No Special Treatment

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    No special treatment (Common definition): To be given no deference.

    No special treatment (Filipino definition): To be accorded respect befitting a person of influence.


    Janet Napoles turned herself in and so would we if so welcomed.

    She was received at the Palace, accompanied by our leader to police headquarters, detained in airconditioned premises, then transferred to the abode of a former President with ample grounds, fresh air, a view and complimentary wi-fi.

    This person, incidentally, has been charged with kidnapping, a crime heinous enough to be non-bailable. She is apparently also to be accused of plunder which is the commission of major financial fraud –in her case P10 billion and counting. The moral of the story? If you are to commit a crime go big time. You always get upgraded.

    The lady surrendered because she claims to be “in fear of her life”. She also professes to be clueless about all the fuss (What, po, is pork barrel?) so one wonders why the paranoia. The authorities must believe her account, hence the red carpet and fancy digs.

    What next?

    For Napoles, it is now all about securing bail. If she succeeds in convincing a judge that kidnapping is, in the scheme of things, merely trifling, she is away. She can sit out the next half decade ensconced in her wealth while awaiting the glacial pace of justice. If the Ampatuans are still around after being accused of murdering in cold blood over 50 people in front of dozens of witnesses, the “serious illegal detention” of a former employee should be a piece of cake with any judge worth his weight in gold.

    To forestall this possibility of bail, the authorities are preparing a charge of plunder, another non-bailable offense, in connection with the P10 billion pork scam. The only hitch is, as a private person, she can only be so accused as part of a broader charge against a public official(s) i.e. the Government must find some public person(s) who can be charged along with her. And here is where it gets complicated. DOJ Sec. De Lima announced an indictment is being prepared against a number of lawmakers. Media reports at least 3 Senators and 23 Representatives are implicated. Since plunder involves ill-gotten wealth of over P50 million, this should eliminate the Congressmen with the smaller offenses, leaving only the Senators with the big PDAF budgets.

    In the Corona impeachment, the prosecutors winged their case but still got a conviction only because the CJ overplayed his hand. This time is different. The Senators –and you know who they are- are politically heavier and legally savvier. The prosecutors better have the goods on them – certainly more than what they had on Corona- if they want the charges to stick and not have pie on their face. They should not play to the crowd, not promise more than they can deliver i.e. not play it cute. They hopefully are aware of this, hence the delay in the filing of charges. The key is Napoles and what she has to say.

    There are two ways to handle the lady. The first is to treat her as a common criminal –shared toilets with tough-looking females, etc.- to break her down. She is, by her own admission, a fearful person so giving her “no special treatment” could do the trick.

    The other is to handle her with tender loving care in the hope of gaining her co-operation. This is apparently the Government’s choice which explains her doting treatment even at the risk of public ire.

    The authorities have a limited window to move on the lady. She and her political friends are feverishly working on securing bail. If successful, the Government will have no leverage on her. It can still file a plunder charge but it is a Catch 22: It needs her testimony to make the charges stick against her supposed senatorial accomplices but it can only get this if she is under custody.

    The Government needs to rally public opinion. So far it has done a dismal job at this. Despite the national outrage, it has refused to truly abolish the PDAF and when it has relented it has done so kicking and screaming. Filipinos are upset with the coddling of the lady. They are wondering whether the Palace has its own skeletons some as near as in the Office of the President.

    One thing is certain: The public is frothing at the mouth. If from bungling or whatever the Government fails to deliver a conviction of her and some major political figures (or even if the lady gets out on bail) the principal casualty will be the President and everything he has worked so hard to build. And that would be the irony and the tragedy: That not only were we ripped off by a bunch of hoodlums, but the leader we so want to succeed will have been diminished in our estimation while they get to sail into the sunset in their ill-gotten yachts.


About Leo Alejandrino

The blog is principally a commentary on Philippine politics and economics.
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