It excites me that the indefatigable Scrap Pork Network is calling for the resignation of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla. It’s exciting because it is such a daring call coming from a core group that could not but problematize activists and activism before August 2013’s Million People March.
I do tend to think that more than at any other time this government has forced us to be more critical and to multitask. Because the promise of transparency really did open can upon can of worms, and one needs to be able to keep up, keep watch, take on and stick to the causes that matter.
And scrapping all forms of pork barrel – the whole system of discretionary funds and lump sums unaccounted for—is one such cause.
From Scrap Pork Network’s statement, “Time To Step Down, Senators”:
“The Office of the Ombudsman has announced it is set to file plunder and graft charges against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla. We eye this forward but slow movement in the meting out of justice with cautious approval.
“Current findings indicate massive kickbacks allegedly received by Enrile, amounting to P172.8 million; Estrada, P183.79 million; and Revilla, P242 million. We have every reason to believe that the rape of our national budget is on a much grander scale.
“What of the P10 billion allegedly skirted away by Janet Napoles? This may not even reflect the full picture of her shady transactions. Nonetheless, the P600 million in cumulative kickback allegedly received by the three senators is but the tip of the iceberg of fund scams. Seven months after our protest in Luneta, we believe that a full accounting by, and prosecution of, all involved, are overdue.
“In the face of overwhelming evidence, we are making an immediate call for the resignation of Senators Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla. This, too, is overdue. In other countries a mere hint of wrongdoing is enough for public officials to resign their posts.
“Senators, yield now.”
The call does not include what would be on the evening news, with SPN spokesperson Peachy Tan calling on the other Senators to take the side of the public on this one, and remove Enrile, Estrada and Revilla from their Senate seats.
This all seems like a lot of wishful thinking, of course. Estrada has said he will continue going to the Senate barring a Sandiganbayan warrant of arrest. Revilla, all the way in the Holy Land (yes Jerusalem) until Holy Week, has said that he will come home to face charges and appeal the Ombudsman’s decision. Enrile has been quiet.
The Senate leadership isn’t open to pushing for the three Senators’ leave of absence.
Senate President Franklin Drilon asserts that a leave of absence would be “a matter addressed to their conscience, for their own judgment.” Senator Chiz Escudero says it will be a “voluntary act” BY the three Senators.
But those three won’t resign. Neither will the rest of the Senate agree that kicking them out of such august halls is the right thing to do.
Now it gets really exciting.
Because even the SPN statement talks about how this is far larger than these three Senators.
“What of other operators similar to Napoles? It is estimated that an annual total of P200 billion is lost to rampant corruption and malversation of funds. The current administration’s ‘Daang Matuwid’ philosophy continues to be ignored by corrupt officials who steal budgets for food security or who chip away at monies intended for public infrastructure, defense systems, healthcare, education and social services.
“Discretionary spending by greedy politicians has no place in the Philippines. We maintain our original three demands: 1) Scrap All Pork, 2) Investigate those who have misused public funds, 3) Punish those found guilty of misusing public funds.
“Our law-makers are now appallingly, too often, our law-breakers.”
But also that explains why the Senate, Congress, this government, will not and cannot side with the people on the pork barrel scam. Because that scam is but a teeny tiny part of a system that they are all part of. It’s not to say that they are all guilty of spending taxpayers’ money; it’s to say that they are all complicit in keeping this system going, in whatever form, under whatever name.
They can go through the motions of Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings, point to one senator, or three! But we all know that’s about all they will do. They will then gladly wait for the slooooow wheels of justice to roll, and we are all supposed to be happy with that.
Thank heavens that we aren’t, because at least we refuse this systemic dysfunction.
The other, more exciting possibility given these plunder cases against Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla is that they will decide to finally take everybody else down with them.
I read it on Mae Paner’s wall, and have waited for it to happen during those privilege speeches of Estrada and Revilla: talk about the pork barrel system once and for all.
Walk us through the system of palakasan and patronage politics. Walk us through the kind of politics that dictates who will get which amount and why. Walk us through what the other Senators are doing with their pork barrel funds.
Because these three Senators, as most every other worthy critic of this government, are correct in thinking:
Presidential allies were part of that Commission on Audit report on questionable pork barrel fund allocations. We have forgotten these names because media has just pressed on about Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla.
It would do the three Senators well to remind us about these names again. It won’t make them any less guilty—the Sandiganbayan will decide that – but it will tell us that they care enough about nation to actually side with us on this one.