• The pork barrel probe can worsen corruption

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    With the indictment of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla, along with alleged pork barrel scam operator Janet Lim Napoles, many Filipinos weary of the corruption cancer consuming the country, are sighing in relief and vindication. And President Benigno Aquino 3rd can rightly claim that his Tuwid na Daan campaign is bringing top politicians accused of graft to justice.

    Detractors will point out that no one in the ruling camp has ever been sanctioned for pork barrel or other anomalies. But a few big fish in the net is better than none, right?

    Sadly, it could make things worse. For the drive against sleaze isn’t helped if most pork barrel grafters get away. Then the lesson they take away from the senatorial indictments is that it pays to be in the winning side.

    With that in mind, the corrupt will just stay close or sidle up to the powers that be. Senators and congressmen, even some in the opposition, will take care never to attack the President, and a good number will begin singing the Palace tune more loudly and frequently. And in 2016, they will switch to the winning side.

    That’s what they did in 2010. And over the past year of pork barrel controversy, a good number of those who got kickbacks from Priority Development Assistance Fund outlays have been thankful they joined the yellow camp.

    When the Department of Budget and Management gave PDAF records for 2007-09 to the Commission on Audit in 2010, DBM withheld documents for two-thirds of the pork, mostly for administration lawmakers, despite repeated COA requests. And when Justice Secretary Leila de Lima released Napoles’s recent testimony and list of erring lawmakers, there were again many sighs of relief among Aquino allies.

    Battle for survival in 2016
    What’s worse, having seen what Malacañang can do to adversaries, all sides will fight for the presidency with even greater intensity, ruthlessness, cheating—and, of course, guns, goons and gold.

    Now, the losers don’t just get frozen out of power for six years; they could be maligned before the nation and jailed for life for past sleaze—all documented in state agencies —even as their winning opponents continue to gorge on present and future anomalies.

    Hence, expect the next elections to get even tougher, dirtier and bloodier than ever, especially if a foolproof electronic system isn’t found in time and polling goes manual again. And in the years to 2016, the scramble for vote-rich allies, multi-billion-peso funding, and nationwide name recognition will be much more driven, if not desperate.

    With PDAF outlawed, other schemes will be tried, confident that if anyone in the ruling camp gets caught, the Palace has always been the first to downplay the anomalies, if not defend its allies outright. President Aquino even paid the bail for two fellow Liberal Party stalwarts on trial for corruption.

    If the Disbursement Acceleration Program is ruled to be lawful and constitutional, then DAP-style presidential recasting of the budget could become a top source of partisan outlays. Plus there’s always jueteng and smuggling, not to mention the hugely lucrative bidding for public infrastructure like the Metro Rail Transit.

    In the intensifying maneuvers for election advantage, the opposition is looking beleaguered. Besides plunder cases against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, the government is reviving graft charges against the family of Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who leads both the rival United Nationalist Alliance and voter preference polls.

    The removal of UNA-aligned Laguna Governor ER Ejercito may be followed by moves to take out or win over chiefs of other vote-rich provinces now with the opposition. And special PDAF courts, if created, would make pork-tainted UNA legislators think about switching and enjoying the virtual immunity from prosecution shielding Aquino allies.

    Clearly, the 2016 elections is now a battle not just for power, but for survival.

    What the nation can do
    If the opposition is decimated by pork barrel cases and intimidation, even as the ruling camp is largely protected in past and present sleaze, the emerging political scene looks set to replicate the near-total dominance of Ferdinand Marcos’s Kilusang Bagong Lipunan during his dictatorship. And with mainstream media mostly supportive of the administration while the judiciary is run by a loyal Chief Justice, and Washington backs Malacañang, the resemblance between the FM and PNoy eras grows even more.

    The nation is now faced with two choices: go along with the campaign to crack down on the opposition while sparing the administration, further cementing the LP-led ruling coalition’s hold on power; or to push for a non-partisan investigation and prosecution of PDAF corruption.

    Most people will prefer the path of less resistance and let the government jail some crooks while letting off those in its camp, especially political chieftains with hefty voting constituencies to deliver in 2016. At least some grafters go to jail, the least resisters surmise, trying not to think about the mass of sharks swimming in protected waters.

    That would be expedient and convenient—until the growing power of the ruling coalition and its cronies inevitably leads to gross abuse and corruption that will be impossible to hide and even harder to tolerate.

    That eventually happened under Marcos, when some of its powerful factions thought they could kill an opposition leader traveling with a planeload of media, and pin the blame on a lone communist gunman already dead before the airport killing.

    Administration backers will insist that the Aquino regime will not go the way of the Marcos dictatorship, even though the constitutional checks and balances and the fiscalizing media needed to restrain abuse are getting weaker and weaker. And looking at the rival politicians raring to replace the current crop, most Filipinos may well let the Aquino camp have their way.

    But those who truly believe in democracy would prefer to trust not the unbridled power of a few, but the sovereign people’s demand full truth and impartial justice. As Lord Acton said, absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.

    Still, it remains to be seen if Filipinos care to make that demand. Most probably don’t. And that’s why we’re in this mess.

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    5 Comments

    1. Its very simple, the public should call for all candidates for the next election to show where they stand on corruption & are they prepared to examine past senators & all politicians in the past for any corruption they may have been involved in. If they arnt interested then dont elect them. But you need a huge movement by the people to show they want change once & for all & that no stone will be left unturned to find these rats who have stolen monies at will from this country. & rest assured they are rats or even worse than sewer rats. They have no honour & all politicians swear to look after the people here & when they dont they should be held accountable, byt the current or future administrations. There should be no hiding place for these scum.

      • yeah… very simple to ask.. like what Noynoy promised during the 2010 campaign period. but did he fulfill his promise? no.. nothing. all empty promises. he just fooled the filipino masses. akala nila palibhasa aquino mabuting tao. but they are wrong. i wish next time maging matalino na ang mga botante.

    2. The public should not be content with the consolation that at least some grafters (opposition senators) will go to jail. The remaining grafters who are still scot-free will be emboldened to steal some more as they are being protected by the administration no matter what. The opposition members who have not been charged yet could avoid prosecution by just jumping ships before the 2016 elections. And the newspapers friendly with the administration could just hail their chief so often that the people might believe the chief is really stain-free. That would spell doom for the country.

      • Agree Brod. If the non allies will only be the fall guys and the yellow Senatongs and Tongressmen remain free, it will not only destroy the check and balances in government but corruption will continue and greater than ever. A good example is Franklin Drillon. Have you not noticed that Drillon is one politician in the likes of Juan Ponce Enrile who are the biggest political butterfly’s in Philippine politics. Note that these two men will immediately declare allegiance to whoever is in power in any new administration without even taking off the cloaks of their respective parties. Recall that when the Cory Aquino, Ramos, Erap and Arroyo administration were in power, they immediately played ball with the one in power so they can continue their crocodile ways.

    3. The monster that this anomaly of a man, PNoy is destroying the system of governance in the Philippines, it is true. No administrations past have used the power of bribe so masterfully and massively done if only to display raw power and influence than this current President. The Philippines will not be only a sorry state but continue to be with a miserable population. Because the stupid electorate elected a lunatic leader.