I am not a lawyer but I see something terribly wrong with the way Janet Lim Napoles is being treated by the Duterte regime, specifically the Department of Justice, but also by the president himself.
When President Rodrigo Duterte opined months ago that maybe Napoles was not as guilty as had been presumed – presumptions based on mountains of evidence – it seemed that it would only be a matter of time when she would be cleared of charges.
This hasn’t happened yet, but the initial steps have been taken, and they have to disturb anyone who still believes that the guilty must be charged and convicted in a court of law, and the innocent set free.
To recall, Napoles and her brother (who remains in hiding) had found themselves an obscene but highly profitable gold mine in the pork barrel allocations that congressmen and senators had been granting themselves for decades.
Since all the country’s lawmakers had given themselves millions every year to dole out to their pet projects, these pork barrel allocations had been a source of graft and corruption.
In many cases, the projects – usually public works -- were overpriced and the results substandard. The lawmakers would award the projects to favored contractors, who then built the low grade roads, bridges, school buildings, basketball courts, waiting sheds and the like, making huge profits in the process.
Naturally, the lawmakers received their share of the pie. Under the table and tax free, of course.
This went on for the longest time, until Napoles came up with one bright idea: Why build projects at all? Why not create ghost non-government organizations concocting impossible-to-audit projects to receive pork barrel funds?
The millions – billions actually – would be shared between the lawmakers who doled out the funds to the NGOs, and Napoles.
Improbable as it seems in this 21st century, this is exactly what Napoles and her cohorts did. But as the saying goes, the truth will eventually come out, and when it did a good number of congressmen and senators were found to have been active and willing participants to the scheme.
In the case of three senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla – the amounts doled out and the kickbacks they received were sufficient enough for them to be charged with plunder, meaning they gifted themselves with more than P50 million in rebates. That’s roughly $1 millon in today’s exchange rate.
Estrada and Revilla are now incarcerated, while the court allowed the 90-something Enrile to post bail owing to his advanced years and frail health.
Napoles, meanwhile, was also incarcerated not only for her role in the plunder of pork barrel funds, but also because she had kept a former employee and distant relative imprisoned inside a rest home for Catholic priests in an exclusive Makati village. Benhur Luy was that Napoles employee who revealed the scam after he had been rescued by the NBI.
In my book, if a guy says he was kept against his will, and if his close relatives say he was kept against his will, then in all probability he was kept against his will. A court therefore convicted Napoles for illegal detention.
Under the Duterte regime, the law seems to have become ultra-selective. Janet Napoles has been getting special treatment for unknown reasons, although any fairly intelligent person can guess why. She was recently cleared of the illegal detention charges by the Court of Appeals, at the behest of the Justice department.
We can see where this is going. Sooner or later, she will also be cleared of the plunder raps she is now facing. Naturally, the senators will likewise be set free. This is justice, Duterte style, ladies and gentlemen.
Having amassed billions of pesos, most of which remains unaccounted for, Napoles still wields a lot of clout. And with so many congressmen having been in her payroll in the past, they would rather that their names be kept out of public scrutiny. For this reason, they will do anything to keep Napoles happy.
Very recently, the pork barrel queen requested that she be kept in a cell separate from the hoi polloi criminals she is imprisoned with, citing threats to her life.
Request granted, of course.
It isn’t only now that VIPs get preferential treatment, of course. For the longest time, rich criminals are treated like kings and queens because their jailors are aware of what they can do. They can be generous to their captors, which is the case with too many wealthy crooks to mention.
As for the poor, they don’t even get their day in court. The policy now is to shoot them rather than spend government funds for their capture, detention, trial and incarceration.
Such is the Philippine judicial system, circa 2017.