POSTSCRIPT / March 9, 2014 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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How Cunanan can pass test as state witness

ACID TEST: For Dennis Cunanan of the Technology Resource Center to qualify as a state witness in the administration’s pork barrel cases, he has to pass these tests:

• His testimony must coincide with that of key witness Benhur Luy, whose word has been set by the Department of Justice as the final determinant of what is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. (So help us, God!)

• Cunanan must produce incriminating evidence to pin down opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. Short of that, he is useless to the administration.

• With another witness Ruby Tuason having set another standard, Cunanan must admit having pocketed substantial kickbacks from pork barrel transactions — and return all the loot.

• Cunanan must show that he is not the most guilty. This one is easy, even for some members of the Yellow Ribbon committee who have dipped sticky fingers into the pork barrel.

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PAPER BAG OR MONEY?: Passing judgment without her blindfold, Lady Justice Leila de Lima said Cunanan’s denying having received P960,000 in kickbacks has prejudiced his status as “provisional” state witness.

De Lima took as gospel truth the statement of Luy that Cunanan took the money, although what he actually said was that he saw the TRC executive take the paper bag (which he presumed to contain P960,000).

Still Luy remains a “very credible witness” to De Lima. She said: “(Luy) has not given us reason or indication to doubt his credibility… and the credibility of his story about the whole (pork barrel) scam.”

De Lima said she was giving Cunanan a chance to “rectify” his testimony, which presumably means for him to admit what Luy, the fount of truth, said of him.

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HYPOCRITAL INQUIRY: In the Senate, the committee looking into the pork barrel scam was not quite sure how to evaluate Cunanan’s request for protection as a witness. The indecision, however, is irrelevant.

All those scattered details disclosed in the rambling inquiry are not crucial to the avowed purpose of the inquiry, which is to help craft laws preventing the repetition of pork barrel-type scandals.

Having been deeply involved in the use of the pork barrel, most senators – including Senate President Franklin Drilon himself —  already know everything about the pork barrel racket. No need to pretend to inquire into it.

The notable exceptions are newcomer senators Grace Poe, Nancy Binay and Bam Aquino who still have to taste pork. The other freshmen who came from the House of Representatives – senators JV Ejercito and Sonny Angara – have more than an idea.

The Senate can call off the televised hearings and immediately proceed to enact laws banishing forever the evils of pork barrel in whatever form it may be resurrected in the national budget.

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FEIGNED DETACHMENT: Watching with feigned detachment, Malacañang is distanced far enough to be able to say the right thing at the right time.

Lawyer Abigail Valte, the prettiest among the president’s spokespersons, said in a press briefing that whatever Luy and Cunanan tell the Senate is irrelevant since it is ultimately the courts that will weigh their testimony.

She said the justice department, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Sandiganbayan were in the best position to determine the credibility of witnesses.

Anyway, she said, enough documentary evidence has been gathered by investigators to build a strong case against those involved in the scam.

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UNNECESSARY: The Supreme Court temporary restraining order (TRO) on the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law, meanwhile, is proving the contention of petitioners that the controversial law is unnecessary.

The unfolding facts show that Senate President Drilon’s position that the TRO has stymied or blocked government’s efforts to prevent maternal deaths and other health complications is baseless.

Lawyer Romy Macalintal said the senator’s posture “demonstrates a defeatist attitude, practically saying that the government could not do anything for maternal and infant care without the RH Law.”

The 2011 study and report made by US LifeNews.com, he said, showed that maternal deaths in the Philippines “dropped by 81 percent from 1980 to 2008 even though the RH Bill has not yet been passed and abortion is illegal”.

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MATERNAL MORTALITY: The organization noted that “while supporters of the RH law said it is needed to reduce maternal mortality, studies show that the Philippines has succeeded in reducing its maternal mortality rates without resorting to legalizing abortion.”

LifeNews.com also reported that the World Health Organization found the Filipino maternal mortality rate had dropped 48 percent from 1990 to 2008.

Macalintal said: “Even without the RH Law our country can move on and implement such measures to insure the well-being of mothers and infants and to prevent maternal deaths and other complications affecting women, children and mothers.

“Our leaders should inspire us, boost our morale and raise our spirits to continue living up to our Christian values and virtues of preserving life instead of showing a pessimistic attitude as if the birth control methods under the RH Law are the only brakes to our growing population.”

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NO URGENCY: Macalintal added: “The fact that these maternal and infant concerns have been properly addressed even during the absence of the RH Law speaks loud of the fact that there is no urgency for this law.

“The purposes for its enactment as well as the funds for it are already in the budget and functions of the Department of Health. Foreign-assisted projects are also included in the DoH budget.

“Drilon and those sectors pushing for the RH Law may heed the call of US Senator Ron Paul that ‘Life does not come from the government. It comes from our Creator.’ This is a timely Lenten reminder on what Jesus Christ says on the value of life: ‘Can a mother forget her infant; be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.’”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 9, 2014)

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