This early, some of the respondents in the plunder and malversation charges the National Bureau of Investigation has filed with the Ombudsman in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam are sending signals about their line of defense.
In media statements, they claimed their signatures in the covering documents had been falsified, or the staff members who had signed on their behalf went beyond their authority.
For one, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, through his lawyer, said his former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila Reyes, was not authorized to sign the vouchers that allocated some of his pork barrel funds to nongovernment organizations identified with Janet Lim-Napoles.
Like a woman scorned, Reyes expressed her hurt over that statement which seemed to indicate that Enrile was distancing himself from her in connection with the scandal.
In her Facebook account, Reyes wrote in capital letters (the equivalent to saying in a loud voice) “the worst blow has just been dealt upon me by the camp of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile—the man I served with full dedication, honesty and loyalty for 25 years.”
She must have been emotionally devastated by the disownment she received from her long time boss.
According to whistle blower Ben Hur Luy, staff members were also used by some congressmen involved in Napoles’ caper to get their share of the loot through personal receipt or by way of deposit in their bank accounts.
Those who used the bank deposit approach must have forgotten that banking transactions leave paper trails that the authorities can easily examine under our anti-money laundering laws.
At the flick of a finger, all details about deposits and withdrawals can be easily downloaded from the database of the banks involved. Greed seems to have an uncanny way of making the corrupt lose sight of elementary rules of banking.
Apparently, the lawmakers who got caught in the latest corruption web are scheming to make their subordinates take the rap for them or be held responsible for the misuse of public funds.
By pointing to their employees as the culprit, the respondents can claim that their underlings took advantage of their trust and confidence, and that they had nothing to do with the looting of the public coffers.
With some theatrical touch, like speaking with a trembling voice and letting a tear or two fall, this paawa (inviting pity) approach may just work in this gullible society of ours.
The practice of shifting responsibility to subordinates when the top brass gets into trouble or had done something wrong is common practice too in the business community.
When some “dirty jobs” have to be made, e.g., bribing government officials, covering up errors, sabotaging the competition, or making rivals look bad, the instructions from the higher-ups are given in strictest confidence.
No memos or notes are issued for that purpose. The orders are given verbally and on a need-to-know basis. If money has to be disbursed and other logistics procured, extra care is taken to ensure there is no paper trail that would reveal their sources.
Aside from maintaining secrecy, the “rule of deniability” is also observed. As much as possible, the top executives are kept in the dark about operational details and their knowledge on the matter limited to generalities.
This “ignorance” enables them to say, if asked by third parties, with a straight face (or with a semblance of credibility) that they are unaware of or had nothing to do with the improper acts.
The idea is, the boss should be shielded from any imputation of culpability that may arise if the operation fails, is exposed, or results in embarrassing consequences.
In case the unexpected happens, the blame game kicks into play. Someone, other than the top brass, has to be made the sacrificial lamb to take the heat on their behalf or the company.
The rule of thumb in the choice of the scapegoat is he should not be too low in the totem pole as to render disbelief about his capability to do the wrongful act, but neither should he be so high because it might dilute the impact of denial of executive involvement.
If the fall guy is close to retirement, so much the better. His disgrace can be made less painful by additional retirement benefits and other face-saving devices.
Finding that person is easy if it will result only in the imposition of fines or penalties short of imprisonment. Time (with the help of lots of money) can heal whatever hurts may be suffered from taking the rap for the boss or the company.
Serving a prison term, however, is a different story. Loss of liberty is reason enough for the prospective whipping boy to fight back and prove his innocence from any accusation of wrongdoing.
Those who, by virtue of their position in the corporate hierarchy, have the potential of becoming future scapegoats for acts not of their own doing or were forced to do are not exactly helpless.
Ahead of time, they can take precautionary measures, just in case.
If ordered to perform something of doubtful legality or propriety, they should ask for a memo or note (e-mail will do) covering that instruction. In case one is given, don’t expect to see incriminating words in it.
That’s fine. You will have the chance to explain its real meaning later. What’s critical is you have something in writing to show you did not act on your own. In the business circles, this is fondly called a PYA (protect your ass) or PYB (protect your back) document.
In its absence, the next best thing is a “memo for file” sent by e-mail to a colleague or yourself describing the details of the subject act.
Download and print a copy of this e-mail and keep it. Since this document will bear the date and time it was sent and printed, it can qualify as your personal record or recollection of past events which, under existing court rules, can be used to support your testimony.
In the corporate and political jungles, loyalty is a disposable commodity.
(For comments, e-mail author at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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