The outcry in the social media is deafening.
The report on the great national shakedown is all over the place, with Filipinos here and abroad zeroing in on a common target of hate: Janet Lim Napoles, proprietor of JLN Group of Companies, and the five senators and 28 congressmen who are supposed to have conspired with her in an elaborate scheme to rob an already impoverished nation of a mind-boggling P10 billion in the past ten years.
Clearly, the thieves, if the whistleblowers are to be believed, have overreached themselves.
As detailed in this space the other day, Ben Hur Luy, a relative and, before their falling out, a trusted assistant, states in an affidavit that Ms. Napoles persuades senators and congressmen to sign over their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel allocations to fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs) she has set up.
The NGOs then deposits the fund to one of Mrs. Napoles’s many bank accounts. She withdraws the money and delivers 60 percent to the legislator, while keeping 40 percent as her share of the loot.
In the past we’re scandalized by reports of senators and congressmen inflating the cost of projects funded by their pork barrel allocation. But that’s the way the legislator exacts his pound of flesh, usually 30 percent of the cost, while leaving enough for the contractor to get a fair return for his investment.
At least there is a project for everyone to see, although substandard.
Not in the scheme Ms. Napoles has cooked up. The project exists only on paper and the signatures of the local government functionaries who are supposed to implement the project and the beneficiaries, usually poor farmers and fishermen, are forged. So the full amount, usually in the tens of millions of pesos, goes to the conspirators.
It’s anybody’s guess what form the outrage will take. Just remember though that President Joseph Estrada’s downfall was precipitated by people text-messaging one another about the failure of the Senate impeachment proceedings against him.
The mobile phone was new. People had not yet gotten over the novelty, but when they discovered its potency they put the instrument to full use: to express their anger over government corruption. That helped form the national consensus that Mr. Estrada had to go.
It was Xerox journalism that toppled Ferdinand Marcos. Martial law had clamped down on the media, but the political opposition apprised the nation of widespread corruption in the regime and the imprisonment and sometimes the summary execution of people who dared fight the dictatorship, and it did so by distributing photo copies of stories originally published abroad.
The social media has a wider reach than copying machines and mobile phones. It transcends national borders, its only limit being the interest of people—wherever they may be—in a particular issue.
Filipino expats in other countries of Asia, in the United States and Canada, the Middle East, and Europe hear the same news and react the same way their friends and relatives back home do.
Judging from the comments, the legislators implicated in the scam are not faring so well.
Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who is said to have sunk the biggest pork barrel amount in the scam, claims in his defense that his only role is to identify the project.
But netizens are not so easily fooled. They point out that politicians, if they have as much as fund the construction of a basketball court or a waiting shed, want their names emblazoned on the project.
It is inconceivable that Mr. Enrile and his fellow senators would sign over their pork barrel allocation to the project proponent and then forget all about it.
Senator Loren Legarda was approached by the same syndicate, but she demanded to know what the project was for, who the beneficiaries would be, and who would implement and monitor the project.
That scared off the thieves, and all because Ms. Legarda wanted to know the full detail. The lady senator is one of those in the legislature who have kept their nose clean.
To two senators, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Ramon “Bong” Revilla, identified by the whistle blower as among those involved in the scam, the whole thing is “a demolition job”, carried out to destroy the reputation of candidates in the 2016 Presidential election.
No political operatives are foolish enough to believe that a campaign launched this early would have the intended effect three years down the road.
But the two flatter themselves. Obviously they and the others involved in the scam haven’t been keeping track of the threads on the subject in cyberspace.
The hate and the murderous fury are simply appalling.