Jojo A. Robles

Doormats and yes-men

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How true is it that the resignation of National Bureau of Investigation Director Nonnatus Rojas is actually connected with the controversial shelving by NBI of the case against certain officials of the agency that runs the government’s casinos who served in the previous administration?

Yes, I’ve been told that Rojas’ sudden decision to quit may have less to do with the sensational theft of pork barrel funds and everything to do with the allegations that $40 million in bribe payments made by Japanese casino magnate Kazuo Okada, an investor in the Pagcor Entertainment City.

In a report to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima last June 28, Rojas opined that “no definite conclusion can be made because of the absence of evidence due to lack of cooperation of witnesses who have personal knowledge of the payments” in the Okada bribery case. Rojas suggested that “the investigation [be] suspended until sufficient evidence is established,” supposedly from reluctant witnesses.

When I wrote about this case recently, I noted that people involved in a crime cannot be expected to incriminate themselves. Apparently, that was enough reason for Rojas to archive the case—an action which De Lima inexplicably agreed with.

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But let’s assume that Rojas did quit because of the pork barrel scandal. If that’s the case, then he has done the honorable thing.

Rojas reportedly resigned in the wake of a statement made by President Noynoy Aquino that the agency tipped off detained pork barrel scam mastermind Napoles about the issuance of a warrant for her arrest, thus allowing her to hide from the authorities. Rojas’ resignation was preceded by the President’s personal acceptance of Napoles in his palace, a serious lapse of presidential propriety that his propagandists have been trying ever since to spin into a positive, on the flawed premise that only Aquino could have made the controversial businesswoman end life on the run.

Rojas must have noticed that Napoles is a friend of the palace, deserving of protection against forces that seek to do her harm, including, apparently, NBI. De Lima and Rojas, whose agency is in the center of the sensational investigation of the large-scale theft of congressional and other taxpayers’ funds, were not even invited to witness the surrender of Napoles—which, strangely, involved all of the President’s spokesmen and even a couple of other supernumeraries whose presence was truly irrelevant to the case.

Understand, NBI was involved in the pork barrel scandal probe from the very beginning; its personnel have been accused by Napoles herself in an April letter to Aquino of oppressing and unjustly persecuting her brother upon the alleged behest of former Napoles associate and current chief whistle-blower Benhur Luy. From the time Aquino received Napoles’ letter, the administration has steadily showed a bias in favor of the businesswoman.

Last week’s statement from Aquino himself about the possible involvement of NBI officials in the tipping off of Napoles must have really hurt the NBI director. And there are apparently not enough expressions of Aquino’s supposed trust and confidence in his NBI chief, made through De Lima and the palace’s thoroughly discredited spokesmen (but not, strangely, Aquino himself) to make Rojas return.

I’ve never met Director Rojas, but he is apparently someone who has had enough and has quit the proper way—irrevocably. And this administration cannot seem to hold on to men of honor who are serving not the President, personally, as his sycophants do, but the government and the citizenry in general.

As for De Lima, who threatened to quit after her official probe of the 2010 Rizal Park bus hostage massacre was largely ignored by Aquino and his palace clique, she’s still there. This woman has no shame and apparently cannot notice when she and her entire bureaucracy have already become a mere presidential doormat, sanitizer and scapegoat.

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The palace propagandists have gone into overdrive with their effort to paint the Napoles “surrender” as an achievement for the Aquino administration. Never mind if, to more perceptive observers, the incident merely highlights the fact that not one person in Aquino’s inner circle of advisers has the gumption or the self-confidence to contradict the President, once he’s set his mind to doing something truly harebrained, like allowing himself to appear chummy with a wanted fugitive.

Now, what kind of leader surrounds himself only with yes-men who will applaud his every crazy idea and suspend their better judgment in enabling it? The kind of leader, most likely, who will not entertain an opposing view and who has lost touch with what his true “bosses” want, which is for Napoles to not go unpunished.

It seems fairly obvious that if more level-headed and confident advisers had been asked about the Napoles surrender, they would have nixed the idea outright. Given the leader that they served, that would always be a dicey proposition that could lead to the adviser losing his job and access to Aquino.

But that’s what separates a real adviser from a mere suck-up: the ability to contradict his principal’s proposals, if only to force him to consider a dissenting point of view and benefit from doing so. And that, apparently, is the sort of adviser that Aquino severely lacks and what makes him fall into traps others would easily avoid.

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