The scam probe goes Broadway

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Marlen V. Ronquillo

Marlen V. Ronquillo

We all know it would lead to this the probe of the pork scam being taken over by zealotry—and theater. The plunder sheets are now longer than a cheap wine list. More actors, worked up to the max, are now in the case-filing binge .Two new charges, for example, the plunder charge against President Aquino and a fresh plunder charge against former President Arroyo based on the Malampaya fund abuses, showcase the absurdity of it all.

The plunder charge against President Aquino, filed by enemies who hope this would mature into an impeachment rap against the president, would generate nothing beyond media mileage. And five minutes of fame—and very fleeting moments on prime time TV— for the accusers. The constitutional transgressions cited by the accusers are lemon legal points, easy to cite, but

The vast powers of the imperial presidency vest President Aquino with the full leeway to juggle funds around, most of these allocations based on the thinnest veneer of legality. Moving funds around can be summed up as juggling from the edge and it is an apt description. But these are not, technically, acts of plundering the treasury. From the acquisition of the Navy patrol craft to the diesel subsidy to PUJs, all of these can be lumped—by a stretch of course —as “energy-related” programs.

Were the Supreme Court to rule that a sitting president cannot authorize a Cabinet member to do the juggling on the president’s behalf, still there would neither be jailing or impeachment of a president.


Tom Clancy, fiction writer who died recentl, had a book titled “Executive Privilege” which about sums up the vast powers of the presidency.

Even the esteemed assembly of lawyers and budget experts who claimed that what the executive branch violated the Constitution and the laws when it did the DAP would wither on the sheer and overpowering dominance of executive privilege.

The impeachment rap that would follow the filing of the plunder charge is a wish list of those in over their heads. The present Congress is more beholden to the executive branch than any other Congress in the country’s post martial law history. The semi-scrapping of the pork barrel has reduced the pork-loving and pork-seeking legislators to beggars, always at the mercy of the executive offices that would grant them concessions.

No way would an impeachment rap gain ground in the House in a partly-crippled, less-arrogant House of Representatives.

On the same ground of executive privilege would the Malampaya-based plunder raps against Mrs. Arroyo be deemed insufficient. What legal grounds would forbid a president from responding to a humanitarian crisis brought about by two killer floods that hit in succession, and which ravaged the most productive regions of the country? Of course, we all know the truth and the diversion of the Malampaya funds into typhoon rehab was meant for something not at all humanitarian in nature. Janet Lim Napoles even got a tip, and via connections cornered to P1 billion of the diverted funds. But how can you prove sinister intent in a context of a humanitarian crisis that can truly justify fund diversion?

Never mind the obvious— that the minions of Mrs. Arroyo just copied and pasted Marcos-decrees on fund diversion.

An all-purpose government should, and can have, an-all-purpose fund and there is nothing sacred and sacrosanct about the Malampaya funds. Moving funds around, and flexibility on fund-juggling, had been the narrative that under-girded the spending program of Mrs. Arroyo’s close to 10 years in power. But holding her accountable, much more charging her with plunder because of those fund juggling acts, is entirely another matter

Question, is there a well-funded, well-organized group that is working to muddle the easy-to-prove, easy-to-prosecute plunder cases? To absolve the really guilty from being made accountable for the pork scam?

When various left-wing groups and Oliver Lozano informally coalesce to banner a crusade, one can suspect theater but not conspiracy to muddle an issue . One can see the intersection of motives—to damn and discredit the administration and to see the country in a state of chaos—but so far there is no money being moved around to ramp up the anti-government protests. The only money being spread around is the money PR people have been doling out to deodorize the Napoles-related stink.

What we have right now are individuals and groups out to further their personal and ideological causes. And organized groups such as the pro-lifers that are trying to get back at the Aquino administration, after their shellacking on the RH law passage.

Can the protests logically lead to the collapse of the Aquino administration?

Not with a six to seven per cent GDP growth rate and the credit upgrades from the rating agencies. And with the remittances growing unfailingly. Plus the projections from the multilateral institution that keep on proclaiming that the Philippines is a bright economic spot in the region.

Take note of the fact that all the dire warnings on a waning Asia have negligible negatives on the Philippine economy.

Successful uprisings such as those that collectively fell under the “Arab Spring” had a binding narrative—economic lethargy and lost and hopeless young men and women looking for a purpose in life. There is no such critical mass here. The outrage in Turkey could have matured into a national conflagration had the host country been Egypt or Tunisia. What saved Turkey was its sustained economic growth and the absence of a “lost generation” of jobless and drifting young men and women.

While a whole sub-set of Internet trolls have been spawned by the opposition to pork, the protest is confined to Internet rage is often marked by a lack of discernment on what the real issues are. This banality is undermining, not helping, the education of people on the venality, rather evil, of pork.

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2 Comments

  1. Very well said Mr. Ronquillo…you are one smart journalist…I wish your kind will multiply… my first time to read an article that says it all about Filipinos…”Save your own skin” is one “confusing the issue” is another one, I completely agree with you.
    What happened during the martial law is no comparison to what is happening now… Corrupt -Legislative and Judicial and Dictatorial-Executive branch not to mention what happened to the Arm forces of the Phil. another corrupt department to the point that a general will have to commit suicide to not spill the beans…where in world can you find one like this…”ONLY IN THE PHILIPPINES”..
    I was right to leave and never to go back again…it’s a shame that i have to leave my country to find a better place to live . I for one as a Filipino is so embarrassed and shamed of what is happening in the Phil- worst than the Arab world…at least the Arabs believe in something – FREEDOM compared to Filipinos-CORRUPTION.
    What do you think Mr Ranquillo 95% of the country’s population is corrupt , including the poor are force to be corrupt since it is the only way to survive?
    No wonder Philippines together with Haiti was graded the lowest in “Corruption Perception Index.”

  2. Pacito Bagamaspad on

    The Filipino people looked on President Aquino to be “different,” pledging “kayo ang boss ko.” Much of his promises are, of course, idle rhetoric; he does what he does just like his predecessors. The expectation that he would be the “adult in the room” curbing the insatiable appetite of these legislature to keep on enriching themselves has not happened. Considering his “bosses” are arguably the poorest in the world, he had opted to give away billions of dollars to his underlings, rather than save a malnourished child, or providing diphtheria vaccinations to those who need it, a cheaper or more noble expenditure. You’re right, Marlen, his pundits might not have much of a weapon to impeach him, but he’s so guilty of stupidity and insensitivity.