Don’t suspend pork, abolish it.
It is now a test of will between the people who demand the outright abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) on one hand and President Aquino 3rd on the other.
The revelation by whistle blowers that Janet Lim Napoles of JLN Group of Companies had cornered P10 billion funds representing pork barrel allocations of five senators and 23 congressmen has angered people in practically all walks of life.
Subsequently, Commissioner Grace Pulido-Tan of the Commission on Audit not only validated the allegations but also detailed the manner by which the scam had been committed—and identified more legislators who pigged out on the pork barrel.
In spite of the outrage, Aquino announced he will not work for the PDAF abolition. He said he will instead monitor the release and ensure that the PDAF go to legitimate projects.
It will be remembered that Napoles, as alleged by her own employees, had set up non-government organizations (NGOs) to serve as conduits for government funds. She then withdrew the funds, give 70 percent of the amount to the legislator who owned the PDAF and kept the rest as commission.
There were no projects and the signatures of the supposed recipients were forged.
President Aquino also suspended its release pending result of the NBI investigation.
The majority and minority blocs in the Senate expressed support for the move.
Sen. Loren Legarda said she welcomes the President’s directive, adding that in fact she has no intention to utilize her PDAF allocation. For his part, Sen. Antonio Trillanes pointed out that the President should be allowed to introduce the necessary safeguards against misuse.
Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City, chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, also agrees with the move. So did Girogidi Aggabao of Isabela, Mel Sensen Sarmiento of Western Samar, and Niel Tupas, Jr. of Iloilo.
But the people will not be mollified. Abolition, not mere suspension, has become the battle cry.
A rally against PDAF is scheduled to be held to coincide with the celebration of the National Heroes Day at Quirino Grandstand on Aug. 26. The objective, according to organizers, is to gather a million people.
The anti-pork barrel movement, now gaining momentum, draws strength from Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, who it was reported wept when he rebuked the lawmakers who steal billions when people live in shanties and scavenge in the dumps for something to fill their empty stomachs.
Initially identified to have signed over their PDAF allocations to fake NGOs were five senators, namely Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Vicente Sotto III, and Lito Lapid, along with 23 congressmen.
The NGO report that Pulido-Tan cited says Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla funneled P857.83 million of their pork barrel allocations to three Napoles NGOs.
As if that was not shocking enough, it now turns out that former Quezon City Congressman Matias Defensor Jr. released P99.5 million of his PDAF to Matias Defensor Sr. Foundation, where he is an incorporator, member of the board of trustees, and stockholder. He in effect awarded government money to himself. It was the same scheme former Sen. Edgardo Angara used to corner his PDAF allocation.
More than a hundred senators and congressmen are involved in the pork barrel scam.
Leftists and their representatives in Congress announced they will join the rally.
Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna and Walden Bello of Akbayan said mere suspension will not correct the inherent defect in the patronage system represented by the pork barrel.
The two added everything is wrong with the pork barrel. The President, they claimed, uses it to threaten foes and reward allies in the Senate and the House of Representatives. The legislators, on the other hand, appropriate the funds for their own aggrandizement.
Meanwhile, the woman who set off the controversy remains at large, eluding the NBI teams sent to arrest her. Her passport and that of her brother, Reynaldo Lim, have been cancelled and their bank accounts frozen.