Fully 77 percent of Filipinos believe senators and congressmen steal the money intended for public works projects and social services.
The numbers, according to Pulse Asia, cut across all geographic areas and socio-economic groups, which is to say that poor and rich alike, whatever their educational attainment may be, and wherever they happen to live in the country feel it in their hearts that lawmakers are thieves.
Alright the pollster does not put it in so blunt a language, but that’s what the result of the survey states. And we bet that’s exactly how the respondents express their sentiments, if comments in the social media are any guide. Oh, the poor do not maintain a Facebook or Twitter account, but try to sound them off on the subject and they will answer with expletives.
The people, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said, want to spit at the senators after the discovery of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam. The people would lynch the senators—and congressmen—if they were to be left in a crowd without their bodyguards.
So intense is the anger and the hatred so deep.
How did we become so cynical? We’ve always been wary of lawmakers, and all government officials for that matter. We’ve known that lawmakers are corrupt, but we were unprepared for the revelations made by witnesses that these honorable men and women could be so depraved as to divert funds intended for the poor and calamity victims.
Once upon a time lawmakers demanded their share of the amount of the project being implemented, from 10 percent to 20 percent depending on how greedy they felt at a given time.
It shocked people to learn that these lawmakers had done away with the projects altogether. Perhaps the scheme was too unwieldy and the return was too small, if set against their requirements.
Too small? It’s huge in the eyes of an ordinary worker. He wouldn’t earn in a lifetime what a lawmaker gets from a single deal, but then he does not have to maintain a high lifestyle.
Senators and congressmen send their children to exclusive schools in the US—schools that only the very rich in that country can afford. They also have houses to maintain in gated communities there.
Never mind the flashy cars. Even smugglers and their co-conspirators at Customs have them. Our honorable senators and congressmen require infinitely more than that.
So how could they afford it? Enter Janet Lim Napoles with a scheme unprecedented in audacity. And very effective too.
The charge sheet alleges that Mrs. Napoles set up non-government organizations (NGOs), ostensibly to implement pork barrel funded projects. The NGOs turned out to be spurious and the projects non-existent.
Once the government deposited the money in the bank (a staggering P75 million at one time), Mrs. Napoles withdrew it and remitted 50 percent to the legislator. She retained 40 percent as her share and distributed the balance to low-level government employees who processed the documents.
Three senators were charged along with Mrs. Napoles: Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla, and their chiefs of staff, a number of former congressmen, and other people in and out of the government.
In the old days there was a project, although substandard. It was substandard because the legislators wanted their share. There is no project this time, or the project exists only on paper.
There is a running debate between the House of Representatives and the Senate, whether to realign PDAF (place it in appropriate government agencies) or to abolish it outright.
The House leadership opts for realignment, maintaining that under the set up congressmen will not be able to influence what project to fund and which agency will be tasked to implement it. It is when congressmen exercise the option that corruption sets in. No option, no corruption.
Can an alcoholic resist the bottle of bourbon in the cabinet? Should we trust a pedophile around young children?