The latest government personality to be exposed to have links with Janet Lim-Napoles, the woman allegedly behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam, is no less than Senate President and Liberal Party stalwart Franklin Drilon.
A photo of Drilon and his wife at a party with Napoles and her husband surfaced this week.
The Senate President immediately issued a statement, claiming that while he indeed socialized with the Napoleses “no more than ten times,” not a single centavo of his Priority Development Assistance Fund went to any of the non-government organizations and foundations set up by Mrs. Napoles.
He even said that all politicians always find themselves flanked by people who want to have their picture taken with them.
Earlier, photos of Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong partying with Napoles also made the rounds of social media. Ong said it was a random meeting and he did not know Napoles personally. This would not have been as controversial had he not been chairman of the Sandiganbayan’s fourth division which handled the Kevlar helmet anomaly where the Napoleses were involved years ago. Napoles was acquitted in that case.
Then, too, a career official of the Department of Agrarian Reform, Finance and Management Director Teresita Panlilio, was seen donned in white and dancing the boogie at the posh 21st birthday party of Napoles’ daughter Jeane at a Beverly Hills hotel.
Many weeks ago, photos of Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada and Rep. Lani Mercado Revilla caused them to be pilloried in social media. They insisted that they barely knew the businesswoman.
The names of Revilla and Estrada are also repeatedly mentioned in the Commission on Audit report detailing how some lawmakers channelled substantial amounts of their pork barrel to the bogus NGOs.
These officials say one picture cannot be used as basis to gauge the closeness of their relationship to Mrs. Napoles.
Of course a picture is a just that—a single moment captured. People have their pictures taken all the time, and perhaps in these elite circles, it is not necessary that a deep friendship or a close association be present for the parties to grin widely as though being with each other gave them utter joy.
As always, context is key. Answers to seemingly trivial questions—what the occasion was, who threw the party, who else was present and why those invited were in fact invited—would be crucial.
These officials cannot blame the public for doubting what they say in defense of themselves. We have had enough politicians loudly denouncing practices that they themselves are engaged in.
We enjoin all those in possession of other similar photographs to make these pictures available through various media forms. Determining who have been shamelessly robbing us, and by how much, may take a while. But with these photographs, those who will attempt to grandstand and pretend to be spotless will be exposed for their hypocrisy.