Screeching “activists” from the Philippine Opposition seem to be losing the plot. For them, the bigger outrage surrounding the persistent scourge of pork barrel politics in the Philippines is the recent placing of “Pork Queen” Janet Lim Napoles on a witness protection program by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The important aspect of the plot thus lost on these “activists” is that the whole point of Napoles, to begin with, is that she has information on pork barrel thievery and will be able to name names. As such, she is more valuable when in a position to do just that — as a state witness rather than locked up on criminal charges. Specifically, the payoff to the Filipino people from the earlier (information) will far far outweigh the payoff from the latter (retribution). This is, after all, the information age. Information is King.
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It is quite baffling that Opposition activists would rather see Napoles locked up and silent in jail than under protection in exchange for access to everything she knows about the pork barrel business. To be fair, weighing in favour of the Opposition position on the matter are the legal arguments against putting Napoles on witness protection. These were, of course, laid out by Rapplerette Natashya Gutierrez in a blog published on Rappler. Gutierrez argues that according to the rules, (1) “to qualify for state witness, an individual must not appear to be the most guilty in the commission of the crime” and (2) that any ensuing investigation does not find “absolute necessity for the testimony of the accused.”
On these two points, Gutierrez elaborates. On the first count;
Do not forget that this woman first stole from the military, bribed a judge to drop the case, then set her sights on the bigger Priority Development Assistance Fund. This woman, with the money she stole, bought properties here and abroad, lived like a queen, and settled down in a penthouse in Pacific Place at the expense of her countrymen. This woman consciously and deliberately planned, in arresting detail, to take the money of the Filipino people, and enriched herself with it.
Napoles cannot be a state witness because she was among, if not the most guilty. She was central to the commission of the crime, the tie that bound politicians to this scam.
And on the second count;
3 senators were put in jail on convincing evidence for their participation in the scam – all without needing her testimony. Napoles’ right-hand Benhur Luy, and the other whistle-blowers who were members of Napoles’ staff, have consistently provided credible testimony and evidence, enough to charge Napoles herself, and these lawmakers. They know enough, and are already state witnesses. Is Napoles’ testimony truly necessary?
The irony in how Gutierrez now conveniently cites the law and puts confidence in the Philippines’ criminal justice system to pursue pork barrel thievery beyond Napoles and well into territory that will put hundreds of politicians in the crosshairs of the law seems to be lost in a political bloc that would rather a European court half a planet away presumptuously called the “International Criminal Court” do Filipino police officers’ and judges’ jobs.
As Gutierrez herself points out, the pork barrel scam over which Napoles allegedly presided spans 10 years going even further back than the administration of former President Benigno Simeon ‘BS’ Aquino III. This means that she has the goods on politicians that were in a position to milk pork barrel funds way before the Second Aquino Presidency. This means even no less than Aquino who was, himself, a senator during Napoles’s reign as “Pork Queen” would be a suspect.
More importantly, and more consistent with the Opposition position that institutional justice does not work in the Philippines, Napoles could serve the current administration well as a source of ammo to feed media outlets friendly to it. Indeed, even those unfriendly to it — such as Gutierrez’s employer — would be forced to “report” whatever comes out of Napoles’s newly-protected mouth. The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, after all, learns from the best. The Aquino administration and the Liberal Party (a.k.a. the Yellowtards) had long set a strong precedent — no, instituted a deep tradition — of parties and governments conscripting corporate media to act as prosecutor and judge of elements “unfriendly” to their interests and agenda.
So, ok, the Opposition look to the ICC to intervene in — even completely take over — judicial processes Filipinos are otherwise perfectly capable of running. Napoles as state witness matches this thinking tit for tat. The Opposition, unfortunately for them, are on the wrong side of the equation to be exhibiting such blatant ideological inconsistency — invite foreign media and courts to slander the Philippines on one hand then selectively plead rule-of-law to suppress Napoles, a tool that can be used for the same purpose by the administration.
Gutierrez and her Yellowtard pals are right: the government does not really need Napoles to investigate pork barrel thievery via due process. But since when have people in power deferred to due process to get things done? Therein lies the value of Napoles to the Filipino people. She could be used to get things done — both within the framework of the law and via an even more effective means: trial by media. Filipinos need Napoles like they need jeepneys. Both do not serve Filipinos within the framework of the law but, under the right “handlers”, get things done.
There are many ways to skin a cat. Pork barrel thieves can be prosecuted and tried over the glacial timeframes of due process, or they can be skewered and roasted before a public hungry for real retribution. As the Opposition are finding out the hard way, the latter way of getting things done in the Philippines is something the Duterte government have gotten down to a science. And that is thanks to political traditions and precedents the Opposition themselves had successfully baked into Philippine society over three decades of Yellowtard rule.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.