By Tyrone A. Velez
DAVAO CITY – Calling her “Pork Barrel Queen” and “My Amnesia Girl”, netizens let out their anger in social media after Janet Napoles dodges questions in Thursday’s Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on her alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Appearing in public for the first time since her arrest in September, Napoles came in a bullet-proof vest and was without her lawyers. In her answers, she parries off inquiries and appeals to reveal information on her business and involvement in the alleged misuse of public funds amounting to P 25 billion over ten years.
Instead, senators and the public watching the hearing on television heard repeated answers such as “Di ko matandaan (I can’t remember)” or “I invoke my right against self-incrimination” to questions from senators ranging from her business and NGOs, properties and family members.
These left netizens, like Jezzy Relly, a campus paper editor, to say Napoles is the new lead of the romantic comedy “My Amnesia Girl”
“Dili na diay si Toni Gonzaga ang bida sa My Amnesia Girl. Si Napoles na man diay. (It’s not Toni Gonzaga who’s starring in ‘My Amnesia Girl. It’s Napoles). Wow. Just wow.
Photojournalist Karlos Manlupig calls Napoles’ strategy “a very interesting case of selective amnesia and pathological lying.
Others put their frustration bluntly, like that of computer engineer Shem Bajenting who comments “Deny deny deny.. ‘i invoke my rights’. Makapungot man diay (It’s getting irritating).”
Alvan Pepito, technical support specialist is amazed at Napoles’ skill to sustain her answers for many hours of questioning. “Taas ng agility, evade nang evade. (What agility she has to keep on evading).”
“Janet Napoles could be an amazing Pinoy Henyo player!” said column writer Chris Fabian, referring to a popular TV game show where a contestant gets to reply only yes or no to a guessing game.
Other netizens said her denials are as worrisome as super typhoon Yolanda, which just entered the country’s territorial waters.
“Pareho ra ni si Napoles ug Yolanda, dako og damage sa atoa (Napoles and Yolanda are both the same, they will leave us with big damage),” said radio disc jockey Carle Alindao.
“Mas kusog tingali ang Bagyong Napoles. (Typhoon Napoles is stronger),” quipped Koi Canarias.
Journalist Ivy Tejano slams Napoles for dodging the truth “at the expense of people”.
“Ms. JN, ang kawawa ay yung mga taong sobrang naghirap, idinamay nyo at binawian pa talaga ng buhay ang iba, para lang matakpan ang kawalang’yaan nyo! ‘Di “PO” ba? Grabeh ka man uie (Ms. Janet Napoles, I pity the poor whom you deprived and used, just to cover up your shame. Isn’t it?),” she said.
At one point, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago asked Napoles “who the mastermind of the scam is”, referring to senators recently implicated in a plunder case with the businesswoman.
Santiago asked Napoles to tell the truth and reveal who is the “most guilty” by pointing out senators whom she think are “masterminds” in the scam, but to no avail.
Santiago and Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares said Napoles may turn state witness to have immunity and to lessen her sentence, but Napoles refused saying “there was no scam”.
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairperson Teofisto ‘TG’ Guingona III, said despite Napoles’ denials, there are positive results.
“Between Janet Napoles’ answers of ‘I don’t know’ and ‘hindi ko matandaan (I can’t remember)’ and the whistleblowers’ statements citing specific details on the same question, who would you believe more? The establishment of this contrast is the Blue Ribbon Committee’s victory today,” said Guingona.
Regional state prosecutor Antonio Arellano also agrees with the senator.
“Napoles could have invoked the right against self-incrimination at the very start of the proceedings and thus asked that she be excused from participating therein since the very purpose thereof is clearly to incriminate her. Fortunately, she opted to participate and thus provided the Filipino people the opportunity to listen to her version of the story and observe her demeanor and thus develop their own judgment on the basic issues raised against her. The people should be given this chance. It is their money which is involved in this unprecedented grand larceny!” said Arellano.
Bayan Muna parytlist representatives urged the Senate to cite Napoles in contempt to be able to detain her and extract information from her, as her present detention puts her away from public eye.
“The Senate must not belittle its power to cite Janet Lim Napoles in contempt and detain her in the Senate. If that happens, then the senators and the media not just the Senate guards may have access to her and any information she may later want to divulge,” said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares.
Napoles is facing a charge of plunder in the Ombudsman and another case in court for serious illegal detention on his former colleague and relative, whistleblower Benhur Luy.
“The Senate must still impose this sanction if warranted because if ever she’s granted bail in her kidnapping case, she cannot go scot free even if the Ombudsman’s case for the pork barrel scam has not been resolved,” added Colmenares.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said that Napoles’ denials “are expected as she could have been advised that the government is burdened to prove the case of plunder against her”.
“Her answers of denial, though disappointing, are expected. She is not just saving herself but also her patrons, including those yet to be named, exposed and charged. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee must now exert efforts to get to the bottom of this scam beyond the blanket denial of Napoles,” Zarate said. (Tyrone A. Velez, davaotoday.com)Janet Lim Napoles, miriam defensor-santiago, pdaf