Philippine society’s dysfunctional culture is evident yet again in the latest scandal involving some members of Philippine Congress and how they channel their Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or “pork barrel funds” into bogus projects.
The fact that a lot of Filipinos have predicted that the main character in this sorry saga, Janet Lim Napoles, will go into hiding says a lot about our ineffective law enforcement agencies. The people have noted the timing of her escape and described it as “cleverly coordinated”. It’s as if she knew what was coming.
After weeks of sensational media exposé, Napoles who looked animated in an “exclusive” interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, managed to evade law enforcement agencies as soon as a warrant of arrest was issued by the Makati Regional Trial court. The Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation have been left scrambling to ask the public for help in finding her.
Oddly enough, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima herself was not surprised that Napoles managed to evade arrest. She had this to say:
That’s not surprising … the fact that she can’t be found means she got wind of it … she received advance information, someone tipped her … isn’t she well connected, didn’t she boast before that she controlled government? Wasn’t that what the whistleblowers said? So, meaning, she’s well-connected so I’m not surprised anymore that she got wind of it. Maybe, even before the DOJ resolution was issued, she already knew about it … what more the newly issued warrant of arrest, it’s not farfetched.
De Lima’s statement comes across like she herself admits that Napoles has eyes and ears in the Department of Justice. Now that is a sad reflection of our culture, indeed. It goes to show that a lot of Filipinos, especially those who hold sensitive positions in government agencies have a price tag on display when crooks go out shopping for “contacts”. One can be forgiven for saying that our law enforcement agencies are not only incompetent they are also a disgrace. The fact that the likes of Napoles can easily disappear without a trace is enough to support this belief. Napoles is not even the first suspect to evade arrest. This has happened quite a number of times in the past.
Where is Napoles? Perhaps Senator Panfilo Lacson can shed light into her whereabouts or at least give us all an idea how she could have escaped. After all, the senator was famous for his ability to elude Philippine law enforcement agencies in the past. Everyone knows that he “went away” for a year when he got in trouble with the law in 2010, accused of masterminding the murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and the latter’s driver. The “distinguished gentleman” from Cavite could serve as a “consultant” for the DOJ since he is considered an “expert” in hiding.
Lacson did set a precedent for others to avoid arrest. He is now everybody’s role model. Napoles’ lawyer even mentioned that if Lacson can do it, why can’t Napoles? She does have a point. It wouldn’t be too farfetched if there now exists an underground business catering to smuggling fugitives out of the country. You’ll have to be “well connected” to get their business card, I suppose.
Philippine media is also to blame for how suspected criminals manage to get away. When the Philippine Daily Inquirer first broke the news about the pork barrel scam, it was very one-sided. The “facts” were all from one source. Napoles was correct when she complained about reporters not even bothering to get her side before publishing their “exclusive” story. They may consider their views “fearless” but they cannot claim to have balanced news in a lot instances.
The Inquirer could have been on a tight deadline to publish their story lest another publication gets a hold of the damning information. Their tactic however has resulted in another trial by media publicity. Well, one can also be forgiven for saying that that might have been their goal anyway – to stir the pot. Some even say the pork barrel scam is helping divert people’s attention away from Presidential sister Ballsy Aquino’s own scandal on the alleged extortion attempt against a Czech firm involving the MRT.
It is fair to say that Napoles had enough reason to disappear from the spotlight. Instead of waiting for the result of the formal investigation from the NBI before printing their story, the Inquirer seems to have thought that every bit of information about Napoles is fair game, without need to clarify. Even online publication Rappler published exclusive exposés on the Napoles family lifestyle without any regard for the repercussions. It seems journalists who run these publications apply a total disregard for individual rights and due process. Someone should remind them that even suspected criminals have rights.
Members of Philippine media have a history of causing trouble in Philippine society. Back in 2010, media played a big role in the Mendoza hostage crisis that resulted in the deaths of 8 Hong Kong tourists. Because media kept broadcasting a blow-by-blow account of police officers’ movements, the hostage taker who was watching the news from the television on board the bus panicked and killed the hostages. Networks were probably trying to outdo each other, which is why they could not think of considering a news blackout even for the sake of saving lives.
Senator Gringo Honasan himself is complaining about the on-going trial by publicity saying that he “condemns the serialized trial by publicity”. Both Honasan and Senator Bong Bong Marcos have warned De Lima that all this could affect her unconfirmed position as Secretary of Justice:
If Secretary De Lima is part of it and she will face the Commission on Appointments for confirmation, then that is her problem.
It will come up. Everything is a factor. When you’re talking about the highest levels of government … every part of that nomination is going to be examined.
-Bong Bong Marcos
It looks like De Lima’s chances of being confirmed after three years in her post is getting slimmer by the day. She’s not worried though even when the commission on appointments has been ignoring her. President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino has apparently only been repeatedly using an “ad interim appointment” to legitimize her post. That is so pathetic. One wonders why the President keeps hanging on to De Lima when he can simply replace her with someone more qualified. Would De lima be able to prosecute members of the executive branch and those who are allied with BS Aquino considering she is indebted to him? It remains to be seen.
Like most things in the Philippines, the pork barrel scam is proving to be too complicated and convoluted for the average Filipino to understand. It is not straightforward even when it should be. Those who want to monitor how the events unfold could develop a migraine. Perhaps all those involved could be in on it together. De Lima need not look far in finding Napoles’s coddlers.
Frankly speaking, when one hears Senator Jinggoy Estrada mouth off lame excuses such as “It is not up to the senators to determine whether an NGO is bogus or not” without rousing a public uproar, it is a clear indication that this latest scandal will not change the way things are being run in Philippine government anytime soon. The public servants get their kapal ng mukha from the public’s apathy and indifference to the issues plaguing the nation.
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