Tony Lopez
Tony Lopez

The biggest criminal syndicate in the Philippines is not any of those crime groups listed regularly by the Philippine National Police.  It is Congress.

As a syndicate, Congress is really massive—24 senators and 289 congressmen. This group of con men and women help themselves with money called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAP) to the tune of P25 billion, if not more, a year. The simple word for PDAF is pork barrel.

In ancient times, the term referred to a barrel of goodies larded with pork so it becomes greasy and difficult for those trying to grab it. Slaves competed to get the barrel. I suppose applying lard around the barrel was the equivalent of leveling the playing field.

In today’s parlance, pork barrel has become billions of pesos. It is grease money so that our congressmen and senators—our slaves or public servants—do their work. Instead, these senators and congressmen have become our masters—veritable Mafia bosses who keep driving us citizens to greater penury, misery and economic enslavement.

The senators and congressmen come from no more than 70 families—our dynasties and political elite.

Since we have had a Congress for the past 83 years and nothing has happened to the Philippines—in terms of greater income equality, substantial job creation (12 million Filipinos today are either jobless or underemployed), massive reduction in poverty (China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Azerbaijan have proved that you can reduce poverty by 90 percent in just ten years), one can argue that you can eliminate our Congress and it won’t make a difference to the lives of ordinary Filipinos. In fact, my life, your life, our lives could be better.

Imagine the savings if Congress did not exist. We already have more than 15,000 laws, anyway, one law for every active lawyer we have in this country. And more laws than we probably need in a lifetime. Any act of man, and sometimes, even acts of God, are already covered by an existing law.

Our Congress is there just to pursue its criminal operation, a plunder of mind-boggling scale and gall. To paraphrase a famous quote of President BS Aquino in his last State of the Nation: “Where do these people get the thick skin of their faces?”

The rate of plunder is P200 million per year per senator, the pork barrel allowance. Multiply that by six years—the term of a senator, and the amount becomes truly gargantuan—P1.2 billion. Multiply that by two—the allowable maximum terms of a senator and the amount becomes even more gargantuan, P2.4 billion. There are 24 senators so the entire loot amounts to P4.8 billion per year. Or P28.8 billion in six years.

In some cases, there are siblings among the senators, so a single family—out of the 22 million (million) families in the Philippines—takes away P5.8 billion in 12 years. This P5.8 billion is an amount far more than what all of the more 300,000 small and medium enterprises can make in their entire corporate life.

The rate per congressman is P70 million per year or P210 million in three years (the one term of a congressman). Congressmen are allowed three consecutive terms or nine years. So multiply P70 million by nine years and you get P630 million—per congressmen.

There are 289 congressmen so the total loot in a year is P20.23 billion. Add the senators’ loot of P4.8 billion and you get P25.03 billion for the entire Congress. Per year.

For the years 2007 to 2009, our Commission on Audit conducted an audit on the PDAF and so-called Various Infrastructures, including Local Projects (VILP). PDAF is for so-called “soft” projects like education, health, livelihood, social services, financial assistance to address pro-poor programs, peace and order, culture and the arts. VILP is the “hard” portion or public works. VILP is why it’s more fun—rather, fund—in Congress.

In the COA audit for 2007 to 2009, those who participated in the plunder involved three cabinet ministries—Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

DA has become synonymous with hunger (4.9 million Filipino families or 25 million Filipinos had nothing to eat at one time in the last three months, according to the Social Weather Stations).

DPWH has become synonymous with highway robbery— the kind perpetrated by our senators and congressmen. And the social welfare of DSWD could as well stand for “private welfare” of our 70 elite political families.

Aside from the three cabinet departments, also involved in the massive looting of taxpayers’ money were four government corporations—Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC), National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC), National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCor), and Zamboanga del Norte Agricultural College Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC).

Plus five provincial governments—Tarlac, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental; and eight city governments—Mandaluyong City, Manila (including 12 barangay), Las Piñas, Tabaco, Iriga, Naga, Panabo. Plus 94 barangay of Quezon City.

The COA audit for 2007 to 2009 validated P101 billion in VILPs (infra funds) released by the Department of the Budget nationwide, P12 billion in PDAF released to DA, DPWH and DSWD; and P2.36 billion from allocation for Financial Assistance to LGUs and budgetary support to GOCCs.

An anonymous person, Luis Abalos, who was not a congressman in the 13th and 14th Congress, received P20 million. I guess this is the equivalent of a ghost payroll, the kind of shenanigan only our Congress is capable of.

Of the P12 billion PDAF released by DBM, only P8.374 billion or 69 percent was audited. Of the P101.6 billion in infra funds (VILPs) released, only P32.66 billion (32 percent) was audited.

In other words, the leakage or “bribe” is 30 percent for PDAF and 68 percent for infra funds of senators and congressmen. Three senators and six congressmen helped themselves with P1.393 billion of infra funds.

About P6.156 billion was transferred by three Cabinet departments—DA, DPWH and DSWD —to 82 non-government organizations (NGOs). The P6.156 billion came from the PDAFs of 12 senators and 180 congressmen.

Ten NGOs received a total of P2.157 billion. All ten are linked to Janet Lim Napoles.

Six other NGOs got P189 million. These six included those owned by the legislators or with a relative as incorporator or officer. In other words, the senator or the congressmen gave the money to himself. The gall talaga.