Whistle-blowing to the Beatles
It’s been 50 years since the Beatles first conquered young hearts the world over. Within days of their television appearance on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in New York, we left the Fifties for good.
I was writing a tribute to the Fab Four, when my editor called—he wanted a column on the whistle-blower Ruby Tuason instead. But my Beatles draft was too heartfelt to waste. So, I sort of combined two columns into one to save time and effort.
Ruby Tuason, who fled to the US after being linked to Janet Napoles’ pork barrel scam, had just finished signing a bombshell of an affidavit at the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco when I saw her standing there.
“Listen, do you want to know a secret?” she said. Contrite, she swore in her affidavit that she personally delivered bags of kickback cash from Janet Napoles to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and to Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s top aide. And I, I could see that to lead a better life, Tuason needed to come clean.
“There are places I remember,” she confessed. She brought moolah to meetings in restaurants, to Enrile’s aide Gigi Reyes’ house, sometimes to Senate offices through the parking lot—here, there and everywhere.
“It’s been a long time,” she added, “now I’m coming back home.” Well, once there was a way to get back homeward other than through the witness protection program. Still, it must’ve taken some soul-searching to do what she has done, because whistle-blowing is rare, and dangerous, in the Philippines’ corruption-mildewed corridors of power.
Tuason is trying to save her skin, some critics say. Be that as it may, a bigger stake is being served by her decision—the triumph of clean government over some very powerful and seemingly untouchable figures. So guys, since we find ourselves in times of trouble, let it be.
But is there anybody going to listen to her story? Yes. Imagine all the people. If Tuason sticks to her guns and returns the money she owes the public, we shall say, “Thank you, girl” for bolstering the spirit of Daang Matuwid, which is actually a long and winding road.
Meanwhile, Senator Jinggoy claims Tuason just got a ticket to ride—a get-out-of-jail-free card—from his enemies, so she don’t care. How could she treat us so thoughtlessly, how could she do this to me, he laments, in a tone one usually hears when thieves fall out.
Here’s an instance when our careful regard for debts of gratitude can degenerate into a detestable idiosyncrasy. Close friendship in our culture often serves as a mutual support mechanism in the face of pervasive social adversity and insecurity. We often get by with a little help from our friends, and that’s fine. But corruption sets in as soon as “friends” expect—or exact—mindless loyalty, as Sen. Jinggoy obviously does.
Being Jinggoy’s “friend” Vice President Jojo Binay is sticking by him. “That’s going nowhere, man—life goes on, blah,” says Binay, blithely dismissing Tuason’s testimony. And his friends are all aboard. The pork-scammers in Binay’s alliance are likely banking on being pardoned by him if he wins the presidency, and then they’d be free, free as a bird.
I wonder if Sen. Enrile read the news today, oh boy. His star shone brightly at the Corona impeachment, putting a gloss on his checkered reputation and boosting the sales of his memoirs, which took him years to write, but we took a look. Well, yesterday, all his troubles were so far away. Now? Not so much.
Probers tell me they’ve got everything they want. “And their bird can sing,” Enrile shrugs, as if all he’s got to do is act naturally. But they don’t get me, they don’t get me is his posture. However, his top aide, Gigi Reyes—the Napoles/Tuason money drop—is his weak link.
She loves him, and you know he should be glad. But she feels abandoned under the bus in Macau—because Enrile keeps denying that he authorized her to receive pork loot in his name, leaving her looking like a fool on the hill. She’s got every reason on earth to be mad, but she can’t, so she’ll cry instead.
I want to tell her: Get back, get back to where you once belonged before you met your duplicitous bossfriend. Get back, Gigi. If she emulates Ruby Tuason, all I’ll say is, here comes the sun. Jinggoy and Johnny better hire tireless lawyers who will always put in a hard day’s night while their clients gently weep.
And so for President Noynoy anti-corruption agenda, it’s getting better all the time. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is raring to go: “It won’t be long, yeah.”
As for whistle-blower Tuason, the public supports her today. But she must not hold anything back. She should be warned that in the end, the love you take is only equal to the love you make.
When I saw her off at SF Airport I called out, “Good-bye, Ruby Tuesday.” With a disappointed look she yelled back, “Heyyy, that’s by the Rolling Stones, you dodo!”
She’s right, of course. And they’re not as good.
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