PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday vowed that more charges will be filed and more personalities will be jailed in connection with the pork barrel scam, stressing that previous charges already in the courts comprise only the “initial” cases.
“We should emphasize: These are only the initial cases filed; more will come once the necessary evidence is assembled,” Aquino said in a speech during the 2nd State Conference on the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (Uncac) in Malacañang.
In his speech, the President promised that those who “conspired to steal” public funds will be made accountable.
“Prominent lawmakers, former heads of GOCCs [government-owned and -controlled corporations] and government agencies, and others in the private sector who conspired to steal from the people through the Priority Development Assistance Fund [PDAF] have been arrested and are now undergoing the appropriate processes to determine accountability,” Aquino told his audience.
He was referring to Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. who are now in jail in connection with alleged misuse of their PDAF or pork barrel.
Alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and the lawmakers’ subordinates were similarly ordered arrested for their participation in the P10-billion PDAF racket.
In June this year, Napoles submitted affidavits containing the names of 20 senators and 100 congressmen, many of whom incumbent, who allegedly benefited from the PDAF, before it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court last year.
The camp of principal witness, Benhur Luy, feared that such long list of possible respondents could drag the case for at least a decade.
Napoles’ scheme involved siphoning off PDAF to bogus non-government organizations that she herself had put up.
Aquino, also during the UNCAC meeting, said his administration has set up a budget scheme that will prevent similar abuses.
“There are new measures to speak of as well. For instance, one of the innovations we introduced in the budgeting process this year is the GAA [General Appropriations Act]-as-release-document system. Through this system, the budget serves as the release document itself the moment it is signed into law. This meant that, as soon as 2014 began, the majority of allocations were released to agencies, enabling them to begin implementing projects, thus cascading benefits down to our people, at the soonest possible time,” he explained.
The President admitted that the fight against corruption cannot be won overnight but that he has been working to “make change permanent” by continuing his legacy even after he had left Malacañang.
“With the 2016 elections not too far off, let us always remember that we are working to make change permanent, to make the commitment to good governance a commitment that lasts beyond this administration,” he said,
“We are working to rid the Philippines of the corruption that has tainted its reputation and plagued it for so long; we are working to institutionalize a legacy that finds its roots in the mindset of our countrymen, who will never again settle for anything less than true public service,” Aquino added.
The President narrated how “methodical” the “straight path” has been for him, noting that “each hindrance would have to be dismantled before we could make true progress.”
“As you may remember, the first Executive Order I signed created a Truth Commission intended to investigate allegations of graft and corruption, as the first step toward accountability. We all know unfortunately, this was blocked by the Supreme Court, which was then led by then-Chief Justice Corona. Yet we persisted.
Anomalous projects were cancelled; government-owned and -controlled corporations that were once the cash cows of a corrupt few underwent reforms. We likewise turned our attention to budget and procurement, which was significant in light of the situation we came across,” Aquino said.
He again blamed the former administration for “programs that were inefficient, wasteful or easily manipulated by the corrupt.”
“Only 6.5 percent of the 2010 budget, amounting to P100 billion, was left when this administration took office. We also inherited the proposed 2011 budget, which has to be given to Congress roughly about two months into office. Even with these challenges, we embarked on serious reforms . . . And in 2012, we finally had the wherewithal to craft a budget, under which each peso government spent would have real and concrete benefits for the Filipino people,” Aquino said.