Makati City Bakuna

Sing, Janet, sing!

One of the biggest coverups of the previous administration may soon explode out into the open, now that Janet Lim Napoles has been acquitted of the charge of serious illegal detention by the Court of Appeals. Right about now, the Aquino administration officials and members of Congress (both the House and the Senate), who thought they were already in the clear as far as the billion-peso pork barrel scandal that rocked the first half of the previous government is concerned, must already be running for legal cover to avoid ending up in jail like Janet herself.

The appellate court found, as most people with half a brain already did, that Napoles’ nephew Benhur Luy had not been held against his will by “Ma’am Janet,” as Mar Roxas respectfully addressed the pork scam mastermind. But then, everyone also knows that Napoles was convicted of illegal detention only to keep her from spilling the beans on President Noynoy Aquino, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Senate President Franklin Drilon and a host of other top officials and lawmakers who partook of her largesse; the failure of the government to properly prosecute Napoles for implementing a diabolical scheme to pocket billions in congressional project funds was the real elephant in the room that went unnoticed.

But everything about the Napoles case (the real one concerning the pork-barrel scam, not the largely irrelevant one for which she was convicted) has always smelled distinctly of a coverup from the highest levels of Malacañang and Congress on down. The fact that three senators were charged and detained for dealing with Napoles did not remove the stink—this only gave the whole whitewash operation a distinct partisan flavor, even if, by all accounts, Napoles dealt with any willing legislator regardless of party affiliation, with the help of officials of the Executive at the highest levels.

If Napoles decides to cut a deal with the Duterte administration, which really has no motivation except to find out who stole how much with Janet’s help, she could finally complete the story. Only she, after all, could explain how Abad “mentored” her, how Noynoy Aquino, Mar Roxas, Leila de Lima and even Edwin Lacierda protected her, how a multi-partisan majority in both Houses led by Drilon benefited hugely, like she did, from her use of bogus non-government organizations to receive funds intended by congressional projects, for sharing later with her lawmaker “clients.”

I know President Rodrigo Duterte doesn’t consider investigating the scandals of his predecessor a priority. But Duterte should make sure that Napoles isn’t suddenly “silenced” now that she’s been acquitted, so that the people may know what truly went down.

Janet Napoles can still be prevented from singing, even if most of the officials who benefited from her unique brand of entrepreneurship are no longer in power. She must be allowed to sing her song—and to sing it to the very end.

* * *

Today, two House committees start their investigation into alleged anomalies in the deal between the government and the biggest banana plantation in the country. Of course, as everyone now knows, the sudden keen interest in Congress and at various other agencies regarding the half-century-old joint venture agreement between the Bureau of Corrections and the Tagum Development Corp. is merely an offshoot of the personal fight between Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and his fellow congressman from Davao del Norte (and erstwhile “BFF”) Antonio Floirendo Jr.

And, as everyone knows, as well, the Tadeco probe originated from the quarrel between the partners of both Alvarez and Floirendo. The origin of that, in turn, is really something only women in certain relationships will fully understand.

But the supposed catfight between two women has now led to a full-blown investigation that has spread outside of Congress, after Alvarez used his considerable clout to get back at Floirendo, thus bringing agencies like the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman, among others, into the probe. Surely, there must be more important things to occupy the time of those conducting this strange investigation.

I fail to understand, for example, why the Tadeco-BuCor deal, which allowed the Floirendo’s company to use and develop idle land belonging to the state penal system, has become the subject of a probe only now. If you compare the deal with a similar case like the lease by a company owned by the family that owns the Inquirer of government land in Makati, for instance, it becomes immediately apparent that there have been no real complaints against the Floirendos over the years, unlike those which have hounded the Prietos.

Indeed, while the Prietos have used every legal trick in the book to delay the return of the land to the government or at least to keep the ridiculous rent they are paying for it from increasing, the Floirendos have only a decade ago agreed to the renegotiated terms set by the state for the use of Tadeco’s land.

And now, because of Alvarez’s desire to get back at his ex-friend Floirendo after their mistresses’ fight, two House panels and a raft of other government agencies are chasing Tadeco.

Hell hath no fury, apparently, like a House speaker whose woman feels she has been offended. Only sometimes, you really wish that if our officials are fighting a personal quarrel, there must be a way to make them pay for the trouble from their own pockets and to leave us all out of it.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Janet Lim Napoles , serious illegal detention , Court of Appeals , Benhur Luy
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