Lesson learned for lawmakers-A A +A
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
SO THE National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have filed charges of plunder, malversation of public funds, bribery and graft and corruption before the Office of the Ombudsman against those involved in the multi-billion-peso scam involving lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF)?
Charged were Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains of the scam, and Sens. Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. There were other congressmen, chiefs of staff, officials of government-owned and controlled corporations who were also charged.
But don’t rejoice yet because filing a case in court or before the anti-graft body is one thing, prosecuting those charged and convicting them is another. They should be convicted “beyond reasonable doubt.”
The NBI/DOJ has submitted a “truck-load” of evidence against the respondents. I think these are documents supporting the testimony of the whistleblowers who have direct knowledge of the illegal transactions between the legislators and questionable non-government organizations (NGOs) set up by Napoles.
If I compare this to a baseball game, we are still in first base. I mean this will still be a long, legal process. Note that those charged are not coconut husks that sit still and won’t allow themselves to be convicted. With their money and influence, they can hire the best lawyers in the country to defend themselves and maybe use corrupt members of the judiciary to get a favorable decision.
The justice system in our country is unique. We have sent congressmen, former presidents and even “God” to jail. Former Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos was convicted and served his sentence for statutory rape. Former president Joseph Estrada was jailed and was eventually convicted of plunder but pardoned by his successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
As fate would have it, Arroyo is being tried for electoral sabotage and plunder. She is under hospital arrest.
By “God,” I am referring to Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) supreme master Ruben Ecleo Jr. Ecleo briefly stayed in jail on charges of parricide for the killing of his wife, Alona. He was allowed to post bail for health reasons and was eventually convicted. He escaped prior to his conviction and is still at large.
Erap was convicted because Arroyo stayed in power for ten years. Was there a political maneuver in the cases Erap faced? Maybe. Now, what I am afraid of is if the cases against these lawmakers won’t be terminated before President Noynoy Aquino's term expires in 2016.
Good if PNoy's successor is not an ally of those charged. What if it's the other way around? Let us say Vice President Jejomar Binay becomes president. Do you think these cases will prosper? What if something bad happens to Napoles, who is the key to this scam, and to the whistleblowers?
But pending the prosecution and possible conviction of the accused, this pork barrel issue may already have generated some “chilling” effects on lawmakers. They are reminded that they should not commit illegal acts in spending taxpayers' money because, sooner or later, they will be exposed.
This has therefore sent a strong warning to lawmakers not to misuse government funds.
Because of the public outcry, majority of them are now supporting the move to abolish the pork barrel system. This was a lesson learned for them. Also, this issue has generated public awareness and vigilance against the misuse of government funds.
Gumikan siguro ani, wa nay mo-interes nga magpapili pagka-kongresista sa umaabot nga eleksiyon. Basin diha na sad ko makahuna-huna og apil sa pulitika.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 18, 2013.