation) last April 22 in the evening. After their five-hour private talk, she gave De Lima her sworn narrative about the scam — her involvement and her own list of lawmakers and their agents involved.
De Lima did not commit to have her turn into a state witness. However, whether she will be or not depends on her sworn statement to be evaluated in consultation with Luy and the other whistleblowers. No assurance but the possibility is there.
As Rivera has told media, the primary purpose of the sworn statement and the list is to let the truth come out. Napoles’s becoming a state witness is a welcome bonus which may or may not be given.
There are strong oppositions to Napoles’ becoming a state witness – one from the President himself. If Napoles is not accepted as a state witness and not immune from plunder, of what good are her sworn narrative and list – the counterattack?
With the strategy goes the stratagem. Rivera is not naïve but he is cunning. He knows the gravity of the case against his client. He knows how corruption is ingrained in government. He knows that many of those not listed among the involved are not beyond suspicion in Filipino minds. If his client goes to hell, why not drag many others. Maybe, the trip down can be delayed or even be averted by muddling the case – confusing the issues.
What do the people see now in the scam arena? Contrary narratives of the case, contrary lists of the accused – the known brain of the scam turning accuser and wanting to be a state witness. How will the people distinguish the truth from the lie, the accused from the accusers? All of a sudden, those basking in innocence are denying their implication in the crime.
The implicated lawmakers have denied knowing Napoles, having ever met her or done business with her. They justified their use of their PDAF. Some have called Napoles liar and have in mind of charging her of perjury.
The President is defending his cabinet officials and warning not to fall to the tricks of Napoles.
All these defenses and threats have heightened the sensation while confusing instead of resolving the plot of the drama. Rivera and his celebrated client have achieved their initial objective. Will they fully succeed in their stratagem?
Why are the President, the implicated cabinet officials and lawmakers rattled and offended? That only shows how human they are. They should weigh Napoles’ sworn statement and list on the scale of credibility,.
First: When Napolestestified at the Senate hearing last November 7, she repeatedly dismissed questions with “Hind ko alam (I don’t know)” or “Wala akong alam (I know nothing)”.Now, she knows – and the 120 lawmakers involved by their names.
Second: As reported, she gave De Lima her sworn statement and list after their five-hour private talk last April 22. Yet, these had been revised before their submission to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on May 22 and May26 respectively.
Third: Earlier, Rivera said Napoles had to check her statement and list with her records dating back to 2000 since she does not have a photographic memory. Later, he said the statement and list were all done by memory. Which is the truth? Some names had been included due to haste or encoding errors; these were removed. Other names were added handwritten.
He said more sworn statements will be issued later.
Fourth: Rivera said Napoles’ records differ from Luy’s; hers were handwritten since she does not know to use the computer. By “records”, Rivera must have been referring to the “red book” – as revealed by the whistleblowers – where Napoles recorded her disbursements. Luy’s disk recorded transactions by vouchers, cash slips, bank papers, etc. The narratives and list the PDI serialized from Luy’s disk must have differences with those of Napoles.
Napoles’ narrative and list must contain the data and names in her “red book” and recollections of names and events since 2000 aided by the “red book”. How credible are these compared to the computer records? Napoles’ statement and list will be further cross-checked with the original or Luy’s disk which the NBI has just furnished the Senate. Of interest would the deleted portions of Luy’s disk which the NBI was able to retrieve.
On Legal Grounds
Those implicated have taken Rivera’s and Napoles’ bait. In their protestations, they are adding more confusion to the story – exactly what Rivera and his client have wanted to happen. They should have left Napoles’ statement and list to destruct in the test of credibility.
The PDAF scam will not be resolved in the court of public opinion despite the media sensation – not even at the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings which are adding more to the sensation. The case is in the hands of the DOJ and the Ombudsman. Only those found with probable cause will be charged in the Sandigabayan. Those not found so should keep their peace; the more, they croak about their innocence, the more they will be suspected as crooks.
Only Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile has kept silent. He has told media he is studying his case and will fight it in court. We think he welcomes Napoles’ statement and list; he must be encouraging the prosecution to include Napoles among the state witnesses. Confusion weakens the credibility of evidence and the prosecution. In checking his human impulse with his legal acumen, he wants the court to declare his innocence or lack of guilt based on evidence.
Speaking of credibility, how credible are the President and the implicated cabinet officials and lawmakers in their protestations in the eyes of the Filipinos and of the world?
[Author’s Note: We have deferred “Daang Matuwid Exposed”. To be discussed next.]
["Comment" is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz' column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Mr. Diaz is the recipient of a "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Titus Brandsma for his "commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate." You may e-mail your comments to email@example.com]