They say lying in politics is nothing new, in fact there’s a science behind it.
Politicians are expected to sensationalize themselves during their campaigns in a bid to win voters, they make ostentatious promises which they know they won’t be able to keep. The Philippines witnessed this political deception plenty during the 2016 presidential elections, one candidate promised to eradicate the illegal drug problem in half a year.
It’s obvious who the candidate in question is: the eventual President Rodrigo Duterte. The former Davao mayor won in a landslide adopting a hardline stance on narcotics and government corruption; he made strides on the former, the latter promise is still questionable.
On the campaign trail, Duterte boldly proclaimed that: “if I will become president, corruption has to stop.” The decisiveness should have assured voters that he will crackdown on corruption as relentlessly as he did on drug pushers and dealers, but what we have seen since indicates the polar opposite. Instead, since being elected President Duterte has released former President Gloria Arroyo from hospital arrest for plunder, signaled clemency for convicted ex-politicians Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada and now, has virtually given the go-signal for fraudster Janet Napoles to be acquitted from her much-publicized case.
The Pork Barrel Scam was dubbed, “the mother of all corruption cases” when it first broke out in 2013. At the heart of the controversy was a private citizen named Janet Napoles, a businesswoman whose enterprise involved creating fraudulent charitable foundations which receivers of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) would donate taxpayer funds to. Upon investigation, the pork barrel funds received by these non-existent foundations would be split between Napoles and the politicians who contributed the funds.
The saga attracted more attention when the names of prominent politicians were implicated in the scheme such as the likes of Senators Revilla, Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile. All three were detained, but the latter was eventually released due to his old age. Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla remain in police custody, but judging Duterte’s conduct towards corrupt government officials their days behind bars may be drawing to a close.
Janet Napoles was also detained and was convicted in 2015 for the illegal detention of her cousin, she was sentenced to life imprisonment. Napoles has yet to be sentenced for her role in the Pork Barrel Scam but the Solicitor General Jose Calida – the President’s chief legal counsel – declared that he is “unconvinced” of the accused’s guilt in the illegal detention of Benhur Luy and has “recommended her acquittal” from her conviction. The announcement is a huge blow to the whistleblowers who worked to pin down Napoles and co.
It is a punch in the gut to all those who gained hope upon seeing her conviction along with Revilla and Estrada; that moment made them believe that the rich and mighty could face justice, only to be disproven by this administration. Which is ironic given the current administration’s promise to be tough on corruption, not only does that seem doubtful it also feels like they are aiding corruption themselves. Supporters expected to see President Duterte muzzle the rabid dogs of graft and plunder in government once elected, instead he has been setting them free and has given them another chance to ravage government coffers once more.
To say this development is a disappointment is an understatement, betrayal is a more apt term.