It comes as no surprise when Malacañang announced over the weekend that four senators had requested that millions of pesos from the government’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) be remitted to ghost non-government organizations known to have been set up by “businesswomen” Janet Lim Napoles.
This, after those same lawmakers presumably took part in the unbridled dispensing of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), better known as pork barrel.
Two of the four—senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla—were among the three upper house lawmakers facing plunder charges by the Ombudsman, the third being Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile.
The other two in the brewing DAP scandal are Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vicente Sotto III.
In all likelihood, other combinations of senators (and congressmen, of course) will face charges of misuse, either related to PDAF or DAP. Whatever its name or acronym, many lawmakers will be found to have taken part in the gross misuse of public funds. Whether they received commissions or kickbacks will be up to the proper court to decide.
Estrada, Revilla, Marcos and Sotto reportedly wrote letters asking for the transfer of funds originally set aside for the Department of Agrarian Reform to the National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC). Not only did the quartet ask that NLDC receive millions of pesos of their pork barrel allocations, they also specified which NGOs should serve as conduits for their projects.
Since the senators have not been charged yet, there is no need to presume them innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law. But the court of public opinion is another matter. If any of the four had presidential or even vice presidential ambitions, they can kiss those pipe dreams goodbye. We daresay that if elections were held today and they were running for another term, they would not only lose but lose badly. And since three of the four are show biz figures, they are best advised not to star in any movies in the near future, lest those films be swarmed with flies at the box office.
Ever since the pork barrel scam erupted, the public has been waiting for at least one lawmaker to be honest enough to tell us why he or she lusted so mightily after the P200 million (for senators) or P70 million (for congressmen) annual pork barrel allotments.
Allow us, therefore, to speak what’s on the lawmakers’ minds: “How the *@#$ do you expect us to recover what we spent to get elected???”
Any would-be candidate who wants to run for the Senate knows that a king’s ransom is needed for campaign expenses. By latest accounts, a serious candidate for the upper house of Congress must be able to throw away P400 million.
Candidates for “lesser” positions such as congressman, governor, or mayor can expect to spend less, but still tens of millions of pesos at the very least.
A few weeks from now, barangay elections will be held. Take a look at every residential neighborhood. Candidates for the lowly barangay positions are spending hundreds of thousand, maybe even millions, to get elected.
How the bejesus will they recoup their election expenses? Unless they have their local versions of PDAF or DAP, the next batch of barangay officials will be in for the shock of their lives.
If Janet Lim Napoles is to be credited for anything, it is for exposing the evil that is PDAF. Hopefully, future Senate wannabes will run because they want to serve as lawmakers, not as PDAF or DAP “commissioners.”