Everybody knows a swindler, a dishonest person who cheats by very clever means in order to obtain money, fame or other advantages through pretense or deception.
The swindler is a bilk, bilker, cheat, cheater, defrauder, dodger, fakir, finagler, fraudster, hoaxer, phony, plotter, rascal, rogue, scammer, scamster, schemer, skinner, tricker, and a wheeler-dealer.
Janet Napoles, the pork barrel queen, is any of the above even if she’s not been convicted by a court of law, and this is not depriving her of the presumption of innocence. Her hands are all over the place, either that she is the mastermind or simply the marionette of a higher brain trust. The pork barrel mess she has created points to her culpability, and whether she brings down with her the entire government or some high-ranking politicians is an ending that needs to be scripted.
That’s why we begin with a list, a list of swindlers. Not just one list, but two or more or even several more. This is how to create a feeling of suspense and make the public wonder how the story will reach a climactic twist to the denouement to all this mess.
|Copy of the signed Napoles' List.|
Janet Napoles has her own list of politicians and government officials involved in the P10-billion defrauding of the people’s money. Benhur Luy, former assistant to Mrs. Napoles and whistleblower has a list, too. But they are different lists, in that they contain different names. Then there’s another Napoles’ list in the hands of former Senator Panfilo Lacson, albeit with an unsigned affidavit and was given to him by Mrs. Napoles’ husband, a former colleague of Mr. Lacson in the military. President Benigno Aquino III, the tireless graft and corruption crusader, has seen three lists according to him. Because he wasn’t aware of the legal ramifications of the lists, again according to him, he referred them to Leila de Lima, his Secretary of Justice and legal staff to sort out.
But Secretary de Lima seems embattled with a Hamlet-like dilemma. To show or not to show the true and genuine Napoles’ list. Meantime, Mr. Lacson has surrendered to the Senate his copy of the unsigned affidavit from Mrs. Napoles containing the list of all those involved in the pork barrel mess. All those mentioned in the list were up in arms, denying involvement and declaring their innocence. See how the entire drama is unfolding, great script but boring because the people already know what is going to happen in the end.
Secretary de Lima insists that the Napoles’ list is still a work in progress. Meaning, the list is still being sanitized which the secretary vehemently denies. Speculations are rife that there are people who shouldn’t be on the list, the ones (Aquino’s partymates and supporters in Congress) who are friendly with the President, and those within his inner sanctum (like his trusted Budget Secretary Florencio Abad) who are implicated and could bring down the government and make the President’s graft and corruption agenda look a total sham.
Sanitizing the Napoles’ list will clear up any inference or allegation of involvement by the current administration in the pork barrel scandal. Thus, it is very important for President Aquino and his cabinet, following the “clean hands” doctrine in law, to show they cannot be accused of unfair conduct and that they have not done anything wrong. But in sanitizing the list, the administration could be accused of partiality by going only after those who are not friendly with the government and leaving friends and loyal supporters of the Aquino administration fully unscathed.
It is therefore a brilliant strategy to concoct more than one list. Without a doubt, whoever thought of the grand idea of circulating more than one list was a great thinker. Alternative lists will muddle the issue, thus benefiting those who swindled the government, protect the conspirators in the scandal, and keep justice in the dark. Debating and determining which list is genuine will take an inordinate amount of time and before the dust settles, a new election is held and the whole mess becomes either forgotten or is buried from the front pages of newspapers to some page nobody even bothers to read.
At the end of day, the public will simply throw its hands up and accept a government list naming the three most popular and dispensable among those involved. We already have their names a long time ago: Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada. Indicting these three top senators will be a great achievement for President Aquino, a feather in his cap, not to mention the continuing detention of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the impeachment of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. All things considered, it will be a testament to the persistence of the Aquino administration in prosecuting those responsible for graft and corruption in government. All accusations of non-transparency, unfairness and injustice will just be distant memories of how this government dispenses with justice when everything about the pork barrel dissipates in the air.
Remember too that Congress faces two very important issues which can spell trouble for President Aquino. He doesn’t have any more pork barrel to distribute to solidify support in Congress for the Bangsamoro Law and the Enforced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). PDAF has been abolished. But President Aquino could finagle the Swindlers’ List among members of Congress and let those who defy his wishes be included. In other words, the President could easily subvert the ends of justice to accomplish his aims, and this is not a healthy sign of democracy.
This is why the Philippines remains included in the list of countries (talking about another relevant list) considered “failed states” in the Failed States Index 2013 of Foreign Policy prepared by the United States think-tank Fund for Peace. One of the several attributes of a failed state is widespread corruption, a perpetual sordid state of affairs the Philippines has never figured out to resolve since time immemorial.
There are more pressing issues which the present government must address but the current controversy about which pork barrel list is genuine takes much of the administration’s time and attention. High on this list are issues such as bringing back to millions of workers the dignity of regular employment with its attendant living wage, union rights and benefits like maternity leave and health insurance, and putting an end to contractualization of labour which makes Filipino workers as “permanent contractuals” or non-regular employees.
Despite claims by the Aquino government of speedy relief and assistance to victims and survivors of last year’s Typhoon Haiyan, their situation is far from being close to recovery. The typhoon survivors continue to live in tents. They still suffer from hunger and there is no meaningful program by the government to help them reconstruct their livelihood.
Last May 9, public school teachers stormed Malacañang demanding an increase in their salaries. But the Aquino government released a statement that there will be no salary increase for government workers due to lack of funds. Apparently, because a lot of government money has been wasted for ghost, anomalous and corrupt projects through the Priority Development Assistance Fund, Presidential Social Fund and other lump sum allocations.
If only the Aquino government could be serious enough and pay attention to a list of priorities for improving the life of the masses, instead of dilly-dallying in releasing the true Napoles’ list of swindlers, then everyday life for the common folks will be less burdensome. But the government seems not interested in the greater good of the majority of the Filipino people. The Napoles’ list and its different versions have consumed the government to no end.
While the entire nation already knows how this messy scandal will unravel, the incumbent government of President Benigno Aquino III continues to exploit this controversy about a list to the fullest extent. As a result, the people will be no better off than they were before when this charade finally ends.