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Will Napoles implicate Aquino?

Yes, alleged pork-barrel scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles would have done so in the Senate probe. She would have at the very least disclosed, as jueteng whistle-blower Sandra Cam alleged a few days ago, that she gave P100 million for the campaign war chest of President Aquino in 2010.

Why else would Senate President Franklin Drilon block the move to have her testify in a Senate hearing, in which Napoles would have been prodded or pressured by opposition senators to spill the beans?

If Napoles testified in the Senate, all for naught would have been this administration’s arduous attempt to keep her incommunicado by detaining her at the Special Action Forces headquarters in Santa Rosa.

Ever since this pork-barrel scam broke out in July, only one newspaper in fact has had access to her. Why?

Why does Napoles’ counsel Lorna-Kapunan maintain such supreme confidence that her client will be free sooner or later? If I knew Aquino would be sticking by her come hell or high water because he could ignominiously fall from power if Napoles spills the beans, I’d be as confident as Kapunan.

‘Ma’am Janet’ and daughter with Aquino

‘Ma’am Janet’ and daughter with Aquino

Only two years in power (the photos’ date), and Aquino is photographed smiling and so relaxed not only with Napoles but also with her husband and daughter. Nine years in power, and try as they have, they haven’t been able to unearth a single photo of former President Gloria Arroyo or anyone in her Cabinet happily posing with “Ma’m Janet.” What does that say?

Drilon sadly stooped to the gutter level, and has shamed himself and the Senate by refusing the request—not just by anybody—but by the chairman of the Senate’s Blue Ribbon Committee to summon Napoles to its investigation of the pork barrel scam. I’m surprised that committee chairman Teofisto Guingona 3rd has not raised hell about Drilon’s action: It is a slap on his face.

This has never occurred before in the Senate’s history, for its president to block the request for a subpoena by the chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee. And this is just not any person being called to the Senate, but Napoles who is in the center of the huge conspiracy in which members of Congress are alleged to have stolen billions of taxpayers’ money.

And what excuse did Drilon give to refuse to order Napoles subpoenaed? That he has to consult the Ombudsman if Napoles’ testimony in the Senate would affect the case filed against her at her office.

Drilon’s excuse is so shocking for somebody who is on his fourth stint as Senate President, which would have ingrained in his mind how important for the republic is that institution’s independence.

Why would he ask the Ombudsman for its opinion when it has not even acted on the plunder case against Napoles, that it is not even with the courts yet, i.e., filed with the Sandiganbayan?

More significantly, Drilon has put the Senate, whose members are elected by tens of millions of Filipinos and which constitutionally is a supremely independent body, on the level of the Ombudsman, an official appointed by the President. Drilon in effect has debased the Senate to put it below not only the President but also below an appointive official.

In her reply to Drilon, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales demonstrated a better understanding of the Constitution, and shamed him when she lectured him what the Senate is: “That the Senate is supreme in its own sphere was never meant to be challenged. I thus submit to the collective wisdom of its members.”

With his excuse demolished by the Ombudsman herself, Drilon shifted gears to announce that whether Napoles would be summoned or not would have to be decided by the Senate itself.

This again is unprecedented, as it has been a practice never challenged since the Senate’s creation after the war, for its Blue Ribbon Committee chairman to summon to the committee’s hearings anyone he feels would help in its investigation.

If Guingona’s father was instead at his post, I have no doubt that he would have resigned to protest Drilon’s insult and intrusion into his authority as Blue Ribbon Committee chairman

Drilon had announced that instead of a formal vote, a caucus of the Senate, which was scheduled last Monday, would decide the issue. The meeting was postponed though, according to the announcement, “because of the unavailability of some members on account of sickness/official mission abroad.”

Drilon scheduled the caucus today, and we hope the majority opts to opt for the truth.

The only reason Drilon would give the administration senators not to allow Napoles to testify, and to agree to a cover-up would be a simple one: If Napoles implicates Aquino, it would be game over for this administration.

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Moody’s recent upgrading of the country’s risk-rating is not because agencies and investment banks are falling over each other excited that the Philippines is such a great place to invest.

What the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has not been telling the public is that risk-ratings are paid for. Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch Ratings and such rating services don’t issue a rating because of its overflowing concern for investors.

A corporation or a country isn’t just issued a credit-risk rating from out of the blue. It has to contract a rating agency to evaluate its credit-risk, and pay for the fee for such rating.

As you can check out yourself in these agencies’ websites, the price for a credit rating isn’t at all cheap at all. These agencies charge from $1 million to $2 million for sovereign ratings, and the equivalent of five basis points of the value of a credit instrument (e.g., that now-cursed “derivative”), excluding the first-class travel and accommodation expenses of its analysts.

The Aquino government has had an obsession for ratings, and has asked—including this most recent one—for 14 such evaluations. Several were asked for even within the span of six months, when the agencies had their previous ratings unchanged.

Assuming it cost government an average of $1.5 million per rating, it has spent $21 million for the 14 ratings Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and BSP Governor Amando Tetangco have contracted. That’s not cheap, the equivalent of P930 million. I can’t fathom how these two managed to incur such costs secretly, as these expenses do not appear in their published reports.

You decide if credit raters maintain their objectivity despite their fat fees, especially with Aquino officials’ tactic of contracting all three agencies. Would an agency risk downgrading the Philippines, if it could be boycotted later, with its competitor with rosy glasses getting the business?

Unbelievable? These agencies are now accused of being part of the problem that caused the 2007-2009 financial crisis, since they rated as investment-grade what turned out to be junk bonds, and were all praises for such investment firms as Bear Sterns, Lehman Brothers, Merril Lynch—which all went under.

S&P and Moody’s in fact were sued in 2012 for $600 million in damages because they issued optimistic ratings for certain securities just before the global financial crisis. The two opted to settle for an undisclosed price, to avoid the adverse publicity. No matter, they may recover those losses at the rate this government has been asking them to do Philippine ratings so often.