“But lest the instigators of this squid tactic think that all of us are dum-dums, it may be instructive to look into certain considerations, and to analyze some given facts.”
by Ducky Paredes
Will a law giving us the freedom to access any information from government make us a better country or is this playing into the hands of the rumor-mongers who, even now, are at work to downplay the gravity and dilute the impact of the P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim Napoles, a wizard in human resource development that she can transform even kasambahays into instant corporate CEOs and NGO presidents.
The tactic being employed to achieve this is derived from the squid, that marine creature which squirts black ink in order to confuse its pursuers thus enabling it to escape from becoming prey. That’s why it is called ‘’squid tactic.”
The purpose is to muddle the issue by fielding a jumble of supposed facts, hurling wild accusations, throwing in twisted opinions, posting a clutter of arguments, and otherwise throwing the original controversy into total disarray. The objective is to produce situations that are so absurd and so incredible as to completely befuddle the public, to the extent that we no longer know what to believe.
This is exactly what is now happening in the Napoles case.
Note that for several weeks now, there has been a continuing media frenzy on the supposed influence peddling activities of a certain “Ma’am Arlene” among members of the judiciary, particularly those assigned to the lower courts.
Allegedly, her activities involve, among other things, the fixing of cases, including the issuance – or lifting — of temporary restraining orders (TROs), and securing favorable court decisions for and in behalf of some litigants. Initial reports are that there were at least three “Ma’am Arlenes” though only one is supposed to be engaged in this judicial legerdemain.
Assuming that there is basis for these rumors, ferreting out the truth and pinpointing the culprit is now the problem of a three-man Supreme Court investigating committee headed by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
But, wait, more recent reports say that there could actually be four such persons.
One wonders, is the addition of a fourth player intended to further add to the confusion, the better, perhaps, to increase the amount of black ink being spewed all around and thus completely confusing the enemies?
Preliminary findings in an initial probe conducted by Court Administrator Midas Marquez seem to indicate that the controversy was fueled by some parties who wanted to discredit one of the candidates for president of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA) by portraying him as a puppet of this “Ma’am Arlene”.
Rumors being circulated at that time had this influence-peddling “Arlene” supporting this particular candidate. In an alleged bid to influence the outcome of the election, “Ma-am Arlene” booked 50 rooms in a luxurious hotel for the use of the judges and their spouses. She also distributed expensive bags and offered trips abroad.
But lest the instigators of this squid tactic think that all of us are dum-dums, it may be instructive to look into certain considerations, and to analyze some given facts.
Marquez himself provides some useful insights into the whole thing. First, he correctly points out that the purported illegal activities of this “Ma’am Arlene” involve simple graft and corruption. It cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, compare to the multi-billion caper attributed to Napoles, and it is an exaggeration, Marquez stresses, to call Arlene the “Napoles” of the judiciary.
“In the Napoles case, we are talking about P10 billion involving public funds,” Marquez emphasized.
Marquez also says that his initial impression was that the controversy was due to mudslinging borne out of the intense rivalry for the PJA presidency; that it was a “smear attack” intended to besmirch the reputation of one of the contenders. He expressed the suspicion that this was later blown up and given prominence by groups that want to destroy the judiciary.
“We’ll just have to answer all these attacks and show everyone that if there are irregularities, these irregularities are confined to small portions of the judiciary,” says Marquez.
Surely, there will be groups who will take issue with Marquez’s statement that these anomalies are limited in scope and involve only a small part of the judiciary. Recall that former President Erap himself complained against the “hoodlums in robes.”
Of course, corruption is corruption is corruption. No matter if the amount involved is only a few thousands paid to a corrupt judge or a couple of hundred pesos exacted by a kotong cop from a traffic violator. Corruption merits the appropriate penalty to the guilty.
But things should be placed in proper perspective. Although it still involves corruption of public office, Marquez points out, for instance, that the wicked ways of “Ma’am Arlene” dos not run into mind-boggling billions. It does not involve public money; and the judiciary does not have any form of pork barrel to speak of. In fact, no specific figure has even been mentioned in the Ma-am’s illegal deals.
Even assuming a P15,000 cost per day for an Executive Suite in a luxury hotel, the supposed 50 hotel rooms purportedly booked for the use of judges during the PJA elections does not even run into a million pesos.
Again, this is not to rationalize a corrupt act, or trivialize what is clearly a felony. But, think on this: Is it possible that those who conjured up “Ma’am Arlene” are hoping that people would see this attempt (by the presidency, to demonize the judiciary as a desperate move of the administration to deflect public outrage over the pork barrel mess.
There could be a deliberate intent to point an accusing finger at President PNoy as the supposed instigator of the plot to blacken the image of the judiciary. The judicial system could simply be collateral damage.
It may not be an entirely wild idea to ask if what we have is a sinister plot to bring down the government, with squid as among the main fare in the menu.
# # # #
hvp 10.24.13Readers who missed a column can access www.duckyparedes.com/blogs. This is updated daily. Your reactions are welcome at email@example.com or you can send me a message through Twitter @diretsahan.