Mind da News: Aquino Gambles on Napoles

GENERAL SANTOS CITY, September 1, 2013 – President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has gambled on Janet Lim-Napoles at the risk of his credibility and the dignity of his office. He can lose both! The Palace is now in damage control mode.

He allowed his cabinet members to facilitate the surrender of Janet Lim Napoles to him. He accepted her in the Palace together with her lawyer and husband. Escorted by the Presidential Security Group, he accompanied her and her party to Camp Crame to formalize the surrender and to assure her safety.

The facts of the surrender as recounted by Secretary Edwin Lacierda, presidential spokesman, is clear (INQUIRER.net 1:46 pm | Thursday, August 29th, 2013:Palace releases its version of timeline of Napoles surrender). Direct quotes from the report, as condensed, are in italics:
(1) “August 28, Wednesday morning: President Aquino announced a P10-million reward for Napoles’ arrest.”

(2) “12:37 p.m.– Lacierda phoned Napoles’ lawyer, Lorna Kapunan about her supposed interview on television that her client was willing to surrender.” Kapunan’s reply: “We would like to surrender. If at all, let me confirm with my client that we would like to surrender to the President … because he is the person that we trust”. Lacierda reported this immediately to the President.

(3) “4:06 p.m.–  Kapunan phoned Lacierda to say that Napoles was willing to surrender to the President” reiterating that her “only request was that her safety be secured, owing to the fact that there was, on her part, there was fear for or there were threats on her life”. Lacierda returned to the President who “had already made instructions to Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II”.

(4) “6:50 p.m. Lacierda, along with escorts provided by Roxas to secure Napoles,
left the Palace to meet with Kapunan in Pasong Tamo, Makati City”
but proceeded to White Space when Kapunan called go there instead; there, Kapunan and Jimmy Napoles, Janet’s husband, joined Lacierda in his car to fetch Janet from Heritage Park in Taguig City, a cemetery.

(5) “8:06 p.m.–The group arrived at the Heritage Park.”

(6) “9:08 p.m., Mrs. Napoles and a female companion also arrived at the Heritage Park.”

(7) “9:37 p.m.–The group, this time, with fugitive Napoles, arrived in Malacañang to meet with the President.” Present at Napoles’ 10-minute meeting with the President were “aside from the President, Napoles, Lacierda, and Kapunan were Roxas, Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Undersecretary Abigail Valte, Usec. Manolo Quezon and Secretary Ricky Carandang”.

In its revised version, Janet Lim-Napoles’ surrender timeline”, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, in its issue of August 30, added that Lacierda had worked with Kapunan in the law firm of the late Sen. Raul Roco; that Napoles, who was not handcuffed, did not admit to any crime before the President”; that “Kapunan did most of the talking for Napoles”; and that “Mr. Aquino then led the convoy that took Napoles to Camp Crame”.

The questions are: Did the President and his cabinet secretaries have to do this? Napoles was wanted for a case of “serious illegal detention”, not yet for plunder or the P10-billion PDAF scam which is under investigation. Even for a more serious crime, could she accompanied by her counsel not surrender to the proper authorities or, granted, to the Palace, as they wanted? Why did the President have to escort her with the PSG to Camp Crame? Why did he not just call up Camp Crame to fetch Napoles from the Palace?

Then Napoles was and still is being treated specially. The Palace belabored explanations to the contrary have only highlighted the facts of “special treatment”.

As media reported, Napoles was detained in air-conditioned office rooms in Camp Crame and in Makati City Jail where she was transferred on the next day. DILG Secretary Manuel “Mar” A. Roxas II “supervised” her accommodation. She has been accorded the same treatment, with Roxas “supervising” the preparation of the detention bungalow in Santo Rosa, Laguna for her transfer. As explained, the government is assuring her security as a “high-profile” detainee.

She has to be transferred to Santa Rosa because safety cannot be assured in the Makati City Jail. When she was transferred to Laguna early today, three sets of convoy left Makati City Jail at different times through different gates. That was top security for Napoles as it was not known in which convoy she was.

Three truly high-risk detainees had been detained in the Santa Rosa detention bungalow – Col. (now Sen.) Gregorio Honasan, for rebellion, during the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino; the President Joseph Estrada, for plunder, and MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, for rebellion, both during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Honasan and Misuari had organized armed followers; Estrada had mass followers who tried to siege Malacanang for a day – dubbed as EDSA III – immediately after his arrest.

Napoles is “high-risk” because of her “claimed” threat on her life. What threat? This has not been established with evidence. The “claim” from Napoles and her lawyer during their audience with the President was the same “claim” in her letter to the President dated April 17, 2013. Why have the President, the Palace and the Philippine National Police accepted as a fact Napoles’ unsubstantiated claim of threat to her life and accorded her top security? The PNP chief led the security in transferring Napoles to Laguna.

Lacierda and company have vehemently denied Napoles’ connection with the Palace and the special treatment given to her. The President does not know her. The facts, in fact from the Palace, are in the media. The media in their editorials, opinion columns and blogs have reacted. And so have many readers in their comments on the news through the twitters and facebooks. These should remind the Palace of the Chinese saying: “More talk, more mistakes; less talk, less mistakes; no talk, no mistakes.”

The first three sentences of Philippine Daily Inquirer’s editorial, Special treatment, (August 29), said very much: “Malacañang has only itself to blame for the massive flap it found itself in after fugitive businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles was allowed to surrender to President Benigno Aquino himself—right inside the Palace. What were the President’s men thinking?”

When statements of the President’s men to explain his acts, to shield or boost his image are contrary to facts coming from them, of their own making, or plain to all, the credibility of the President and the dignity of his Office are seriously damaged. (Patricio P. Diaz/MindaNews)