What will have more profound impact on society, Janet Napoles going to jail or a bunch of senators and congressman going to jail?
Media has been fueling speculations about the Napoles surrender as if it was a privilege that was accorded to her because of her irresistible influence and connections, or that it fits with some kind of Palace master plan to destroy the opposition.
It was not a privilege. Napoles surrendered to the president because she believed he could guarantee her safety. She had accused the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) of extortion. Who in their right mind would surrender to the very people you accuse of extortion?
She was also a threat to those legislators who are suspected of conniving with her. She could bring them down with her.
She tried to surrender to Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle but he, unlike other bishops, knows the line between church and state. He refused to become involved.
Ultimately, Napoles was the only one who could decide whether to surrender or not and to whom to surrender. When she decided to surrender to the president, he was left with one of two options, accept her surrender or keep looking for her. If you were the president what would you do?
The more important issue is the speculation that the surrender of Napoles was some kind of master plan to destroy the opposition. The spin fits perfectly with the attempts of the suspected associates of Napoles to deflect the people’s anger.
Remember the initial reaction of the suspects when the Napoles case first hit the front pages? They asked why only us the opposition; what about administration allies? They also decried the drip-drip of information coming from the Commission on Audit and the Justice Department.
They had a good propaganda line until the COA report finally came out and the entire list of legislators and NGOs was published. That forced the suspected legislators to shift gears. They began to point to the P3B error involving Rep. Zamora and the Luis Abalos who turned out to be BenHur, as if those minor errors that the COA clarified immediately were enough to discredit the report in its entirety. They began characterizing the report as riddled with errors, asking how it could be trusted if such blatant mistakes were not seen right away. Well, you can’t blame suspects for exploring every avenue to save their asses.
As early as the midnight presson of DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) Secretary Mar Roxas, one reporter already tried to put a negative spin on the Napoles surrender. She was so insistent on injecting doubt that an exasperated Mar Roxas asked her, “Ano ba ito, sala sa lamig sala sa init?”
The reporter who I assume was only trying to put a dramatic angle to the story unwittingly plowed the field for Jinggoy Estrada to plant seeds of doubt in an otherwise straightforward surrender.
Today Jinggoy Estrada faced media and said, “I’m not saying that she will be used. But there are chances since she is already in government custody. As I mentioned earlier, some unscrupulous elements might just put words into her mouth.” In other words, it’s all part of a script?
It would be great if everyone involved in the scam were to land in jail, but what if you had to plea bargain with Napoles to get the senators and congressmen, would you? I would.
I would allow her to plea to a lesser sentence, even probation, if she can give testimony that will lead to a conviction for those senators and congressmen. Because that will have a more profound impact on the national psyche. In a few years, Napoles will just be another crook convicted of corruption but a bunch of senators and congressmen going to jail is for the history books.
Napoles could turn from a heel to a hero, if she makes the right choice.
Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).