The country is apoplectic over the pork scam. Despite the prayers of politicians, this one is not going away. Real estate magnate Janet Napoles fuelled the buzz with her surreal (and unintelligible) Inquirer interview. What was she thinking, that she could charm a bunch of grizzled journalists with her “po, tita and kuya” ? Ate, these are not Senators and Congressmen you are talking to.
Malacanang, at first, responded to the scandal with ambivalence. Let us wait for the outcome of the NBI investigation, it said. In the same breath, however, the President expressed support for the PDAF and-I am not kidding- even raised its budget from P24 billion last year to P27 billion this year. Maybe it is to account for inflation.
Needless to say, this did go down well with the natives. It raised speculation that perhaps PNoy has his own skeletons in the closet, like millions in donation to the Liberal Party. The more sensitive approach would have been to suspend the PDAF at least until the NBI findings. The Administration regained some of its footing with the arrest order on the lady (more on this later).
By contrast, our (out)lawmakers continue to be un-repenting. They frothed to lynch a Chief Justice but are clearly not as keen when it comes to their own. Here, I imagine, is the notice that went out to the faithful:
“Memo to: Senate and House Members
From: Your Leaders
Listen up, people. Our beloved P27 billion Mother Lode is in peril. We are going into lockdown. Please observe the following instructions:
1. Do not talk to media without prior clearance or your lawyer. Mum is the word.
2. Shred any incriminating evidence particularly party pictures with the lady.
3. Empty your bank accounts, your hard drives, your SIMs and your memories.
In the meantime we are taking the offensive. There will be favorable testimonials from our friend’s Indonesian coal partners and kindergarten teachers. She herself has volunteered to do interviews, bag in hand and preferably one-on-one, with whoever will listen. Justin Bieber will vouch for the daughter. PR professionals will be developing other news to divert public attention. The recent spate of bombings has been helpful.
These are trying times but we shall overcome. Good luck to all and God bless.
This memo will self-destruct in 20 seconds.”
The PDAF is a scam waiting to happen, a scheme so encompassing it is too big to fail. Credit therefore to Senators Frank, Miriam, Chiz and Rep. Leni for the courage to urge for its abolishment and to Senators Ping and Joker for not touching the stuff. You may have your differences with some of them but not on this.
Filipinos are clamoring for blood and they expect Malacanang to provide the carcass. They want the President to be outraged and to bang the table. They are therefore surprised –no, disappointed- that PNoy has remained relatively silent. This is the man’s conundrum. On one hand, he seemingly underestimated the political fall-out. For the first time his persona is being questioned, threatening his legacy. His detractors are busy whispering “I-told-you-so” to a now more receptive audience.
His problem is he is unsure how many of his supporters and staff have tasted of the forbidden fruit. He knows they are not all the choirboys and girls of his Daan Matuwid but is uncertain of the depth of the rot.
The President needs to stay ahead of the curve and keep in control of events. He has a number of options. One, trigger a Congressional investigation over the kicking and screaming of legislators. He runs the risk, however, of the process taking a life of its own, a run-away train that could take down friend and foe alike. The show would also lack conviction, figuratively and literally.
Two, put the squeeze on Napoles, her family and her assets and see what gives. The arrest order for “illegal detention”, a non-bailable offense, and freezing of her accounts are a good start. The only problem now is finding her.
Three, do not find her. Out of sight, out of mind. People could eventually forget.
Four, hope that parties of interest –and there are many- take matters into their hands. This would be neat for everybody except, I am afraid, for the lady.
Five, offer the woman a chance of survival and a plea bargain in exchange for her turning state witness and returning the monies. This way Malacanang controls the proceedings: It could minimize damage to friends and maximize it to foes. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to assuage the nation and clear the political landscape. How cool is that.
Machiavelli once said: “To defeat the forces of savagery, the virtuous leader is compelled to do hard things, to take on as it were, the sins of the situation upon itself. Sometimes bad acts produce good outcomes.”
Machiavelli, I suspect, would suggest option 5.