Jojo A. Robles

Sing, Janet, sing!

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Cherchez la femme, as the French would say. And the woman will not be hard to find, since she’s already in prison.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, acting on direct instructions from President Rodrigo Duterte, is seeking a meeting with Janet Lim Napoles, known in the previous administration as “Ma’am Janet,” as part of the plan to revisit the pork barrel scandal of three years ago. Aguirre said the President directed him to find out who benefited from Napoles’ large-scale theft of Congress’ funds and who implemented the massive coverup that followed, after the scandal was exposed.

Duterte had earlier announced that he wanted “a second look” at the controversy, in all likelihood because he was seeking new dirt to throw at his old enemy, Senator Leila de Lima. But the Napoles pork scandal will require from Duterte all of that famous political will that he has, because opening this particular can of worms is going to implicate so many former and current members of Congress - and nearly the entire top-level officialdom of the administration just past.

This is truly a job that only Duterte can take on, just like he took on the illegal drug problem that took many decades to develop into the monster that it is today. Frankly, I’m beside myself with excitement at what Duterte, Aguirre and their investigators will turn up.

The truth of the matter is, Noynoy Aquino, Butch Abad, Mar Roxas and the rest of that gang were deathly scared of the fallout of the Napoles scandal because all of them (and, to be fair, many more politicians of all persuasions) partook of her legendary largesse. And so the plot to silence Napoles and kill the controversy she generated was hatched, with narratives that went beyond the six-year term of Aquino in order to protect all of her “clients” beyond 2016.

The way they figured, no subsequent government would dare touch the Napoles case because every former or present member of Congress had, at one time or another, using one conduit or another, stolen their pork allocations. And those few who hadn’t knew better than to rock the boat, because they, too, had sleazy - if non-pork related - stuff that they wanted to hide.

Aquino and his administration engineered the conviction of the Queen of Pork on the minor charge of illegal detention, in order to get her freed later on when the heat had subsided, if she “behaved.” They also threw three senators who weren’t allies in jail and then ordered De Lima to make sure that nobody else was charged.

But none of them figured that the successor of Aquino would not care one whit about who gets hurt, as long as he does his job as he sees fit. And now Duterte has ordered the resurrection of the pork barrel case - which means Napoles may finally and freely spill the beans on the whole sordid scandal.

* * *

Make no mistake: There were so many who profited from Napoles’ not-so-novel idea to pocket all of Congress’ pork and to kick back major portions of it to the lawmakers who were never, ever charged.

A lot of them, according to the list of “beneficiaries” that Napoles kept, are still very much around in the current Congress, both in the House and in the Senate. And yet, as befits members of an old boys’ network that imposes a policy of Mafia-like omerta on the membership, not one of them - Aquino ally or not - really squealed about Napoles’ scheme.

It’s true that the revelations of Senator Jinggoy Estrada about massive bribery during the impeachment hearing of Chief Justice Renato Corona led to the discovery of the Aquino administration’s other financial skimming operation, the Disbursement Acceleration Program. But as far as the pork scandal is concerned, not one Congress member has spoken up - which is strange, given how our lawmakers love to talk.

But now that the instigators of the biggest government coverup are gone and with a relentless anti-corruption president at the helm, maybe we’ll get to the bottom, finally, of the scam Napoles operated so lucratively for so long. And if the hypocritical officials of the previous administration end up in jail for protecting Napoles and preventing her story from being told, well, that’s just too bad for them.

It would be truly ironic if the top officials of an administration that proclaimed itself as the guardian of and guide to the straight path are sent to jail because they pocketed huge sums of government money used to buy congressional loyalty. But maybe it’s not so ironic, since pork, in its last incarnation, was a creation of the sainted Cory’s immaculate administration.

(It was Ferdinand Marcos, by the way, who abolished Congress’ pork after he assumed dictatorial powers with the imposition of martial law. If only for that one single act, I think he already qualifies for burial at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani.)

I’m sure Napoles would be more willing to talk about her multi-billion scam now, not only because the people who alternately threatened and coddled her are no longer in a position to do either. But if I were Duterte, I’d make sure that Napoles is taken to a secure place before she starts telling her complete tale, so she doesn’t end up dead like Melvin “Dragon” Odicta.

And then, she can sing her heart out.

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