POSTSCRIPT / May 13, 2014 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Summon Napoles, not the list of Dr. De Lima

WORTHLESS LISTS: Why did it take President Noynoy Aquino that long – almost a month — to announce his dim view of the final edition of the list of those who have had pork barrel transactions with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles?

Did he have to wait for the subliminal message (“Don’t trust the Napoles List”) to sink in the public mind before coming out with the official verdict that the list is worthless?

In an interview with reporters at the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit in NayPyiDaw, Myanmar, the President said the lists that he had seen were “inconsistent”, meaning none of them was reliable.

It is safe to assume however, that all the lists in his possession, doctored or not, are consistent in pinning down three opposition senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla – to plunder charges.

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DOWN TO ‘TELL-THREE’: Since Dr. Leila de Lima announced last month what she hyped as the “Tell-All” Napoles List, that supposedly signed sworn statement had shrunk under her ministration to a mere “Tell-Three” confession.

It can be further assumed that the na-polished confession will have no incriminating mention of such administration moguls as Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agriculture Secretary Prospero Alcala and Senate President Franklin Drilon.

Expecting such muddling, and also to serve as a kind of life insurance for Napoles, we suggested way back in our April 27 Postscript (http://manilamail.com/archive/2014apr/14apr27/) that she entrust to Manila Cardinal Chito Tagle a verified original copy of her statement and list.

Emphasis is on “entrust” because we never had in mind suggesting that the good Cardinal go out of his way to investigate and validate the content of Napoles’ affidavit.

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BATTLE OF COPIES: Right on cue, the Senate Yellow Ribbon committee looking into the pork barrel scam announced yesterday that it will subpoena De Lima and her copy, and also former Sen. Ping Lacson and his own copy.

On nationwide TV, the idle public will be entertained with a battle of copies that President Aquino already declared as inconsistent — except in their affirming charges of graft and plunder against the trio of Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.

Actually, instead of beating around the bush, the Yellow Ribbon committee should go straight to the point and subpoena Napoles herself, the alleged author of the hot list, instead of examining secondary sources.

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STOP THE SHAM: It seems the problem is that most senators, including Senate President Drilon, do not want to take the risk of standing in the presence of their bosom friend Ma’am Janet. She might just decide to start really talking when she spots them.

In fact, the pretense of holding an inquiry in aid of legislation is execrable. Drilon and the rest of the senators already know from personal experience all the tricks there is to know about dipping sticky fingers into the pork barrel.

All that the honorable lawmakers have to do is look in the mirror, kneel and make a mass public confession, stand to pass the needed remedial legislation — and promptly chop off their dirty hands in disgrace.

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TOOTHLESS ASEAN: Back in NayPyiDaw, only Vietnam and the Philippines had the guts to confront China’s aggressively gobbling up bit and pieces of their territory in the China Sea (so named not because it belongs to China but because it happens to lie below the mainland).

President Aquino had to return to Manila empty-handed. He again failed to rally the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to put up a united front against the neighborhood bully.

All that he brought home was an ASEAN joint statement lamely expressing concern and calling for restraint by all parties involved in the maritime disputes, but making no direct mention of China.

Aside from the fact that a few of the ASEAN members are caught in Beijing’s orbit, a number of them are not ready to antagonize the biggest military and economic power in the region.

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INTREPID VIETS: We admire and envy Vietnamese daring. They swarmed with their small boats an encirclement of Chinese naval vessels protecting the oil rig that China has started to erect in the vicinity of a Paracel island claimed by Vietnam.

But Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung could not get the ASEAN to speak up against China despite his recounting to the gathering of fellow heads of government:

“China has brazenly moved its deep-water drilling rig escorted by over 80 armed and military vessels and many airplanes to the Vietnamese waters. They fired high-powered water cannons and rammed straight into the Vietnamese public-service and civil ships, causing damage to many ships and injuring many people on board.”

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WHAT TO DO?: Until last Sunday, it was clear that ASEAN – composed of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – is not willing to be used to pressure China into submitting to what Manila calls the rule of law.

President Aquino tells everybody about his taking the Philippine territorial dispute with China to an arbitral tribunal at The Hague (a legal cul de sac since China refused to participate), but all he has gotten are words of sympathy.

Every ASEAN member has its own domestic and foreign relations problems, including competing in a field dominated by a China minded to act as it pleases.

Manila’s holding on to Washington’s coattails, including its signing away military base locations under an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement last April 28, has not produced any apparent change in the belligerent behavior of the Chinese dragon.

There is need to escalate the pressure a notch higher, but how?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 13, 2014)

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