POSTSCRIPT /April 27, 2014 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Entrust Napoles list to Tagle, not De Lima

TRUST TAGLE: If I were Janet Lim Napoles, I would pray to the Holy Spirit, write everything I personally know on the pork barrel scam, swear to it, seal it in an envelope and entrust the document to Cardinal Chito Tagle.

I would leave to my family an original duplicate (the only copy). I would take back – for being incomplete and misleading — the statements I have given to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and those made before the Senate.

The understanding is that the document given to Cardinal Tagle would be opened and its full content made public by him upon Napoles’ death, total disability or her being the victim of an unusual accident.

She could make a reservation to disclose it earlier, but only with the consent and advice of the Cardinal.

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LIFE INSURANCE: The earlier she did this, the better. Such move could be her life insurance. It might also make it easier for her to come to terms with whatever life in porcine company has brought her.

But while the move may save her life, entrusting her declaration to the Cardinal will not necessarily ensure her becoming a state witness in the plunder complaint filed against her and several others, including three opposition senators.

After being paraded in media as the pork barrel scam mastermind, how can the public – sitting in as some kind of jury – approve of Napoles being rewarded with a clearance or dealt a minor penalty for standing as state witness?

Malacañang’s dilemma is that if she is not allowed to go scot-free in exchange for her pinning down three of her co-accused, she might just spill more beans than desired and damage the administration.

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JUST THE TRUTH: With just two years to go before bowing out in 2016, President Noynoy Aquino must act fast to salvage his boys’ pork barrel special operation that has gone awry and in danger of spinning out of control.

The President might still be able to turn this developing crisis into an opportunity by throwing overboard all that is false and clinging to the truth. As the Book says, and as we just said of Napoles, the truth will set Noynoy Aquino free.

The President has the Napoles Confession as submitted by De Lima. Without necessarily validating it in whole or in part, he can use it as basis for acting as the father of the nation.

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SUSPENSION: President Aquino can meet in separate batches all key administration personalities mentioned by Napoles – first all Cabinet members (he has started with some of them), then administration senators, followed right after by Liberal Party leaders.

The idea is to hear directly from each of them in the presence of their peers what they have to say before the President acts.

Without prejudging their alleged involvement, the President then suspends preventively those in the Cabinet and lower Executive offices to safeguard the records and to give them time to prepare for their defense in the complaints to be filed shortly.

The proper cases should be filed, not cherry-picked in a Senate circus, if warranted by the evidence. But meantime, they – including Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Agriculture Secretary Prospero Alcala — should be under preventive suspension.

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CONGRESSIONAL CRISIS: As for the senators, who are theoretically independent of the Executive, their administrative fate will be left to the Senate.

Presidential trouble-shooter Ping Lacson, who gave up his pork barrel allocation during his years as senator, said his copy of the Napoles Confession given to him by her husband, lists at least majority (13) members of the Senate who have had pork dealings with her.

If Senate President Franklin Drilon himself is on that and other lists and has something to explain, he should stand aside as Senate leader.

Drilon cannot keep dodging the pork barrel issue. His own demeanor, including his obvious fear of a face-to-face encounter with Napoles during committee hearings, is damning.

A parallel cleansing must occur in the House of Representatives more than 100 of whose members are reportedly on the Napoles list.

If the Congress is thus depopulated and a legislative crisis develops, so be it. The national budget having been passed already, this nation can do without the Congress.

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ABAD MUST GO: Same thing with Secretary Abad. Since his congresswoman-wife has collected already an indecently disproportionate lion’s share of pork for her tiny island-province of Batanes, the husband can let go of the Department of Budget and Management.

Whether or not Abad is on the Napoles list, the President can clear the air by letting him go. If the President does not know how to tell him, Abad can make it easier for the boss by offering to go on leave.

It cannot be that nobody else can do a better job of keeping watch over public funds being disbursed by the Office of the President. As we suggested earlier, the President should look beyond his small tight circle and reach for the best and the brightest.

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GRAND SWINDLE: Some Postscripts ago, we likened the DBM to the Grand Central station in New York. With Abad as chief traffic officer, public funds pass his office — some billions going to private pockets in a criminal version of Public-Private Partnership in wholesale corruption.

The DBM boss cannot feign ignorance when billions released under his signature find their way to bogus non-government organizations such as those set up by Napoles.

The racket has been almost so perfected that the Grand Swindle is likely to pass unnoticed if nobody blows the whistle. Except that in this case, some people did.

If Abad is in on it – and it is difficult to believe that he has been unaware of what is going on — he should be told to return the billions and spend a lifetime in jail. If he is clean, as he alleges, he still cannot escape responsibility for being grossly incompetent.

Either way, he should go – straight to prison.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 27, 2014)

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