MS 30th Anniversary XXX

The Napoles letter

According to this newspaper, President Noynoy Aquino’s fourth State of the Nation Address, to be delivered when Congress officially starts work next week, is going to be an exercise in payback. Aquino, the report said, will feature attacks on the perceived opponents of the administration, including those who would like to succeed it three years from now. I hate to be a wet blanket, but hasn’t Aquino been engaged in “bashing” (the word chosen for the story’s headline) ever since he assumed office? Perhaps the only thing new about the report is that, instead of bashing his predecessor-in-office, Aquino will now train his sights on those bidding to replace him. They say in the newspaper trade that it’s not news when a dog bites a man but its news when a man bites a dog. When Aquino stops bashing people and starts acting like a conciliatory, statesmanlike President of all Filipinos, that’s new. If he uses every chance he gets to denigrate his foes, that’s not news, at all. That’s all that he’s done so far; there’s a fair chance that that’s all he’ll do for the rest of his term. * * * There is a letter that could be the key to the whole pork barrel scandal. Unfortunately, no one can now say where that letter is. Janet Lim Napoles, the businesswoman in the center of continuing controversy concerning the alleged pocketing of up to P10 billion in Congress’ pork barrel funds, wrote President Noynoy Aquino last April. The two-page letter, which Napoles herself confirmed sending to the President, complained, among other things, of harassment by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation who were probing reports of the trader’s alleged illegal activities on the basis of testimony given by her own former business associate, Benhur Luy. Malacañang’s reaction to reports about the Napoles letter’s existence has been very strange, to say the least. Palace spokesmen said they could not say if the letter was received by Aquino or not; in any case, they explained, it was every citizen’s right to fire off a letter to the President on anything under the sun. Was the letter lost on the way to Malacañang, like the many letters sent by Sultan of Sulu Jamalul Kiram urging Aquino to revive the claim to Sabah? Or is the Palace hiding something about the incident of the Napoles letter? Sources in Malacañang allege that the letter of the businesswoman was seen by Aquino on the day that it was sent to him. And, with uncharacteristic haste (remember the Kiram letters), the President acted upon Napoles’ complaint right away. According to an unimpeachable source, Aquino wrote a marginal note on Napoles’ letter, directing Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to act on the matter. The President’s handwritten note, according to this informant, was written on the day that he received the trader’s letter on April 17. De Lima reportedly told NBI Director Nonnatus Roxas that she had received a directive from Aquino to investigate Napoles’ complaints against Roxas’ agents. Roxas sent word to the 15 agents led by Rolando Agrabioso and Rodante Berou of the President’s order to De Lima, which spooked the agents. The NBI agents, whom Napoles accused of being in the employ of Luy and acting on his behest, were so worried that they would lose their jobs that they ran to a top newspaper executive for help. That was how one newspaper ended up with the documents detailing Luy’s complaints against Napoles, which formed the basis for the recent series of articles that exposed the alleged pork barrel scam engineered by the businesswoman. If this account of what led to the disclosure of Napoles’ supposed scam is correct, then it raises many questions that Malacañang has to answer, if it wants to clear the name of Aquino and his men in the pork barrel scam. These are: What really happened to Napoles’ letter to Aquino? Did Aquino really write on the margins of the letter directing De Lima to investigate the NBI agents who were probing the businesswoman? Why did Aquino act so quickly on Napoles’ complaint? Is it true, as some have alleged, that Aquino is a close friend of the businesswoman and that their friendship dates back to Aquino’s days as a Tarlac congressman and a member of the Senate? When the scandal finally broke in the newspapers, was Malacañang involved in an obvious ploy to pin the conversion of pork barrel funds into lawmakers’ kickbacks on lawmakers who were not allies of the Palace? Why did the first reports about the lawmakers involved in the alleged scam not include any members of Congress who were palace allies, when, judging from the same accounts, Napoles certainly did not discriminate between friends of Aquino and those belonging to the opposition? Did any former member of Congress now serving in the Executive department have any dealings with Napoles? Was the Department of Budget and Management, which approves the release of funds for projects to be funded by Congress’ Priority Development Assistance Fund, as pork is now known, really in cahoots with Napoles in her alleged scam? Finally, what is it with this administration that it cannot even keep track of the letters sent to it?
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