In his attempt to demonize the Estradas so there won’t be an “EDSA Tres” backlash when Senator Jinggoy Estrada is thrown to jail this week, President Aquino may have inadvertently provided us with what is nearly the “smoking gun” of his complicity in the pork-barrel scam, or at least of his closeness to Janet Lim-Napoles.
This is Napoles’ letter last year to Aquino asking for his “assistance” in fighting the extortion attempt against her and her brother by the National Bureau of Investigation officers together with one at-that-time obscure lawyer Levito Baligod and ex-general Rodolfo Diaz.
The letter was dated (and received by Aquino) April 17, 2013. This was more than three months before Napoles’ staff-turned-rat Benhur Luy, with his office-mates and accompanied by Baligod as their lawyer, went in July to the Philippine Daily Inquirer to begin their trial-by-publicity barrage against the alleged “pork-barrel queen.”
Aquino on June 5, last week, read one portion of it referring to ex-general Diaz, to imply that the Estradas were involved in the extortion try through him, as he was Presidential Security Group commander during President Estrada’s administration.
Aquino had his aides photocopy the letter he had read. They distributed it to the press. The letter is actually very revealing, a virtual smoking gun not only showing Aquino’s closeness to Napoles, but also pointing to the grand plan to nail down leaders of the opposition while portraying it as his promised campaign against corruption.
A copy of the same letter was leaked nearly a year ago (see accompanying photo). But that copy was unusually without any marks, that is, with no footprints, as it were, on its delivery to the President.
Not so with the letter Aquino himself released last week. I hope the original letter, together with its attachments or notes, is preserved, as it would likely be evidence to support the accused senators’ defense that the charges against them are in fact political persecution of the opposition, and not the outcome of an anti-graft crusade.
Received: ‘Malacañang Private Office’
First, the letter was stamped on the right-hand corner as received on the same day April 17 (and at 3 p.m., way before offices closed) that Napoles wrote the letter. Second, as is indicated in the stamp on the upper left corner (which is partly obscured), the letter was received by “Malacanang, Private Office.”
The “Private Office” is one of the four offices under the President specified in the 1987 Administrative Code. The Code even defines what it is in its Title III, Chapter 9, Sec. 24: “Functions of the Private Office. – The Private Office shall provide direct services to the President and shall for this purpose attend to functions and matters that are personal or which pertain to the First Family.”
The obvious question: Why would Napoles’ letter be received by Aquino’s innermost sanctum dealing with “matters that are personal or which pertain to the First Family.”
For the President to receive in his Private Office in a day’s time a letter from an obscure “businessman” should be virtually impossible.
Most letters are received either by a third-tier unit in the Office of the Executive Secretary, the Correspondence Office in Malacañang, the Presidential Management Staff, or though department secretaries, presidential advisers and assistants. If ever it does, a letter from a private individual gets to the President’s attention only after no less than three days. Most of the time however, it is processed—replied to or referred to the appropriate department or agency—by the Executive Secretary’s office or the Presidential Management Staff.
There is only one way for a letter to reach the President within a day’s time: For a Cabinet secretary, a Presidential Adviser or assistant, or somebody personally very close to the President to personally hand it over to him, face to face, or to his close-in-aide. It is also only through these intimate means that a letter is filed with the Private Office, as in this letter of Napoles to Aquino.
The questions Aquino must answer: How did the letter get to him in such a very short time? If it was delivered to his Private Office or handed over to him, who did so?
Or did Napoles herself personally know Aquino, that she made deals with him, that she could call him to say that she has a very urgent, life-or-death kind of letter for him, and the President would have said that he would read it as soon as he got it?
What did Aquino do?
The answers are crucial. For example, was it Budget Secretary Florencio Abad who delivered the letter, who is somebody Aquino would meet at the drop of a hat? If so, this would confirm Napoles’ allegations of Abad’s involvement in the scam.
The other big question as crucial to unearthing the truth of this entire pork-barrel issue that has consumed the nation: What did Aquino do with the letter?
The letter released by Aquino concealed what action he took.
Aquino’s action would have been indicated in a note stapled in the upper left-hand part of the letter that I have circled. But we have only the marks left by the staple wire.
His action also could have been indicated by his marginal notes, and there are black blotches on the copy of the letter, which could have been the borders of the part of such notes blocked off when it was photocopied.
Aquino’s response to Napoles’ letter could have only been three:
1) “Sec. de Lima, please investigate.” This would have been the response of a President who wasn’t involved in the pork-barrel scam or who did not know Napoles.
In fact, one theory that had been circulating even late last year is that after receiving Aquino’s order, de Lima asked her closest staff to investigate the allegations.
Panicking, the accused NBI officials and Baligod retaliated by getting Luy and company to reveal to the Philippine Daily Inquirer the pork-barrel accusations in order to turn the tables on Napoles, and even extort money from some of the many legislators accused in exchange for deleting their names from Luy’s files.
2) “Butch, let’s talk about this with SP.” And what would Aquino talk about with Budget Secretary Abad and Senate President Franklin Drilon?
This: That since they knew what Napoles’ pork barrel scam was, and since the Commission on Audit special report on the abuse of pork barrel funds would soon be made public, the Liberal Party could exploit the issue by focusing on the three opposition leaders—Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla—as the greediest of the lot. This would demolish their ambitions to capture the next administration.
Their arrest and jailing for plunder charges would also bolster the Aquino team’s propaganda as anti-graft crusaders.
3) Aquino could have called Napoles herself to tell her: “Don’t worry, I’ll do what I can.”
That could have been the reason Napoles was even brought to Malacañang to talk to Aquino when she surrendered, why her gait at the Senate hearing showed inexplicable confidence.
But then why would Aquino charge her with plunder now? The answer would be the same to the question: Why would Aquino want to jail Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla without whom he couldn’t have removed Chief Justice Corona?