The tale of two Napoles affidavits
(Article Published in the Rappler, Jun 6,2014)
Read why Napoles' affidavits are good pieces of legal and persuasive writing
With the two affidavits submitted to the Department of Justice by Janet Lim Napoles already made public, here are a few words about affidavits in general that may help the public understand what she is saying both literally and in between the lines
Coming up with an affidavit when needing the government to render you service that you are entitled to is like having to pay for parking when going to the shopping mall. It is the government's obligation to oblige just as it is to the shopping mall that you come in and spend a while. But you are nevertheless made to pay for your temporary use of a slot in the lot. Strangely, instead of protesting, car owners willingly pay for parking as part of the routine.
What is an affidavit that makes us willing to suffer the inconvenience of executing one? The English name sounds strange, but its counterpart in Filipino is instructive: "sinumpaang salaysay." It is a narration that is sworn to, that is, executed under oath. So, what?
That it is a narration says it is a story; that it is sworn puts it a cut above the rest. It is not a guess, a surmise, an opinion or an official statement crafted by some PR firm. On the contrary, it claims to be worthy of belief by him/her to whom it is given. And the justification for this claim to merit credibility is that by making his/her story under oath, he/she purports himself/herself, technically called by lawyers as "affiant," vulnerable to the criminal charge of perjury, if what is said turns out to be deliberately false.
Are the two Napoles affidavits, then, worthy of belief? At the very least, they are specimens of good legal writing.
Right from the very beginning, they state the purpose of affiant in executing them. That purpose is allegedly not primarily for her self-interest, although benefitting her is obviously one of their intended imports. Both affidavits invoke the familiar religious adage, "the truth shall make you free" and by so invoking divine presence they seek to fortify the claim to belief.
The first affidavit, dated May 12, 2014, in paragraph 2 states, "I am executing this affidavit to shed light on the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged Priority Development Fund (PDAF) and Malampaya fund scams."
The use of the plural in "scams" is masterful. It concedes to the reader the truth of the public perception that something wrong had been perpetuated. But more than that, it stresses repetition. That lays the basis of a later assertion that she was not in this alone. She was dependent on others, thereby diluting the criminality of her admitted participation. The idea is to inject the notion that she may not be the most guilty, and therefore as a repentant participant, worthy of public sympathy and, better still, the benefits of the witness protection program, including being a witness for the state against the other more guilty malevolents.
The drive for the readers' compassion does not stop there. You can almost hear violins in background accompaniment as Napoles goes into self-deprecation. In paragraph 13 of the first affidavit she asserts, "... I am not capable and do not have the ‘skill’ to run such a complicated scheme given my humble beginning. I am only an ordinary private businesswoman ...."
Those humble beginnings were relayed in greater detail in the second affidavit dated May 26, 2014 written in Filipino. Paragraph numbered 1, roughly translated says: "I came from a simple family. My education was only up to high school but I did not let this act as a barrier to my aspirations. I was still in my youth when I learned how to work for my living. With God's grace, my perseverance, my working hard, and a lot of sweat, and with the help of people whom I was able to get acquainted with, my lot has reached the elevated level where it is now."
How she responded to the blessings she concedes she received from God is relayed in the immediately following paragraph. Again in rough translation, Napoles narrates: "Inspired by the blessings God has flowed my way, it became my mission to be of help to my fellow [ones]. That was why I pushed very hard not only for myself but more so as to be able to give and be of assistance to those in need."/p>
Thus, she maintains in paragraph numbered 3, "It became my practice to be of help to others and to the Church as my departed mother had frequently advised.” It was her experience, Napoles said, that while she was generously helping others, God's blessing had continued to be showered on her.
Finally, she delivers the coup de grace: she appeals that members of her family be spared from the charges she is now facing. In paragraph numbered 18, she asserts: "My husband, my children are unaware of my transactions relating to the use of the pork barrel. Not once did they have anything to do with my transactions. The same goes for the rest of my family and subordinates who may be facing charges only by reason of their being associated with me."
In paragraph numbered 179 of the first affidavit, she was more earnest: "I am a mother and a wife foremost. Thus as a mother, I am appealing for the exclusion of my children ... my children had no knowledge, participation, and involvement whatsoever in the subject cases."
The rest of the affidavits are for the Secretary of Justice to evaluate and counter check. But as pieces of persuasive writing, the affidavits of Napoles are most instructive and worthy, if not of belief, at least of serious study.
(Reynaldo "Gerry" Geronimo is a partner at the Romulo, Mabanta, Buenaventura Sayoc & De los Angeles law office. He is known as The Trust Guru and maintains a website, www.thetrustguru.com.)