Cito Lorenzo is back. Apparently with impunity. He was seen partying in the birthday of one who has become very powerful in the current dispensation. And yes, he was seen hobnobbing even with the most powerful official of the land.
Why the sudden homecoming? Does this have anything to do with the fact that one Martin Ignacio Lorenzo was declared to have given 20 million to the right candidate? I hope not.
The last time the nation saw Mr. Lorenzo was when the Senate Agricultural Committee, then headed by Senator Jun Magsaysay, summoned him to shed light on the fertilizer scam. Like Joc-Joc Bolante, Cito Lorenzo fled from the country. Unlike Joc-Joc who was merely holding a tourist visa which was revoked by American authorities, Cito, with his billions, apparently became a permanent resident of the land of milk and honey having acquired it as a consequence of investing a substantial sum in the United States. This was probably why unlike Joc-Joc, he did not have to feign persecution just to stay in the United States, even if like Joc-Joc, he did flee from an on-going Senate investigation that could have led to his criminal culpability.
The fertilizer scam, unfortunately, like the many other scams of the evil one, appears to be fading from our memory. That scandal involved the siphoning of at least 728 Million of tax payers money to fund Mrs. Arroyo’s 2004 presidential bid. The scheme was simple enough: the money was released to known supporters of Mrs. Arroyo during election time. It was intended to subsidize the fertilizer needs of subsistence farmers. The trouble though was that what were procured by the Department of Agriculture were liquid fertilizers intended for orchids and other ornamental plants even if they were purportedly intended for rice farmers. Worse, many of the stated beneficiaries included non-existent farmers’ cooperatives which clearly, were utilized only for money laundering purposes. And like any other great scam, bulk of the money were purportedly signed for, but never received by its intended beneficiaries.
What added ignominy to what should have been just another scam of the former dispensation was that at least two people were murdered because of this scam. Most notorious of these killings was that of female journalist Marlyn Esperat, the original whistle blower of the scam. For calling the attention of the nation and the Senate to this scam, Marlyn was shot point blank in the head by assassins in the full view of her then minor children. Until today, I am sure the children of Marlyn have yet to recover from the trauma of their mother being murdered before their very eyes while they were having dinner.
Today, the hired guns who killed Marlyn have been convicted. Unfortunately, the principals by direct inducement have remained at large. Not only have they remained at large, but those who were identified as the personalities who paid for the services of the assassins are back in their respective offices at the Department of Agriculture in Mindanao. Talk of impunity.
This is the context by which we should welcome Cito Lorenzo back in this country. There is that old maxim that flight is evidence of guilt. If he is innocent, as his publicists’ claim that he is, why did he flee from the country in the first place? Why did he not cooperate with the Senate investigation at that time when it was obvious even then that the Senate was not an institution under the control of Mrs. Arroyo? And if he claims that he was innocent because Bolante was given by the President authority to sign check disbursements of up to 50 Million to implement the scam, then why did he sign, as confirmed by the Senate, vouchers releasing part of the proceeds of the scam for projects in his hometown in Region 11?
To be fair, it’s too early to say if the 20 Million Pesos given by his brother has influenced the P Noy administration. I for one believed the President when he declared in his inaugural speech that “there shall be no reconciliation without justice”. I must admit though that I was very disturbed when I received confirmation that Cito, despite his possible criminal culpability as determined by the Senate, was seen publicly whispering sweet nothings into the ears of my President . To think people like me, who have been fighting for good governance for years and years, have had to wait until two days before the inauguration before we can get bleacher seats for P Noy’s inauguration. Many who have been with me in this struggle did not get any invitations at all. And yet, here was Cito Lorenzo, branded by the Senate as part of a scam, invited to be in the company of the President -whom I can only dream to see personally one of these days.
But enough is enough. If in the past dispensation we were equivocal in the beginning, let it not be said that we will again waiver in our fight against corruption and criminality in this government. Cito may in his mind, think that he has bought for himself impunity. We in civil society wll forever shout at the top of our lungs that until and unless he reveals all that he knows about the scam, Cito Lorenzo should still be considered a pariah and yes, especially by Manila high society that now claims to be supportive of P Noy’s reformist agenda. Shame on those who gave Cito the opportunity to spend even a minute in the company of my President. Shame on these people who gave Cito the opportunity to party with P Noy when they ought to have shielded the President from characters like him in the first place. Shame on those who dare think that the overwhelming mandate given to P Noy is part and parcel only of a grand production detached from reality.
If in law there is a saying that the fiercest litigations are suits between family members, the worse form of recrimination in politics come from those who feel betrayed by their chosen leaders. Gloria and her cohorts have only reasons to celebrate at Cito’s latest feat. Those who believed in the spirit of change that P Noy personifies, are on the other hand, absolutely pissed.
I call on this nation now to exercise zero tolerance to those who were willing tools for the thievery of the past dispensation. Let us not allow them even a minute of respite, certainly not in exchange for their 20 pieces of silver. Cito Lorenzo and the rest of your kind, to borrow the lingo of your class: – KADIRI KA TO DEATH!