Just when we were comforted with the thought that Janet Lim Napoles is in jail and that 38 individuals have so far been charged with plunder, here comes the Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP) and the Malampaya Fund controversies. While the first provides some room for doubt (as to whether or not it has legal basis, and whether or not it was used for “impeachment” purposes), the Malampaya Fund scandal shows how the supposed strict Government Auditing and Accounting Procedures were played with by Napoles and some key government officials.
When I was National President of Junior Chamber International Philippines (JCIP) in 2002, we submitted a project proposal to the Office of the President seeking to provide a potable water source for public schools nationwide. It was approved and we were given a grant of 10 million pesos from the President’s Social Fund. We were stringent to a fault, self-policed our ranks, required documents even those that are not usually required, and appreciated (and encouraged) ocular inspections by the Presidential Management Staff.
Since the project aimed to provide potable water to students, we also asked for a certification from the Municipal Health Office that the water is indeed safe for drinking.
As chairperson of the National Youth Commission (NYC) from 2000-2003, I was also very strict, making it a habit to randomly check on phone bills and reimbursements on meeting expenses no matter the amount. NYC’s budget averaged only 50 million pesos a year then and we could not afford any wastage. I (and my predecessors and successors) are fortunate NYC employees share the same sentiments.
PCSO is no different, although the money it handles is several times bigger than NYC’s.
Chairperson Margie Juico, General Manager Joy Rojas and the Board of Directors have made it their mission to save, save and save, aside from making sure funds are only spent for what it is intended for. While PCSO funds do not come from taxes, money takes the form of government funds once it is paid for PCSO products.
Thus, it is with deep sadness and grief, and a lot of hatred that aside from the corruption of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, there is also the Malampaya Fund. Please note I cannot carelessly include the DAP when we do not know yet how it was spent and if anybody pocketed part or all of it.
Admittedly, I knew very little of the Malampaya fund previous to the recent expose by whistleblowers Benhur Luy and Merlina Sunas. I am sure majority of Filipinos were the same, too. And it is this ignorance Napoles and her ilk capitalized on while they preyed on billions of pesos.
I have underestimated Napoles’s intelligence. Most of us did. When her exclusive panel interview with reporters and columnists of another broadsheet came out, it seemed she was incapable of speaking in complete sentences. It was as if she was more concerned with how she looked on cam than how the words that came out of her mouth will appear on print.
I still don’t think she did it on her own but she certainly knew what she was doing. She may not hold a university degree but she was definitely smarter than all of our degrees combined. She is not a Senator, Congressman or head of agency, and yet she was able to convince many of them to be her partners in crime.
I also don’t think she is the only one. The network scam of Godofredo Roque may not involve as much but is still terrifying for the sheer brazenness and shamelessness of how hundreds of millions of PDAF was filched.
I have a friend who accidentally discovered another potential PDAF scam. While visiting her friend’s mom at the hospital, she made small talk with another visitor who turned out to be her friend’s staff. Her friend was out on errands when she came. She hasn’t seen her friend for a long time and innocently asked what her friend’s business is. The staff candidly replied, “She has a foundation business. She handles the PDAF of Congressman so and so.” My friend asked the name of the foundation. It doesn’t even have a website.
When I worked for a multi-national company a few years ago, we partnered with NGOs to implement community projects. It wasn’t difficult to look for legitimate NGOs. The Department of Social Work and Development accredits NGOs, and there is the Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC). If an NGO is PCNC-certified, the amount donated or used for the implementation of the project is tax-deductible (for private corporations) and one is assured that it is professionally-run.
The saying “money is the root of all evil” cannot be truer than what money from the PDAF and Malampaya scams has done to turn the good into bad, and the bad into worse and worst. As what Mahatma Gandhi once said, “There is sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.”