WORM’S EYE VIEW: Money Trail


DEEP Throat, the shadowy figure in the Watergate Scandal in the 1970s that led to President Richard Nixon’s fall, mapped out the circuitous route through the puzzle maze of the misdeeds of the White House by sniffing out cash deposits and urging investigators to follow them.

The money trail, as he called that path that cut across the labyrinthine crime scene, became the guide of two young journalists from the Washington Post in investigating a “burglary” at the Watergate Complex in Washington.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein emerged as the two most famous reporters, at that time, as they both followed the “money trail” that linked those “burglars” to the core of Nixon’s political world, from his campaign contributors to the inner sanctum of the Oval Office itself.

Deep Throat, who in 2005 stepped out of the shadows and identified himself as the former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) director Mark Felt, regaled the world with anecdotes of his encounters in a dimly-lit parking lot in Washington with the two Washington Post journalists.

Felt, pushing to 90 when he revealed to Vanity Fair that he was in fact Deep Throat, said that Woodward, along with Bernstein, seemed like a babe lost in the woods when they first met and that only his admonition to “follow the money” helped him connect the dots unraveling the conspiracy behind the break-in at the Watergate Complex.

Isn’t Deep Throat’s story a classic guide to unwrapping boxes of mysteries especially in the world of crimes? In fact, it has become the key to demystifying cases of conspiracy not only in the United States but around the world.

The superstructure of the Al Qaeda collapsed as dramatically as the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center after the American military and intelligence operatives, hot on the money trails interconnecting its terrorist networks worldwide, unraveled  the heart of Bin Laden’s lair.

If money trails have unmasked Nixon as the brains of Watergate, dismantled the Al Qaeda as the culprit behind the collapse of the World Trade Center in New York, and even led to the death of Bin Laden in that dramatic commando assault on his compound in Pakistan, they can also uncover conspiracies behind high profile crimes especially in Third World countries where criminal syndicates are more porous than in more advanced nation-states.

In the Philippines, for instance, where loquacity is more a norm than a vice, money trails may not even be necessary especially since conspiracy theories and even the deepest secrets of the conspirators themselves just float freely in the air of coffee shops in Manila.

But these are just grists for the rumor mills. Magnified closely by intelligence agents bent on “following the money”, they often become clearer pictures of the underlying “truths” about the perpetrators of crimes scandalizing the citizenry.

No doubt media can learn from Mark Felt. What if all of us in this journalistic firmament will just follow Deep Throat’s admonition to Woodward and Bernstein and just “follow the money” in dredging up the truths about corruption scandals bedeviling our government and society nowadays? If we do, truth definitely becomes more an ally than a spinster oblivious to the emptiness of our hearts.

The money trails in the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) snaking from Malacañang to the contractors who eventually receive the money for the implementation of mostly overpriced projects can simply unmask the “padrinos’ behind these highway robberies in broad daylight.

The P10-billion budget that just fell on the lap of a contractor in Tarlac who has been reportedly the favored contractor of PNoy himself since his days as congressmen is actually an egregious case in point. What if media start training their sights on this particular anomaly of nature? How can just one contractor alone do most of the projects of one politician in his entire career as a public servant? Even the law of averages cannot help observers demystify this particular case.

But perhaps, how the money trails of that contractor meandered through his network of government contacts that facilitated the awarding of juicy projects to him can lead to the “padrinos” themselves. In this way, media can end up with pieces of prima facie evidence linking these public officials to cases of corruption.

In Iloilo City, only a few contractors get the biggest contracts especially in infrastructure projects. One of them is closely identified with the Senate President himself. No matter how much Senator Franklin Drilon trumpets to the whole world that he is as clean as Mr. Clean, human beings are still human  beings, born to think maliciously especially in cases where delicadeza has become extinct.

As Mark Felt said, only the money trail can paint a portrait of truth. If we follow the money, will this end up somewhere near the Senate President himself? We hope not. But delicadeza may still be a virtue that can remind Senator Drilon that contractors close to him must be kept at bay to avert any malicious gossips juxtaposing his pocket to the contractor’s purse strings.

A discourse for idiots can be laden with the anemic argument that since budgets didn’t pass through the hands of the Senate President, he could be outright exonerated from any wrongdoing. Of course, money trail didn’t start from his hands as budgets are released by the treasury department to government agencies like the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) where biddings, often rigged, are held and winning bidders bag the contracts in infrastructure projects.

The Senate President must bear in mind that contractors close to him who get these contracts in Iloilo City become the focus of rumor-mongers who more often than not end up painting an unsavory portrait of his relationships with these money-grubbing businessmen who make unbelievable amounts of money out of overpriced government projects.

Alas, delicadeza has become more a footnote in history, belonging to an era where government officials were paragons of decency and public service still an occupation worthy of pride and dignity.

What has become of us? Have our senses become more inured to decadence and criminality that we have lost touch with the reality of evil? The world has, indeed, become smaller not just because technology has provided us access to one another but also because our sense of what is right and wrong has acutely blurred our eyesight that the only thing we can see clearly is how to fatten ourselves and our pockets.

As Deep Throat proved in the shadows, the money trail does not only lead to the brains behind the most earth-shaking crimes in history but also to the presence of evil deep within our hearts from which our inhumanity to one another often springs./PN