How le affaire Napoles has effectively put on hold the presidential dreams of two Juniors—Ramon Revilla Jr., and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.,–is now hot discussion stuff among political junkies , the type that never tires discussing the latest in Philippine politics no matter how sordid. But we don’t need the chatter from the junkies to tell us that the grandmother of all scams will have a heavy, game-changing political backlash and fallout.
Before the Napoles expose, it was presumed that the two Juniors had teams exploring the possibilities of a presidential run. That would have to be put on hold for now. What will be their next move? We can’t tell. Abangan and susunod na kabanata. We, however, need to write a full column on ruined presidential dreams.
Also, a reelected senator will probably make his move now and fulfill his presidential dream. On the ruins of the two Junior’s aborted presidential dreams, the senator (with all the audacity of his youth) will step up efforts to pursue his dream to be president .
The scam-induced fallout, however, will be across all regions and will not be limited to national politics. To claim that the scam would have no impact on congressional races or LGU politics in 2016 and beyond is both premature and illusory. Just read Page 7 of the Sept. 3 issue of The Manila Times. You will see that the angst of August has spread out to the regions.
The Manila Times story was probably the first major display of organized political outrage over the scam. It said that political leaders of Camarines Sur have been pressing for an investigation of the P197 million funds that were disbursed in the name of former Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella from 2007 to 2009. Of the P197 million total, P120 was devoted to so-called VLPs or various local infra projects and the balance went to NGOs favored by the Fuentebella family.
The main question of those seeking answers are these: Are the NGOs bogus? Were they set up by Fuentebella himself, or were these established by the Napoles group on behalf of the Fuentebellas?
The active political groups relentlessly pressing the probe of Fuentebella, who once served as Speaker and Deputy Speaker, have been meticulous in their research. For example, they have the profile of Partido District and Development Cooperative Inc., a conduit of of Fuentebella’s PDAF funds of over P18 million.
The coop had no registration papers either with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA). The head of the coop? According to groups opposed to Fuentebella, the PDDCI was structured like a Napoles operation. It is headed by one Ariel Alde, allegedly a driver of the Fuentebellas.
The groups then tried to examine the activities and disbursements of the PDDCI. What they found out was heartbreaking. The following deficiencies were reported: some of the suppliers had no business permits, some issued receipts without BIR approval, some do not even have proper addresses. The PDDCI did not even bother to get a business permit in the towns where it operates—ironically all controlled by Fuentebella’s next of kin. All of these deficiencies and more were confirmed in the COA audit.
Speaking of connection to the Napoles group, Fuentebella has been tagged by the Department of Agriculture as one of the six congressmen that allocated P83.2 million worth of PDAF to Kaupdanan para sa Mangunugma Foundation Inc., one of the 10 NGOs established by the Napoles group to serve as PDAF conduits. Bingo, according to the opponents of Fuentebella. There could be nothing more damning than ties to Napoles and her NGOs.
We can just imagine how torturous the process of liquidating the allocations to the Napoles-tied NGOs would be.
Would Fuentebella be prosecuted over his ties to Napoles and many other reported cases of PDAF misuse? Several anti-graft crusaders hope so. Currently the Fuentebellas are defending themselves against a plunder charge, which claim that the Fuentebellas used public money to build a beach resort and a sports complex on properties they own. They are actually caught in a double wringer now.
The allegations of ties to Napoles and of PDAF misuse come amid the most depressing of backdrops: the poverty and underdevelopment of the Camarines Sur congressiona district that the Fuentebellas have ruled for decades. In other areas, state investments have lifted Club 20 provinces out of that miserable state. In the Fuentebella–controlled district, poverty is widespread and some of the towns are in the “ worst governed” list.
Camarines Sur politics is in a state of change, mostly for the better. The country’s youngest governor sits at the capitol. Leni Robredo is one of the four representatives. Some of the dynasties have fallen apart, swept away by the clamor for change.
The third district of the Fuentebellas has yet to be impacted by the clamor for change. The demand for fresh and young leaders has yet to resonate. The Napoles episode, and the hoped-for prosecution of the Fuentebella patriarch, would hopefully lead to awakening and change.