The newspapers yesterday and the day before were full of stories on the surrender of Janet Lim-Napoles, who is accused of embezzling some P10 billion in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), after two weeks in hiding as a fugitive. Mrs. Napoles surrendered to President Benigno S. Aguino 3rd late Wednesday evening in Malacañang Palace for fear of her life, saying she trusted only the President.
From Malacañan, President Aquino led the convoy to Camp Crame, headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Quezon City, where Mrs. Napoles was turned over to DILG Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas and PNP Director-General Alan Purisima. The alleged brains behind the multi-billion pork barrel scam was detained at Camp Crame, where she and her husband, former Marine Major Jimmy Lim, stayed overnight. On Thursday late evening, Mrs. Napoles was transferred to the Makati City Jail, also with her husband accompanying her.
Last Thursday, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee started its probe on the P10 Billion PDAF anomaly that involved several senators and a hundred congressmen. Grace Pulido-Tan, chair of the Commission on Audit (CoA), testified before the Senate as a resource person to share the findings of the CoA Special Audit Report that confirmed the testimonies of the whistle-blowers: public funds allotted to members of Congress for their projects ended up with dubious beneficiaries, such as fake NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) andNGOs established by congressmen for the sole purpose of benefiting themselves.
The explosive revelation on the scale of the people’s money being lost to shameless politicians made me realize something last Monday when my family and I attended the Million People March at the Luneta (Rizal Park). Why should it take whistle-blowers to expose the multi-billion scam? After three years in office, whatever happened to the anti-corruption crusade of President B.S. Aquino 3rd? Is it true that the PDAF has even actually increased and “institutionalized” under PNoy’s watch?
Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad of the Department of Budget & Management (DBM) was quoted in the newspaper last Monday, August 26, as saying that P25 billion in pork barrel (PDF) will remain in the 2014 proposed National Budget. A week ago, Pnoy announced, with Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., behind him, that he was abolishing pork barrel. What was that announcement all about?
On our way to the protest rally in Rizal Park, we heard Secretary Ricky Carandang spoke in a radio interview on dzMM. The broadcast journalist asked the Malacañan Cabinet official if the announcement of President Aquino on the PDAF abolition would mean the removal or scrapping of the P70 million and P200 million allotment for the projects of congressmen and senators. Secretary Carandang could not categorically answer in the affirmative and deftly equivocated saying that the Office of the President in Malacañang will find another or better way of using the said funds.
There is the said realization about the presidency of PNoy on what happened with the pork barrel exposé and its purported abolition:the flagrant lack of sincerity and the proclivity to mislead the Filipino people on the part of President Aquino and his official family.
As other columnists have already pointed out, the Chief Executive could have made the dramatic announcement on the abolition of PDAF in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) before the members of Congress in late July or a month ago. But PNoy did not do it perhaps thinking that the issue will just die down as what happened with the alleged $30 million extortion attempt on the MRT III contract.
However, with the snowballing campaign in the social media for its abolition and the Million Protest Rally at the Luneta slated for 26 August, Araw ng Kagitingan, President Aquino had no choice but to announce the abolition of the pork barrel on 23 August,three days before the protest action. Thus, it is the Height of Hypocrisy for him to declare on the day of demonstration that “we’re on the same side.” The spokesperson of President Aquino also had the brazen temerity to say, “we’re all against corruption.”
Veteran journalist Neal Cruz has been writing over the past years in his column in The Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI) what myriad of Filipinos do not know as the real reason behind the existence of the pork barrel that has already changed name twice to its present “PDAF.” To put it succinctly; the pork barrel is the direct bribe of the President of the Philippines to the members of Congress to pass the Government Appropriations Act (GAA).
Hardly anyone has noticed how swiftly the national budgets have been approved by Congress in the past three years (2011-2013) under the Aquino administration. This is all because of the bribe given by the Office of the President to the senators and congressmen through the pork barrel system. For 2014, there is already P25.2 Billion for PDAF in the proposed budget that will ensure its easy passage. It is called Daan na Matuwid!
Rick B. Ramos firstname.lastname@example.org