Editorial & Opinion

Damaging disclosure

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Last Sept. 16, a sensational revelation was splashed all over the internet that immediately went viral online, even if it was initially blocked in the Facebook. This is the article written by Kit Tatad in his Manila Standard Today column, “First Things First” disclosing that Janet Lim Napoles had a secret lunch at the Palace before she surrendered to P-Noy.

Tatad categorically wrote in a straightforward manner that “President Benigno S. Aquino III spent several hours in closed door conversation with the reputed pork barrel queen before Napoles formally surrendered on the evening of the same day, August 28, 2013.” He reported that “Napoles arrived in Malacanang accompanied by Palace Spokesman Edwin Lacierda at 10:30 a.m. and was conducted to the Music Room where she remained closeted with the President, Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II and Lacierda, and eventually Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. until 4:30 pm.”

Tatad’s report is quite a revelation indeed but up to now nothing much has been said about it in the mainstream print and broadcast media. This eerie silence for the past several days is really mystifying especially considering our journalists’ propensity to scoop each other and to immediately dig deeper into the news item and determine its veracity in the exercise of investigative journalism. Is there a gag order given to the Press for them to keep quiet on this damaging disclosure?

This revelation cannot just be brushed aside as pure fiction or sheer gossip because Kit said that it came from “highly authoritative sources whose loyalty to Aquino is exceeded only by their loyalty to the truth and who shared their story with extreme pain and sadness.” According to Tatad, his sources had to share their story because “they just could not bear what to them is a grand deception, a deliberate and cold blooded attempt to mislead and deceive the people on Malacanang’s real role and interest in the Napoles case. To them it affects the whole fabric of morality in government and ultimately, Aquino’s fitness to remain in office.”

Even the Palace’s reply to this latest leak on l’affair Napoles has not been played up in major newspapers and radio-TV stations but only in the internet. Obviously Malacanang is trying to minimize its impact especially among the greater number of our non-tech people hoping that it would eventually die down before they discovered this grand deception.

Indeed, Malacanang’s response to this latest bombshell which came late in the afternoon of the same day sounds unconvincing. It is more of a denial accompanied by an enumeration of P-Noy’s schedule of activities outside the Palace during the day and time he was supposed to be closeted with Napoles as alleged by Tatad’s “authoritative sources.” Obviously the accompanying explanation is much similar to an alibi usually given by suspects in some wrongdoings who have been positively identified.

The rule of evidence in this regard, which can be applied by analogy, is that denial and alibi are usually “self serving negative evidence which cannot be accorded greater evidentiary weight than the affirmative declaration” of witnesses to an incident (People vs. Atadero, 634 SCRA 327; People vs. Ayade 610 SCRA 246; Sumbillo vs. People 610 SCRA 477; People vs. Alfredo 638 SCRA 749 and many others).

For alibi to be credible and given weight, it must be shown that the person involved in an incident was at a different place when the incident happened and that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene where the incident happened (People vs. Estrada, 610 SCRA 222; People vs. Matunhay, 614 SCRA, 307; People vs. Rante, 617 SCRA 115; People vs. Ogan, 623 SCRA 479).

In the Tatad expose, the events attended by P-Noy during the period in question happened in places near Malacanang. So it is not really physically impossible for him to have attended those scheduled activities while the secret lunch and closed door meeting with Napoles were taking place in the Music Room of Malacanang. Indeed as Tatad pointed out, Aquino could be addressing the East Asia Conference in Hotel Sofitel at 10 a.m. and be back at the Palace by 10:30 or 11 a.m. because Sofitel is just ten minutes away. Furthermore the report of the authoritative sources cited by Tatad also mentioned that Aquino left the room three times between 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. That must be the time when he attended the other function which also took place in other areas only inside the Palace.

Moreover, Lacierda, Roxas, Almendras, Abad, and Ochoa were also mentioned as being present during that secret lunch and closed-door meeting. Up to now, nothing has been heard from them, not even a denial. Obviously they don’t want to be entangled in a web of lies especially Lacierda who was mentioned as having accompanied Napoles to the Music Room. His latest reaction was a personal attack against Tatad calling him a “liar”. He has not denied the report concerning his role in the meeting or shown any proof of his whereabouts at the time it reportedly happened.

Obviously Tatad’s revelation has not been sufficiently proven as “pure fiction” and an absolute falsehood. If this revelation is indeed false and malicious, there is probable cause to sue him for libel. So, P-Noy and his boys should file a libel complaint against Tatad. Filing this suit is the only way for the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” to come out of this latest episode in the pork barrel scam. It is also the only way for the “authoritative sources” cited by Tatad, to finally come out, instead of merely challenging Tatad to reveal their names.

Unless P-Noy and his boys come up with a more convincing and credible story, more and more people will believe that he really lacks the required fitness and integrity to be President of this country. The Philippine Star 

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