Riding the whirlwind-A A +A
Saturday, August 24, 2013
DID unchecked greed in the pork barrel unleash the whirlwind that President Benigno Aquino now tries to ride?
Monday, the President urged reforming scandal-tainted Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Friday, he’d scrap it.
Isang haling lamang ang hindi nag-iiba ng isip, a Filipino proverb says. “Only a fool does not change his mind.”
The President’s decision beat a limited protest for Monday. The plan called for a peaceful rally in Luneta. But it went nuclear after Commission on Audit (COA) showed only 10 to 20 percent were spent on actual projects of the P12 billion pork between 2008 and 2010. At least 74 legislators were tarred.
A ninth whistleblower emerged and testified: Scam mastermind Janet Napoles “asked me to pick up a ball pen, Montblanc, from Rustan, and she paid for it in cash. It had to be engraved with the senator’s name.”
Sarcastic jokes erupted on the Net about six senators mired in the muck. Example: Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. brags to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada that “my pen is mightier than yours.”
Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla claims to be maligned. He hired a handwriting expert to determine authenticity of the signatures.
"Senator Revilla says that it is fake?” asked COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan. But he confirmed authenticity of the signatures. “We have everything in writing.”
Revilla funneled P503.69 million of his pork to eight questionable NGOs, the COA audit shows. Two of these NGOs were managed by the scam's main whistleblower, Benhur Luy.
The public uproar grew into a web-based movement that calls for a “Million People March” on National Heroes Day. It went viral in Filipino communities abroad. In Cebu City, Mayor Mike Rama urged authorities to ensure peaceful assembly.
The President directed that pork cannot be divvied up by non-government organizations plus public firms linked to PDAF anomalies.
ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. and National Agribusiness Corp. will be abolished.
Lawmakers can still propose projects. But their once free-wheeling modus operandi is to be curbed. Their proposals will be spelt out under line items in the national government’s general appropriations.
Their projects will be limited to their districts. How that affects senatorial nationwide constituencies has not been spelt out.
Now verboten are consumable soft programs such as fertilizers, medicine and catch-as-catch-can infrastructure projects: dredging, desilting, regravelling or asphalt overlay.
The system is flawed from start. “Allocation for lawmakers has always been shrouded in mystery,” notes COA commissioner Heidi Mendoza, whose probes led to jailing of military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia for plunder.
"A number of COA audit findings were published and cases were filed in court, but as for the progress of cases that stem from COA reports and eventual prosecution of accused public officials, that's another story altogether,” Mendoza writes. “For as long as the lawmakers have their say on the utilization of funds instead of only legislating laws, the PDAF will always be abused."
Now, you see why the Commission on Appointments continues to shove confirmation of Mendoza as COA commissioner into the freezer.
“They that sow the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind,” the book of Hosea (8.7) says. It means crime will spiral into dire consequences.
Although late, President Aquino will try to ride the coming whirlwind instead. Welcome back to daang matuwid, Mr. President.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 25, 2013.