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Dear Senator Jinggoy

Dear Senator Estrada,

I am sorry if this piece, responding to your September 25 privilege speech last year, is later than many written more eloquently, better steeped in political history and much sooner than this. (IMHO, any on the subject written by Dr Randy David in his “Public Lives” column, or by Conrad de Quiros in his column “There’s the Rub.”)

But perhaps my timing isn’t all that bad either. Misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF seems to have followed the pattern of so many other political scandals in the Philippines: enough outrage to make a difference, but before anything substantial can get off the ground, another story gets all the attention. It’s as if we have energy for only one indignant groundswell at a time.

Take this latest Binay brouhaha. It almost seems like you got the entire Binay PR machinery to work for you instead of for them!! Or was this just the proverbial manna from heaven?

Admittedly, the Binay story has legs and will probably go round the block a few more times. And yes, that’s a mixed metaphor. But my excuse is, the hodgepodge you have deliberately made of your contribution to the PDAF scandal (not to mention the contribution to what is suspected to be your groaning bank accounts) is an even bigger mixed metaphor than that.

Selective justice?

Take one of your most quoted statements from that speech: “And selective justice is no justice at all.” I have 3 questions regarding your use of the word selective.

Do you mean selective in the way selective prosecution is defined by Wikipedia: a “procedural defense in which a defendant argues that he should not be held criminally liable for breaking the law, as the criminal justice system discriminated against him by choosing to prosecute. In a claim of selective prosecution, a defendant essentially argues that it is irrelevant whether he is guilty of violating a law, but that the fact of being prosecuted is based upon forbidden reasons. Such a claim might, for example, entail an argument that persons of different age, race, religion, or gender, were engaged in the same illegal actions for which the defendant is being tried and were not prosecuted, and that the defendant is only being prosecuted because of a bias.”

A bit ironic, that. With all due respect, I would go so far as to say that if ever selective prosecution were involved in the past as far as you were concerned, chances are it would have worked in your favor. You were elected as a lawmaker, and like many of your fellow lawmakers, could attempt, if you wished, to more easily massage existing laws to your own advantage.

But I hope the evidence dug up by the Commission on Audit (COA) will be enough to defeat any of the lawyers you hire. What evidence do I mean? Well, for starters, that among all the lawmakers’ fund releases, including PDAF, from 2007 to 2009,  the allocations under the names of Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla, and Estrada repeatedly went to NGOs that Napoles runs either directly or through dummies and that 3 lawmakers alone – Senators Enrile, Revilla, and you – have already given a total of P1.23 billion to these same Napoles NGOs. (Source: COA special audit of lawmakers' releases, including PDAF, from 2007-2009)

Wow. What could a billion pesos, released for this country's betterment, have done kaya if actually used as intended? Made some public schools equal to, if not even better than, private schools? Funded a hospital or two so that people from far-flung provinces no longer have to walk over an hour to get help? Implemented laws more effectively so that people like the Ampatuans, Macapagal-Arroyos, Joc Joc Bolantes would actually be tried and even perhaps convicted. As far as I can see, all the Napoles NGOs you allegedly put your money in have done nothing with it except line the pockets of those who ran it and whoever they may have rewarded for such bounty.

I don’t see why the COA, justice department, and Office of the Ombudsman should be accused of being selective just because it started by indicting all 3 of you first.


This brings me to my second point: All justice is selective. If truth be told, everything is selective if you want to achieve anything at all. A basic tenet of cognitive psychology is that a person’s attention is a limited resource.

Anyone with the slightest knowledge of neuroscience will tell you that every cognitive effort requires energy. Too much effort disbursed on too many things leads to brain fatigue; and brain fatigue causes problems in making correct decisions and making sure evidence, and not strong feelings of outrage (while perfectly understandable given your supposed theft, is the basis for prosecution).

The alleged magnitude of your 2007-2009 actions is staggering enough. Can you imagine the brain fatigue the COA, Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Office of the Ombudsman would have if they simultaneously tried to indict all of you, plus all the other senators and congressmen who allegedly diverted funds the way you allegedly did. If indicting the 3 of you first is the best way to make sure justice is achieved, well, why not?

Finally, there is my 3rd point, which I bring up if only to show that you yourself are guilty of what you accused others to be. To paraphrase Asian Institute of Management professor Edilberto de Jesus’s brilliant article, you missed the chance “to confront the evidence” (which you claimed you wanted to do from the get go).

You could have explained why you selected the Napoles NGOs to receive your (or rather, our) funds. Not only were you unable, you did not even bother to confront the evidence by giving the reasons you selected the Napoles NGOs. You selected not to try and convince us that these NGOs were outstanding in helping your constituents, rather than outstanding for their generous kickbacks.

If you had used your privilege speech the way you had said you would, confronting the evidence and thus making mincemeat of the COA special audit of lawmakers' releases, hells bells, many of us in the million dollar march would’ve cheered, instead of reviled you.

Instead, your selected strategy was distraction: “Maybe if I threw enough dirt on others, people would forget my own.”

No aim

To use a cultural analogy, your privilege speech was like the urination of a man with an uncircumcised penis (supot). According to folklore, one of the major reasons to be circumcised is that women do not like men who are supot; and a major reason for that dislike is that bathrooms become more difficult to clean as supot men cannot, as the Brits would say, effectively “point Percy at the porcelain.” Instead, supot men spray pee everywhere.

Among all the many people you could’ve accused, you selected a choice few, including President Aquino. A good move, that. By selecting PNoy, you derailed many from focusing on your alleged criminal liability.

You were sensible enough to choose PNoy because, as is well known, any criticism of a sitting president is a publicity magnet. This is a tried and tested method to deflect criticism. Any president makes good copy. In addition, and there are many people who dislike PNoy, for reasons with and without basis.

But whatever you say about the Aquino government, it was only his administration that made it possible for the COA to submit their findings, for the DOJ to file plunder charges against you.

Oh yes, you may distract with the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the P50 million for each “convict” decision in the Renato Corona case, etc. And you may well be right that all this must be looked into and questioned. And if heads should roll the way yours might, then so be it. But selective justice not being any justice at all? I say selective, schmelective.

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. We Filipinos have to start somewhere. Indicting the three of you is, at least, taking the first step in trying to deal with the monumental corruption in our government. Making sure you 3 get punished, the way an ordinary person would were justice not selective, would be an excellent second step. –