By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The much-awaited testimony of Janet Lim-Napoles, suspected conduit in the pork barrel scam involving at least P10 billion ($232.5 million), before the Senate began today November 7. The Philippine National Police reportedly spent P150,000 ( $3.5 thousand) for her security. The government sent two lawyers from the Public Attorney’s Office to assist her. And what happened? Nothing.
The testimony, or the lack of it, of Napoles reminds us of what former Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano did during the congressional hearings on the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal. Napoles, and Garcillano then, simply denied everything under oath.
“Hindi po tutuo yan.” (That is not true.), “Hindi ko po alam.” (I do not know.) “Wala po.” (None) And when shown documentary evidence of her involvement and transactions with the government, her reply was “Hindi ko po maalala.” (I could not remember.) Or “I invoke my right to self-incrimination.”
It is obvious from her whole-day testimony that Napoles is not willing to tell the truth. She was even prodded by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, telling her that her best protection against those who might entertain thoughts of killing her is to tell the truth about the most guilty parties. That way, if something happens to her, the law could run after them. But still, she remained firm in her denials.
When President Benigno Aquino III received a lot of flak for personally accepting the surrender of Janet Lim-Napoles at the Malacañang Palace no less, and even acted as advance party to Camp Crame to ensure Napoles’s safety and security, the administration replied that the president did so because Napoles is crucial in unearthing the whole truth about the P10-billion pork barrel scam. When she was placed in a bungalow at Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal – where no less than former president Joseph Estrada, Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Moro National Liberation Front Chairman Nur Misuari were jailed before– and was provided with a food tester, to ensure that she would not be poisoned, Malacañang responded that Napoles is being given special treatment so that she could name all those involved in the scam.
Now Napoles has clearly shown that she is not willing to tell the truth. When asked by Senator Allan Peter Cayetano if she thinks she would be absolved of the accusations and charges against her, she even replied with a categorical yes.
Malacañang is now saying that it is understandable for Napoles to protect her legal rights and integrity because cases have been filed against her in court. So where does the whole justification of the Aquino government for the special treatment being accorded to Napoles stand if she is not willing to tell the truth and be instrumental in running after corrupt government officials involved in the pork barrel scam? What is the use of undertaking elaborate and expensive measures, being paid by taxpayers, to protect Napoles if she would act just like any other accused person who is “protecting her legal rights and ‘integrity’?”
It seems that the strategy of the Aquino government of giving her special treatment to encourage her to tell the whole truth is not working. What is happening is the other way around: she is being emboldened to continue to lie through her teeth to protect her flanks. It might be better to treat her just like any other accused by committing her to a regular jail. That way she might be scared out of her wits and spill the beans.
If the Aquino government continues to provide her with special treatment even if she continues to deny her involvement in the pork barrel scam – despite the preponderance of evidences – while adamantly defending the pork barrel system, this would raise serious questions on the declarations of Malacañang that it is determined to run after those involved in the pork barrel scam.