Scope of the pork barrel scam

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Friday, April 25, 2014


HOW big is this mess? I am asking this because, with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles’s bombshell, one can get a glimpse of the extent of the corruption involved in the pork barrel scam. Again, we are talking here only of the corrupt acts involving the pork barrel. What about the corruption in the entire government bureaucracy through the years?

“She is not the mastermind. Without stating the conditions, facts and circumstances in the affidavit, it can be proven that the practice existed before. 'Di niya ito inimbento (she did not invent this).” That’s Napoles’s lawyer, Bruce Rivera, talking about his client’s testimony.

So the “cottage industry” that Napoles ran for a decade was not an original. It wasn’t unique. She copied it from previously existing operation or operations. Thinking that similar acts existed before Napoles plunged into it makes me shudder at the thought of how many billions of pesos in public funds have been pilfered through the years.

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If the scam wherein Napoles is embroiled in involved an estimated P10 billion, how much money was stolen by corrupt lawmakers and other government officials through other Napoles-like scam operators?

***

Here’s an interesting point on the pork barrel scam and the Napoles bombshell from University of the Philippines professor Clarita Carlos, quoted by abs-cbnnews.com:

“If I may share a personal experience, I have a very simple bouncing check (case) na nagdemanda ako. Alam mo bang pitong taon na ay binubuno ko pa? Bouncing check lang ito considering na it’s a very small amount of money. Eh ‘yan, bilyones ‘yan. While it’s true that it’s a good start pero kapag hindi ‘yan na-sustain, wala na naman. Nanganak na naman siguro si Kris Aquino, wala, naiba na ‘yung ating (focus).”

Indeed, when the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) were merely relying on the testimonies of whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy, it took them several months before they submitted a “truck-full” of evidence to the Office of the Ombudsman against a smaller number of respondents last September.

The Office of the Ombudsman, in turn, completed its own study of the complaints filed by the NBI and DOJ this month, or seven months after. The next step is going to the Sandiganbayan, which will spend another several months before it can even issue warrants of arrest for those charged, considering due process.

With Napoles’s entry, more names have been implicated, prompting the NBI and DOJ to go into another process of the validation of the claims. After that, they will go to the Office of the Ombudsman, which will conduct another study before proceeding again to the Sandiganbayan, which will again deal with the motions that those charged will file.

Cebuanos have a phrase for this: “abtag siyam-siyam.”

***

But there’s a ray of hope in this, and it’s one that validates my support for Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III when he ran for president in 2010. What I am saying is that we seem to be fortunate that all of these exploded under an Aquino presidency. At least we have a President that is believed to be incorruptible because of his family background.

Even then, will his administration be fair in sifting through the testimonies and pieces of evidence and file cases without considering the political affiliations of those concerned? Will it be up to the challenge and be able to fast-track the filing of cases and maintain the momentum to purge government of the corrupt, including those who are his party-mates or appointees?

How PNoy will respond to this challenge will be the defining moment of his administration.

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on April 26, 2014.

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