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Pork brains Abad must resign

If he has any decency left, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, President Aquino’s ideologue and strategist, must resign immediately. Whistleblower Janet Napoles’ testimony implicating him in the pork barrel scam is so devastating that he cannot just say or pretend that he was “amused” by it.

That self-righteous group Abad helped set up, the Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) group, should formally ask him to resign as well. No dark cloud should hang over any member of the Daang Matuwid family, right?

And if he has any reasoning left in him, Abad should realize by now that Aquino has abandoned him. He has been set up to take all the heat. It was Senator Franklin Drilon, very reliable sources disclosed, through former agrarian secretary Rene Villa (both Liberal Party top honchos) who had inserted pork barrel queen Janet Napoles into the bureaucracy, which had convinced Abad to trust her.

Napoles, both in her first affidavit disclosed by former Senator Panfilo Lacson, and the one she submitted the other day to the Senate, narrated in detail her dealings with Abad, how he even tutored her in the need to set up non-government organizations in order to siphon off pork barrel money.

He has been repeating only one line of defense: “I find it amusing that I am once again in the crosshairs of those who want the Aquino administration to fall,” he said the other day.
He had struggled to explain his strange logic in another interview: “All the dirt they’ve thrown at President Aquino hasn’t affected his ratings at all. So they’re throwing dirt at me now, hoping that the muck will somehow fall on him.”

Why would Lacson, Napoles?
It just didn’t cross Mr. Abad’s mind: Why would Lacson, a big Aquino supporter and Cabinet member, want to throw dirt at the President? Lacson was the first to disclose Abad’s links with Napoles.

Look at this also from Napoles’ perspective: Why would she want to hit the President (by linking Abad, as Abad’s logic goes)? She is completely at the mercy of Aquino.

He could very easily have the judge order her to be freed, only to be assassinated on the way home. Or, he can use his daan-na-tuwid nobody-is-above-the-law rhetoric and have her thrown in a dirty city jail together with hardened criminals. Or he can go against his own words and declare she is fit after all to be a state witness.

Napoles first made the accusations against Abad in her five-hour talk with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on April 22.

Isn’t it clear to Abad that de Lima got the President’s approval for him to be implicated in Napoles’ testimony?

Those in the opposition who had been accused by Napoles have been claiming that de Lima revised her affidavit, which she certainly could have done in the past several weeks, as she was the only official allowed to be in touch with Napoles.

Why would de Lima go against her boss Aquino, which Abad claims is the reason for his being embroiled in the controversy?

In criminal trials, it is the level of detail that bolsters accusations made against the defendant. It is also the uniqueness of the testimony—in contrast to simple tales—that strengthens its veracity.

Such detail and uniqueness are features of Napoles’ testimonies that embroiled Abad in the controversy. Consider her claims, and decide if these were merely imagined.

In her first affidavit given to Lacson, Napoles claimed that she was introduced to Abad in 2000 when she lent him some money, which the former Batanes congressman promptly paid with interest.

Abad then imparted to Napoles how he had used foundations to roll out the initial financial investment. That— gratitude—explains why Abad tipped her on how to use NGOs for the pork barrel scam.

In the signed affidavit she submitted to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, Napoles said that she met Abad, through an agent named Manuel Jarmin, at the Japanese Restaurant at Edsa Shangri-La Plaza Hotel.

There, she said, Abad explained that the SARO or special allotment release order is needed for PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund, the official name of the pork barrel) allocations. She added that it was also Abad who explained that she needed an NGO or cooperative to be able to deal with the agencies.

The brains
That is why she has been insisting that she wasn’t the brains of the pork-barrel scam: It was Abad.

I have worked in government as an official for about five years, and as a reporter I covered it probably for two decades. Yet I have never fully understood the intricacies—the CCAs and SAROS, among others—of the process for releasing taxpayers’ money.

How could Napoles, who spent most of her time in an outback area like Basilan and who had only two years of college, grasp its complexities so as to carry out a mammoth scam for years?

It would, however, be a walk in the park for a lawyer with a Harvard masters’ management degree who run a huge government bureaucracy like the education department—Abad— who would have that additional crucial unique knowledge: how NGOs work.

“In that meeting, I gave him P2 million. When the notice of cash allocation came out I gave him P2 million at Cravings on Katipunan,” she said.

“When we talked about the implementation of a project, he asked me if I have an NGO or coop. I said I had none, and he said he’d take care of this. As far as I can remember, he used the Batanes Electric Cooperative to implement the project,” Napoles said.

Are these details that Napoles could fabricate?

Edsa Shangri-la restaurants are known favorites of Abad since his Congress days. “Cravings” restaurant near Ateneo de Manila, on the other hand, is a favorite among NGO people, who consider Abad one of their own.

It is intriguing, though, why Napoles claimed that Abad returned the P4 million she gave him at Edsa Shangri-la and Cravings.

There was only one other case when dirty money, even if not all, was returned to her. She claimed in her testimony: “I gave money for the campaign of Senator Alan Peter Cayetano in the last election. We met at the SLICE restaurant in Bonifacio Global City. I personally handed the money to him.”

“The project did not push through because we had a disag­reement on the rebate. They were asking for a bigger rebate, that’s why they returned the money I had advanced… When I got the money back, it wasn’t complete,” she said.

In Napoles’ twisted mind (or more likely, Justice Secretary de Lima’s), these details about “returned money” was a way of telling those implicated that they could argue before the Ombudsman that they were not outright crooks, because they returned the money (even if it is “not complete”) to Napoles.

All these obfuscation amid the damning details does not hide the fact that Abad has been tagged as the mastermind in both the Napoles signed and expanded affidavit, and in Lacson’s unofficial (but useful for counter-checking) Napoles affidavit.

Aquino has already protected Drilon, this is obvious from his sudden disappearance in the Napoles long affidavit. Now, if Aquino continues to coddle and protect his other LP ally Abad, his “daang matuwid” will really be exposed for what it is—a hypocritical sham.