When will this soap opera end?

INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - April 30, 2014 - 12:00am

The highly paid spin masters of Philippine politics are definitely working over time these past couple of months, bombarding the public with all sorts of cross purpose information and wild stories in the hopes of confusing them when it comes to the truth concerning the officials they have elected to run the country. Indeed, the man on the street is served a plethora of conflicting information in the hopes that if they are too confused to go through it all, that they will inevitably not care about the outcome.

I am talking, of course, about the still on-going pork barrel scam masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles. I can’t speak for the nation, but I for one, am tired of this issue. Will we ever see tangible results from this, or will it forever be an inquiry and case that just keeps going around in circles, waiting for such a time that no one cares anymore? I truly hope not. Is it optimistic to hope that for once, justice will be served and those who are in the wrong will be made to pay?

The latest intrigue in the case is that now Napoles claims to want to reveal even more politicians who were part of the scam that stole billions of pesos from the people to fund lavish lifestyles and personal interests through bogus projects and ghost corporations. Are we just supposed to believe that suddenly Napoles is willing to cooperate? Has her time at prison changed her mind when we all remember how she famously stonewalled the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee by answering only “I do not remember”?

We all recall what a colossal waste of time that hearing was because nothing came out of it. Once again, Napoles just wasted taxpayers’ time and money by offering no solid information. How does she expect to get anything in return? Why should any of us trust her to be a credible witness when, up to this point, she has just been giving everyone the runaround? I don’t understand why Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (reportedly with the President’s approval) spent the entire night until the following day at Napoles’ hospital room last week listening to her stories and supposedly getting the names of more politicians and lawmakers who are also allegedly part of the pork barrel fiasco. 

What does this Napoles expect from this sudden “cooperation” on her part? I hope she does not expect immunity. A list of names is nothing without proof and until someone is made to pay for this travesty, she shouldn’t think that she’s going to get off without punishment. I remember when she was first arrested, those around her boasted that her friends in high places would not let her see the inside of a jail cell. Is that why she was being so difficult in the beginning and not giving anything up? The promise that those she helped in the past would come to her aid? Perhaps now she can see that the help she thought was coming isn’t going to happen and she is now panicking, looking for a new way out of this mess. Unfortunately, I really can’t feel any pity for her, because she built her own pyre and now she has to burn on it.

As for the “list” of names she supposedly provided? It has not yet been released but already there is drama and speculation surrounding who might be on it. The list is supposed to contain the names of several more lawmakers – including allies of the administration if rumors are to be believed – linked to the pork barrel scam. Despite the rumors, Malacanang claims to be unfazed about the list and will deal with it when it has been made public. They claim that no one has seen the affidavit but De Lima, who says that she will reveal the list when the time is right, and that all the speculations are only sowing confusion and chaos.

While I have to admit I am curious about who is named anew in the scam, it still does not take away from the fact that there has been nothing concrete done about this for over eight months now. Due to the nature of the Internet and social media, at least no one is willing to just sweep it under the rug like in the past, but still, how long are we supposed to wait before we see any tangible results? It’s quite disheartening because while this case just spins around and around, the reality is that people are still suffering in the Philippines and more and more money is just being spent on nothing.

Currently, Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla are the only politicians with pending plunder cases at the Ombudsman but they are confident that these cases will amount to nothing. They are still in power and they honestly do not seem even the least bit concerned. They’ve filed their countersuits and will, no doubt, continue to be safe behind an army of lawyers, legalities, and red tape. What is the point of going after new people on this list when we can’t even seem to prosecute those originally named?

According to the news, the public appears to be divided on these issues. Naturally, they want justice, but they are also starting to feel helpless too. I, for one, am quite tired of this same old song and dance routine. Like the fictitious lawyer Billy Flynn from the musical Chicago said, the whole thing feels like a show. As he sang in his famous song Razzle Dazzle about the legal system, the way to get away with a crime to keep everyone confused and their focus elsewhere: “Give them the old three ring circus, stun and stagger them. When you’re in trouble, go into your dance. Though you are stiffer than a girder, they’ll let you get away with murder,” are some of his famous lines and I feel they apply perfectly. This is exceptionally true in our country. If the politicians can keep the public occupied with stories and intrigues and scandals they can manipulate them to forget that they are stealing from them.

I am actually not only tired but angry too whenever I read about this farce. There is so much suffering in the country – including our fellow Filipinos who are still trying to regain footing after Typhoon Yolanda ravaged the Visayas – and here we are spending all our time and energy on a case that may go on forever. What kind of legacy will we be leaving behind for future generations if we just continue to show them that justice cannot and will not be served? That if you have enough money, you can buy your way out of anything by spending a few useless months in jail?

I hope, that for the sake of the country, things will be different this time around. Only time will tell what will happen to the pork barrel case now when this new list of accused officials goes public. Hopefully we will finally start to see some sort of conclusion that will result in the guilty parties being rightfully and finally punished.

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