• They make stealing money look so easy

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    Frankly I am not confident any top-to-bottom investigation of the pork barrel scam will ever prosper because there are just too many powerful people involved, not only from the so-called opposition but even from the administration.

    The scam—multibillion-peso ghost government projects funded by legislators’ public funds—has been going on for quite some time obviously. It is whistleblowers and scam insiders Benhur Luy and Merlina Sunas who get the whole country talking about it now.

    Luy and Sunas had a falling out with Janet Lim Napoles, their boss in the JLN Group of Companies and the alleged mastermind of the scam, most surely about money, but their testimonies are no less truthful because of it.

    Indeed, they could even be more so, for who can spill the beans better than the scammers themselves. Luy and Sunas will reportedly be placed under the government’s witness protection program.

    That’s good. Still, how many witnesses in previous scandals have we had on witness protection and what became of them? What became of their exposes? The record doesn’t inspire much confidence.

    Should Luy’s expose be any different? He has opened a Pandora’s box that went on to implicate no less than 90 legislators in the pork barrel scam so far. It is very possible that more powerful people are involved, and it is very possible that there are more pork barrel scam perpetrators operating like Napoles.

    This is why we find that there are still a lot of legislative districts in many provinces throughout the country that do not have even the basic amenities that they should already have by now.

    Imagine the billions that are lost in this scam that could have otherwise funded legitimate projects, billions that could have built farm-to-market roads, wipe out the classroom shortage, completely irrigate our farmlands and supply our public hospitals with direly needed medicines and equipment.

    Just remember, whereas in previous scams, instead of just a whole chunk of the pork barrel funds going to the pockets of corrupt legislators, other public officials and their private connivers, in the Napoles template 100-percent or the entire pork barrel budget is lost to corruption. Nothing gets built or spent for the public good. No good, however small, ever comes out of it, indeed.

    The scam certainly did not stop with the Arroyo administration. it certainly doesn’t involve only opposition legislators, and it certainly is not a two-way affair between Napoles and the legislators.

    This thing could not have happened without the connivance of people in other government agencies and departments, like the Department of Budget and Management, the Commission on Audit, or say, the Agriculture department when it comes to fertilizers and agriculture implements funded from the pork barrel.

    Could we successfully build cases against all of them and just how many really are involved?

    For instance, who will investigate the allegation that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., whose law firm has allegedly represented Napoles and the Liberal Party, received P100 million from her.

    And imagine all the documents and other pieces of evidence that would be required for these cases.

    If President Aquino wishes to put an end to all the shenanigans, notwithstanding further investigations, he should just abolish the pork barrel of senators and congressmen, including the audit-free pork barrel allotted to the Office of the President. Just take these out of the proposed national budget Malacañang submits to Congress every year.

    If this needs to be institutionalized then House Bill (HB) 1535 recalling the pork barrel to all lawmakers and the President has been filed for the purpose and the President could support the measure and certify it as urgent.

    HB 1535 was filed by militant congressmen belonging to Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Kabataan Partylist—collectively known as the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives.

    The bill shall prohibit the President from providing a budgetary item or including in the proposed budget submitted to Congress every fiscal year lump sum allocations to the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) and other lump sum discretionary amounts.

    Aside from the legislators’ pork barrel, the bill shall also abolish the Presidential pork barrel, such as the President’s Social Fund sourced from revenue-generating agencies like the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office and the Malampaya Fund.

    Just give the pork barrel budgets back to the government agencies that are supposed to implement basic social services such as housing, education, health.

    Malacañang has not categorically opposed nor supported scrapping the PDAF to date.

    The Ombudsman motu proprio can investigate the pork barrel scam, as well she should.

    This scam cannot be investigated fairly by Congress because lawmakers are themselves involved. We need an impartial official investigation by the Ombudsman.

    This scam not only involves the loss of public money but of lives as well.

    Marlene Esperat, was shot dead in 2005 after exposing the P728 million fertilizer fund scam in the Agriculture department, which implicated former Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

    She was murdered in her own home while she was having dinner with her kids.

    In 2003 Esperat, who was the Department of Agriculture (DA) Resident Ombudsman for Central Mindanao, filed charges against DA officials in connection with the fertilizer scam.

    At that time, Janet Lim-Napoles was a big-time supplier of liquid fertilizer to the government.

    Just goes to show you, when corruption goes unchecked, it just gets bigger.

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    2 Comments

    1. Makus Konstantin on

      The corruption that is pork barrel is a “necessity” in any democracy. There always has to be a way for the legislative body member to access needed funding for his/her constituents. Sadly, due to pressure of modern society, where success is equated to power, coupled with the need to provide a (very) comfortable life for the family, this privilege has almost always been abused to seemingly no limit that it has resulted to numerous deaths in an effort to discourage further discussion.

      Priority Development Assistance Fund comprise a mere 1% this year of the national budget. A very small portion in the proverbial pie which corrupt individuals can dip their fingers in. Winning this area by way of scrapping PDAFund will not root out the evil of corruption and just hamper development projects for the few truly honest legislators.

      Due to the nature of democracy, where laws are drafted, passed and amended only by thru peer concensus, it is improbable that anything can be done to stomp out corruption where congress is concerned. Although it wouldn’t hurt if every now and then some erring lawmaker would die of lethal injection after being found guilty of graft and corruption. Once every ten years perhaps, just to remind everyone that no one is above the law.

      Ultimately, vigilance of the citizenry is the key to make legislators become accountable to their decisions on how public funds are spent. COA and other oversight mechanisms can only do so much in tracking spending of the government. Each and every Filipino should be empowered with the knowledge of what their leaders are doing. Ask around what your congressmen and senators are doing for you – the random Juan and Juana. Never settle for just hearing vague titles like “Livelihood Projects” to sway you into thinking that they are working. Ask questions on what/how/when you can benefit as a constituent and a taxpayer. Not happy with the answer? Let people other people know. Organize, talk and act. If it needs to be taken to the streets to make noise and be heard, do so. Because in the end, we only deserve to get a government that we are willing to fight for.

    2. Another people power is about to unfold if nothing happens with this investigation and nobody goes unpunished specially these legislators who are fooling the Filipino people. You could not have said it better Mr. Herrera.