Ten questions they didn’t, couldn’t ask at the Napoles hearing

When Janet Lim-Napoles arrived at the hall for the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing last Friday, she was dour-looking, but surprisingly—or not so surprisingly— confident. When she left, she was smiling and even animatedly shook hands with her persecutor, justice secretary Leila de Lima who was visibly shocked at the gesture.

No wonder.

There were many questions just begging to be asked at the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing last Friday on the pork-barrel scam. Amazingly, the senators didn’t. Napoles most probably slept well that night in the unpolluted air of a Sta. Rosa town.

Napoles could even have been briefed—”prepped” is the term—so that her answers would conclusively debunk allegations that she had been a big financial supporter of President Aquino and the Liberal Party in the elections of 2010 and 2013.

But I guess Aquino and his senators calculated that given Napoles personality, they couldn’t rely on her to reply the way they would have wanted to.

Aquino with Napoles and husband: And the senators didn’t even ask, or were afraid to ask her if the President is a family friend?

Aquino with Napoles and husband: And the senators didn’t even ask, or were afraid to ask her if the President is a family friend?

Follows are questions that quite obviously could have been asked of Napoles, if only the senators weren’t subservient to Aquino and didn’t want to open “Napoles’ box”, had a different agenda as in the case of Alan Cayetano, which was to link the former president to the scam, or as in the case of two neophyte senators, if they weren’t just too dimwitted.

These questions do not directly involve the plunder and tax evasion cases filed against her, so she would not have been able to invoke her right to self-incrimination.

1. What was the occasion or occasions when photos of you, your husband, and your daughter were taken with the President? Have you had another occasion, other than when you surrendered, to talk with the President regarding any matter other than social banter?

The question is important even if only it would provide the entire nation occasion to decipher her body language whether she was telling the truth or not.

This is especially so if you consider the following:

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was Philippine president for nine years, and probably attended ten times the public social events Aquino did. But not a single photo—and I was told Aquino’s operatives ransacked all the files of Palace photographers looking for one—has been found of Arroyo with Napoles.

In contrast, less than two years in office in 2012 (the date of the photos) and there are photos of Aquino smiling ear to ear not only with “Ma’m Janet” (as his sidekick Mar Roxas referred to her), but also with her husband, her daughter Jeane, and apparently several of her amigas.

Napoles would find herself cringing to answer the question. She couldn’t say “I don’t remember,” as she posed not just with anybody, but the most powerful man in the country.

If she invoked her right against self-incrimination, that would presume that she had illegal deals with the President. The question would lead to other questions that could shed light who this woman—if she did what her accuser Benhur Luy claims she did, that she fooled the government bureaucracy for a decade—is: Who invited you to meet Aquino, or to the event? Have you met Aquino before he was President? Do you know any of Aquino’s main officials or relatives?

2. What time were you brought to Malacañang Palace when you surrendered, and what did you talk about with the President and his officials? Can you relate the details of how you were supposedly met by Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda for you to surrender to the President? Did you have a separate meetings or discussions with either Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, local government and interior secretary Manuel Roxas, and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras when you were in the Palace, and what did you talk about with them? What did you and the President talk about while you were in the presidential car on the way to Camp Crame from Malacañang?

Questions to this would establish if the Palace is treating her as a VIP for some important reason or not.

3. What was the occasion when you and your husband were taken photos of with Senate President Franklin Drilon? Have you had an occasion, other than when you surrendered, to talk with Senator Drilon or his representative regarding any matter other than social banter?

Her answers or even her refusal to answer would obviously be useful to finding out who this woman is, why seems to be hobnobbing with the second or third most powerful man in the country.

(An intriguing question has arisen in the hearing: Why didn’t Drilon—one of the few lawyers in the committee—ask Napoles any question? If you’ve been watching televised Senate hearings, as well as the impeachment trial of Corona, Drilon never misses a chance to ask a witness or a resource person a question. Why didn’t he in this case? Was he afraid, as has been asked by many in social media, that Napoles would make the mistake of greeting him, “Hello, Frank, kamusta ka na?”)

4. Have you talked with any government official or politician to discuss your case or how you should defend yourself against the allegations ever since you were accused by Benhur Luy of being the brains of the pork-barrel scam, especially after the court ordered you arrested?

However, it wasn’t only Napoles who was invited at the Blue Ribbon hearing, and it would have been an opportunity to get information from them that could have shed light on the pork-barrel scam: Rene Villa, Benhur Luy and his “whistleblower” colleagues, their lawyer Levito Baligod, officials of the National Bureau of Investigation involved in the case, and most especially Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

These people could have provided valuable information on the scam since unlike Napoles, no case has been filed against them, and therefore they could not have invoked their right against self-incrimination.

The threat of perjury would have impelled them to tell the truth, which is not the case with Napoles since it is the courts where she has been charged in that would determine the truth. And after all, if the Senate committee found her guilty of contempt or perjury, what penalty would they mete out—detention?

What Senators should have asked them, on Wednesday.