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Ronald Roy

In Romeo and Juliet, poet-dramatist William Shakespeare was not entirely correct when he rhapsodized: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” I do not mean to be flippant, but obviously Shakespeare would not have written that gem of a quote if the flower had instead been called “miasma”, not rose.

A person’s name does matter. It either ennobles or debases him. Buenavista (good view) is a positive name, but not for someone whose place of dwelling overlooks a murky and stinky creek. A comedian named Jose King eventually dropped his moniker Joe because it sometimes created awkward situations, like this one: “How do you do, sir? My name is Manny Lim.” “Hello, Mr. Lim! I am Joe King..(then on seeing Lim’s quizzical look)..ahh..I mean, I’m not joking, I’m really Joe King.”

In other cases, Pedro Bugok changed his name to Benigno Bugok, and Jose Maria Bajo decided he would henceforth be called Joma Bajo. Not to be outdone, Randy Ducut changed his name to Armando Ducut, and that is why some people started calling him Mando Ducut. The list is rather long, but I’d like to see thereon a new name for Agriculture Assistant Secretary Ophelia Agawin.

My unsolicited advice is for her to change her surname for obvious reasons. “Agawin” has made her a butt of jokes, the latest of which is: “Huwag mong agawin ang pundo”, in reference to the prevailing public suspicion that she failed to manage her office as a public trust with respect to the pork barrel scam.

It will be recalled that Agawin was the accountant involved in the alleged P 432 M fertilizer fund scam masterminded by then Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “JocJoc” Bolante in 2003, and that journalist Marlene Esperat who exposed it was later murdered while dining with her daughters at home in Sultan Kudarat. The three assailants are now serving life after admitting they were hired to kill her.

Agawin was eventually cleared for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, she was promoted in February last year by Pres. Noynoy Aquino to her present position on recommendation of Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala. Hmmm…does she deserve these breaks? Anyway, Agawin once again has been implicated, along with Janet Lim Napoles, in an alleged Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund ( ACEF) scam said to have victimized 44 town mayors from Nov 14, 2006 to Feb. 5, 2007. Reportedly, all 44 mayors did not receive a single peso.

The President has ordered Alcala to respond to allegations of wrongdoings in his department, particularly in respect of agricultural funding missions linking Agawin, whose frequent office visitor since 2011 has been Janet Lim Napulis.. oops..Napoles. By the time this article is published, Alcala may already have submitted his “full” report to P-Noy.

But it is asked: How “full” would “full” be, considering that Agawin might be found to have committed some wrongdoings that would likely implicate Alcala on at least the principle of command responsibility? Of course Aquino’s prerogatives cannot be disturbed here, but he’d better handle Alcala’s report more as a “fool” report, given that the secretary may be classified as a most biased investigator in the premises.

It is crystal clear at this stage is that of utmost importance is the credibility of any investigation of Napoles-related activities in connection with 1) the PDAF scam, 2) the diversion of the Malampaya gas fund, and 3) the malversation of ACEF funds.

Yes, three government funds, so far, and it is not unlikely that other funds may have also been raided, considering that Napoles’ activities have been traced back to as early as 2003, the year of that infamous P 728 M fertilizer scam allegedly designed by Bolante who is currently on trial before the Sandiganbayan.

The ACEF mess puts Sec. Alcala and Asec. Agawin in a pickle because his report can only be skeptically viewed as headed to a whitewash. He should have recommended to the President an investigation of his department by an appropriate office, like the Office of the Ombudsman. As things stand, it does seem that P-Noy has just given Alcala a go-signal for a cover-up by ordering him to do the investigation himself. At this point, I claim a right to levity by suspecting that the secretary, whose first name is Proceso, may resort to a wily process conducive to a whitewash.

The senators are likewise in Dutch. With at least five of them being linked to Napoles-related scandals, they have proposed ways of assuaging the public pique in a move to defend their institution. Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago was not her usual fire-and-brimstone self when she suggested a gradual phase-out of the PDAF over the next three years.

Hmmm…was the phase-out meant to give those winners in the recent senatorial elections ample time to recover their campaign expenses worth tens of millions of pesos? Madam, wrong is wrong. You should not moderate greed or temptation. It would be like suggesting a gradual phase-out of porno magazines piled up in your colleagues’ closets.

Sen. Chiz Escudero’s proposal for the senate to conduct its own investigations is a feeble attempt at public appeasement, apart from its potential for creating emotional disharmony among his colleagues. But a lot better is Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s suggestion for fully televised hearings to be held by a joint panel headed by the Ombudsman and the Secretary of Justice.

Time is of the essence. The gathering and validation of facts and evidence must be speeded up, lest the guilty parties fly the coop. Sen. Santiago has stated–and I fully agree–that there is probable cause to support plunder charges as regards the ACEF case involving the 44 mayors if, based on the whistle-blowers’ sworn statements and other documents, a pattern of acts and circumstances is established, such as 1) all the mayors asked for P 5 M each, 2) the same funding source was used, 3) all the mayors received nothing, 4) their signatures were forged on bogus letter requests, not to mention ghost projects, etc.

The sovereign people want the major culprits named asap. Their patience should not be taxed. Their mandate to all concerned authorities is to name names, now, then get on with the trial and the hanging!!!

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