GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 25 May) — Lawyer Bruce Rivera besides lawyering for known PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) or pork barrel scam brain Napoles is also her apologist. This is evident in the Philippine Star report (May 20, 2014: Napoles to name more senators) and other media sources. Obviously, as her apologist, she puts ideas into Napoles’ head and words in her mouth then feed these to media as Napoles’ statements.
In the Star story, Rivera said “Janet Lim-Napoles is set to add the names of three more senators to her list of lawmakers and officials” she had given to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and to ex-Sen. Panfilo Lacson. He was sure of that.
He explained that “Napoles discovered the names of the three while checking her transaction records” which, for emphasis, were “not just in 2007-2009” but starting “from as far back as 2000.” It being “a very long list of transactions,” Napoles “tends to forget” since “she does not have a photographic memory” to be able to “know every nook and cranny.”
He said that “Napoles still has checks, vouchers and records to back up her claims of dealing with lawmakers” – suggesting that more names, not only of senators, could be added to the list.
He revealed “that since Napoles does not know how to use a computer, her records were largely different from those prepared and kept by main whistle-blower Benhur Luy. She keeps a list using her own handwriting and a piece of paper. It is not in a book. She wrote them down. She has not only checks but vouchers.” (Emphasis supplied)
What does Rivera reveal? (1) The scam started in 2000; (2) Napoles had a personal record of her transactions handwritten in “a piece of paper”; and (3) “her records were largely different from those prepared and kept by main whistle-blower Benhur Luy” in computer disk.
What does Rivera want to imply? Napoles has been wrongly accused and she has to personally clear herself.
Rivera’s apology for Napoles is incredulous. She had been running a multibillion racket from 2000 until its exposure on July 12, 2014. She was not running a small sari-sari store where she could record her transactions handwritten on a piece of paper. Even if she knew how to use a computer, as the owner and manager of a vast business, she had to set up a computerized record department with sizeable staff.
Had Napoles kept “handwritten records” since 2000 — a list of her connivers and the amounts she had given them? Was she just re-checking these “handwritten records” with the files of “her transaction records from as far back as 2000” when she discovered the names of three senators she had omitted from her list? Or, was she drawing up her records for the first time? This, Rivera did not say.
But considering facts and circumstances how could she do this?
First, Napoles was already under detention at the time possible for the “checking”. Were the files of her records carted to her detention bungalow in Sta. Rosa, Laguna – surely, not to her room in Ospital ng Makati?
Second, even if so done, could she have done in so short a time such task more herculean than the legendary cleaning of the Augean Stable? As reported (Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 23, 2014: Mystery agents got P235M), the JLN files in Luy’s disk “included 2,156 folders with records of transactions from 2002 to 2012” including “Napoles’ bank accounts, with their numbers and balances” and “how the lawmakers or their representatives received kickbacks from the projects for which they assigned funds from their PDAF allocations”. (Emphasis supplied)
The 2,156 folders compacted in the computer disk must be a truckload or more of vouchers and other paperwork. According to Rivera, Napoles had gone over these – with some more vouchers still to check – while in detention.
Third,but, do JLN records or files other than those in the Luy’s disk still exist? According to the whistle-blowers, Napoles had all the JLN files shredded when the scam was exposed. However, should there be still, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee or the Department of Justice should take possession of them.
Rivera defended Napoles from the impression that she lied under oath when at the Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing last year she evaded questions or declared “Wala akong alam” (I know noting), or “Hindi ko alam” (I don’t know) – not knowing the lawmakers being linked to the scam.
He explained that Napoles “was lost and disoriented” since she had no lawyer. “I was not yet here. I was in the United States. I was supposed to return Nov. 18 and the hearing was Nov. 9.” Besides, before her Senate appearance, she had been under detention and separated from her family for some time.
Just to refresh Rivera’s memory, the hearing was November 7; Napoles was represented by lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office.
Was Napoles really lost and disoriented? The Senate released to the press a portion of the transcript of the hearing on November 7, 2013. With Sen. Alan Peter S. Cayetano interrogating, Napoles was deliberatively evasive. In fact as the transcript in Tagalog showed, she did not answer disjointedly in mono-words or fragments but engaged Cayetano in lengthy arguments.
Frustrated, Cayetano ended his interrogation addressing the Chair:“Anyway, I won’t belabor the point … Mr. Chair, I request that we look at her testimony and we look at the records because if she’s being evasive or lying to this committee, even though ang liit ng (how light is the) penalty ng (of) perjury, ng (of) lying under oath compared sa (to) plunder, siguro obligasyon natin sa Senado na hindi payagan na may magsisinungaling ditto (I think it is our obligation in the Senate not to allow anyone to lie here).”
In another philstar.com report (April 24, 2014: Napoles lied in Senate? She was afraid, lawyer says), Rivera said Napoles was afraid to reveal the members of the Senate involved. “Walang (There is no) voluntariness doon sa part ng pagsisinungaling niya (on her part in lying) because she was forced at that time.”
He made it clear that amid the call for another Senate hearing for Napoles to clarify the affidavit she has just submitted to Secretary De Lima, Napoles has no choice. As “a moral plea,” he suggested a private hearing at the office of either the Secretary of Justice or of the Ombudsman.
He must have been referring to this anticipated new hearing when in the May 20 story, he said that “his client is willing to tell all before the Senate Blue Ribbon committee”; however, he urged the “lawmakers linked to the scam to inhibit themselves”. Whether Rivera has honestly forgotten or is conveniently forgetting, the senators who had been prominently linked to the scam – particularly, indicted Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. – have inhibited themselves from all hearings on the scam.
Rivera pleaded for the innocence of Napoles.
As he stated in the May 20 Star story: (1) Napoles did not invent the PDAF scam; (2) she only realized the transactions were anomalous when the alleged “rebates” got too big; (3) as a mere high school graduate, Napoles could not have perpetrated a complex scheme like the PDAF scam; and, (4) the PDAF scam was already there but it was not that brazen.
He narrated how the scam developed:
“Initially, of course, when she entered the transactions, she understood that it is normal, even in private corporations, when you enter into a contract or even supply something there is always a margin of profit. So it is usually 5-10 percent and then you also give a little something to those who helped facilitate to get the project.
“When she entered the PDAF, she was thinking that this was just part of it. It started with 10 percent (kickbacks) until it became 20 percent, then 30 percent, then 40 percent and then 50 percent. She said it was too much because she could not deliver anymore. It reached a point that she knew something was wrong.
“She could not have perpetrated anything if there was no senator or congressman who offered the SARO (special allotment release order) for her use, there is no government implementing agency who coordinated with the congressman who chose NGOs. In fact, her first transaction was not her NGO but another person and other NGOs that she had to pay to be used.
“You cannot do that without the participation of the public officials. This is a public crime involving public funds. She was there but she cannot do it without these people having started it.
“The lawmakers did not call the commissions ‘kickbacks’ but ‘rebates’. Of the 82 NGOs linked by the Commission on Audit to the PDAF scam, only eight were associated with Napoles.”
Rivera is pleading not before a court of justice but before the court of public opinion. He is asking the Filipino people to judge Napoles: “GUILTY?” or “INNOCENT?”
(“Comment” is Mr. Patricio P. Diaz’ column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. The Titus Brandsma Media Awards honored Mr. Diaz with a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for his “commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator and Peace Advocate.” You can reach him at [email protected])
(Next: Daang Matuwid Exposed)