Senate president Franklin Drilon’s decision not to grant the Senate Blue Ribbon committee’s request to make Janet Napoles, the suspected mastermind of the P10 billion PDAF or pork barrel scam, testify at its ongoing public hearings raises more questions than answers.
Instead of approving the committee’s request, Drilon tossed the petition to the Office of the Ombudsman for its decision, saying the Senate must respect the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction over the plunder complaint filed by the government against Napoles and three senior senators. Thirty-four others were subject of other complaints with the Ombudsman.
Whether a public hearing, such as the one being held by the Senate into the pork barrel scam, can adversely affect a case being tackled by the Ombudsman is an issue that the latter has to decide upon, Drilon said.
Drilon’s position, which contradicts that of certain fellow senators, notably Blue Ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III and Salvador Escudero, has inevitably raised questions which might put the Senate president into a tight spot.
Is Drilon afraid that Napoles might say something at the Senate hearings that might implicate him to the pork barrel scam? How close is Drilon to Napoles who allegedly gave the Senate president a special gift, a Montblanc pen worth P60,000, for unknown reasons? Is Napoles merely an acquaintance as they appear to be chummy chummy in a party photo which was recently published by the media?
Significant developments last year also appear to undermine Drilon’s stance that it was merely out of courtesy that’s why he referred to the Ombudsman the matter of whether or not Napoles can appear at the Senate hearings.
Early last year, graft charges were filed at the Ombudsman against former Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona and former president Gloria Arroyo. The graft charges against Corona did not stop both chambers of Congress from launching an impeachment action against Corona. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales even testified against Corona at the congressional impeachment hearings.
A precedent was clearly set last year – almost parallel probes into alleged wrongdoings by Corona were conducted the Ombudsman and the Congress.
So, why should Drilon be concerned at this time with upsetting the Ombudsman over Napoles’ testimony at the Senate? In the past, the Senate has also conducted other public hearings into high-profile scandals in aid of legislation even if different departments under the executive branch of the government were already looking into those same cases.
From Aparri to Jolo, and from Taiwan to Singapore to Hong Kong to the Middle East and other parts of the world, Filipinos from all walks of life are eagerly and certainly awaiting what Napoles has to say about the following:
1] Who among the current and past senators, congressmen and officials of different government agencies participated in her pork barrel scam
2] How she set up and operated the scheme which appeared to have ensnared numerous officials in the legislative and executive branches of the government
3] The full extent of taxpayers’ money sucked by the scam over the years since it started operating
4] Who her key accomplices are, if any, in the elaborate and extensive scam
5] How she got away with the anomaly for so long
Napoles and her accomplices in the executive and legislative branches of the government got away for years wasting away billions of pesos intended for the poor because of the veil of secrecy in their thievery.
The recent appearance of principal whistleblower Benhur Luy and former heads of several government departments and non-governmental organizations involved in the pork barrel scam has clearly gone a long way in making the public better understand how Napoles’ network of bogus NGOs siphoned off billions of taxpayers’ money and how corrupt lawmakers benefited immensely from their active participation in the scam.
Whether in the movies or in real life, the testimony of the head of a large syndicate is expected to provide an overview and fill in the gaps provided by his or her henchmen. In this respect, Napoles’ testimony at the Senate hearings is of vital importance, especially in the light of threats to her life. Clearly, if she sings like a canary, her disclosures will inflict potentially irreparable damage to the future career of certain politicians who may then move heaven and earth to silence or liquidate her. Afterall, assassins can be hired for as low as 50,000 to 100,000 pesos for “ordinary” targets.
In spite of all these, Drilon doesn’t seem to be too keen to see Napoles at the Senate Blue Ribbon hearings.
Clearly, the Senate president has to explain to the Filipino why he apparently doesn’t want Napoles to speak her truth.
*** Drilon: Ombudsman to decide if Napoles can appear in Senate hearing
*** Note: Overseas Pinoys can tune in to live broadcasts of the Senate hearings today Sept. 24 and Wednesday through these web links — http://www.dzrh.com.ph/ or http://dzmm.abs-cbnnews.com/page/audiostreaming.html