THE day of reckoning for the previous administration should now move full steam ahead.
The Duterte administration should not content itself only with an inquiry into the culpability of former President BS Aquino in the Mamasapano massacre. It should also dig up all records pertaining to the use or misuse of the Malampaya Fund and the pork barrel/Disbursement Acceleration Program in the previous administration.
If the records show that the former President and his budget secretary, Florencio “Butch” Abad should be charged with the unbailable crime of plunder, then let it be so, notwithstanding the plea of one-time “Queen of Media” Kris Aquino to President Duterte not to jail her brother. I sure would want to see former President Aquino wiggle out of the Malampaya and DAP scandals now that he is out of power.
A previous report of the Commission on Audit found that at least P900 million of the Malampaya Fund was released to numerous non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to the so-called “pork barrel queen” Janet Lim Napoles. Former Senator Jinggoy Estrada had filed a resolution urging the Senate blue ribbon committee to investigate the plunder of the Malampaya Fund, which represents the royalties received by the government from the operator of the natural gas project off Palawan.
Senator Jinggoy badgered Senator TG Guingona for several years to look into the fund scam. Guingona completely had no thought of doing so during his term. This is not surprising because a few weeks after he became a senator, he immediately declared that the nation should be thankful that with its straight path (tuwid na daan), the new Aquino administration could be relied upon not to repeat the alleged venalities of the
Macapagal-Arroyo administration. It’s also not surprising that Guingona devoted most of his committee’s time in investigating allegations against Aquino’s perceived political opponents like then Vice President Jejomar Binay and then Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada.
Now that Guingona is gone, along with Aquino, it’s high time that the government looked into this raiding of P900 million from the Malampaya Fund. This inquiry could be Exhibit A of the Duterte administration’s war against corruption. This will show the supremacy of the law in the country and that nobody is exempt from the war against corruption.
And if a strong case can be built against Aquino, then President Duterte could boast in other countries and to other heads of state that he was able to jail a former President. Aquino shouldn’t mind this. After all, he had boasted of sending his predecessor to prison—even if she was seriously ill and the government case appeared weak.
As expected, the Sandiganbayan later threw out all the cases that the Aquino administration had filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and set her free. I wonder if Aquino will be charged with plunder and be detained even if he’s suffering from uncontrolled coughing with his addiction to smoking. I wonder, too, if he’ll eventually be exonerated like his predecessor because the evidence against him is weak. If all records concealed from the public should prove he didn’t have clean hands, then justice demands that he be made accountable.
The inquiry into the Malampaya Fund scam should involve not only Aquino, Abad and Napoles but also Ruby Tuason. Tuason was the “whistle-blower” and “star witness” of Guingona and then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in the alleged pork barrel scam cases that they had filed against JPE, Jinggoy and Bong Revilla. She was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony. This immunity, however, covered only her admitted involvement in the Napoles-led pork barrel scam. There have been allegations that she was the actual “Malampaya Queen.” The claim of Jinggoy that her mansion could have been built from Malampaya funds wasn’t given even a cursory look during the Aquino administration.
A face-off among Aquino, Abad, Napoles and Tuason in the Malampaya inquiry would be interesting. Will there be plain denials? Will there be finger-pointing? Will more government officials be dragged into the scandal should the truth on previously unanswered questions finally see the light?
Definitely, many questions remain unanswered on the use of the pork barrel of Aquino when he was still a congressman and senator, and of Abad when he was Batanes congressman. Guingona had refused to ask Abad to testify or to ask the Commission on Audit for records to see if Aquino had ever funneled his “pork” into the fictitious NGOs of Napoles. Note that Napoles personally “surrendered” to Aquino in Malacañang. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if damning records had been shredded before Duterte took over the Palace.
Another unfinished business is the inquiry into the Disbursement Acceleration Program of Aquino that resulted in unprecedented amount of pork barrel funds. The DAP was acknowledged to be the source of the funds given to senators after the impeachment of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago lashed out at the DAP for being unconstitutional for arbitrarily redefining “savings,” and channeling funds from “slow-moving projects” contained in the national budget, to projects unilaterally declared by Malacañang as priorities. As she had predicted, the Supreme Court declared parts of the DAP unconstitutional.
With the high court’s decision, an administration respectful of the majesty of the law should have stopped funding projects under DAP. In a move described as defiance of the Supreme Court by fiscal and legal experts, Aquino asked Congress for a supplemental budget for 2014. This despite the fact that there were only a few weeks left of 2014 and that P274 billion of the budget for that fiscal year was still unspent.
I’ll quote an argument often put forward by Aquino and his acolytes: “If Aquino has nothing to hide, then he shouldn’t be afraid of being investigated.”