• Surrender changes scam probe dynamics


    It is now a distinct possibility. Janet Lim Napoles could turn state witness. If that happened the dynamics in the investigation of the pork barrel scam would change and, along with it, the prosecution of those involved in the wholesale thief of government funds.

    Certain quarters suggest that the surrender is part of a conspiracy to pin down the senators and congressmen named by state witnesses to have funneled their pork barrel allocations to sham non-government organizations (NGOs) that Mrs. Napoles had set up.

    But that is no more than a temporary diversion. No amount of media management could dissuade the people from their demand that the guilty be sentenced to long prison terms.

    The conspiracy theory is hard to sustain. Mrs. Napoles offered to surrender, but only to President Benigno Aquino 3rd. Would the President refuse the offer and tell the fugitive to go to the nearest police outpost instead? That would be stupid, after offering a P10 million reward for her capture.

    According to a COA report, no less than 12 senators and at least a hundred congressmen signed over their pork barrel, officially known as Priority Development Assistance Fund, to fake NGOs.

    The sheer number boggles the mind. So does the corruption’s reach: Agriculture, Social Welfare, Public Works, in addition to the Senate and the House of Representatives.

    If the government were a patient, it would be best to pull the plug. The cancer has already metastasized, with all the vital organs affected. It would be an act of mercy to turn the life support system off.

    For our sake as a people, however, all possible remedies must be tried to save the government and nurse it back to health. The only alternative is a revolution, either from the left or the right, but that is a cure worse than the disease.

    Only the prosecutors and the justices could save the country now.

    The DoJ and the Ombudsman have hinted that a number of legislators, along with Mrs. Napoles, will be prosecuted for plunder. But how will the Sandiganbayan resolve the cases?

    A case for plunder requires issuance of arrest orders. Since plunder is non-bailable, the accused will have to stay in jail for the duration of the trial, which will take years.

    The senators have already given us a preview of their defense. Five of them say they have not met and don’t know the woman in the eye of the storm.

    However, COA has on record signatures of the senators and their chiefs of staff signing the release of the funds and even directing which NGO their pork barrel allocation should go.

    Against that evidence, they now claim that their signatures have been forged, with one senator even announcing he is hiring a handwriting expert to verify the authenticity of the signatures on the documents.

    The senators also advance the idea that they could not have known the NGOs were spurious. The record shows no project had ever been implemented. At the very least that should raise a red flag, but the legislators just went about in blissful ignorance, with one senator authorizing the release of his PDAF to these NGOs not once but 22 times.

    Another thing. Would a senator release funds, in some cases tens of millions of pesos a pop, to anybody or any group and forget all about it?

    One senator cannot invoke that defense. He set up his own NGOs and funneled a part of his PDAF to it. So he takes another tack. He claims that his NGOs have distributed pack lunches to children.

    The initial report is that P10 billion has been lost to thieves through fake NGOs in two years alone, from 2007 to 2009. Estimate of the amount has been revised upward to P12 billion and later, as more revelations come out, to a whopping P100 billion.

    So much ink has been spilt on treatises analyzing the cause of poverty in this country.

    The real reason, it turns out, is pure and simple thievery of government funds.


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