JUST when the Philippine economy took off under the stewardship of President Benigno Aquino III who ran successfully under an anti-corruption crusade, Philippine American style-democracy has been plunged into a deep abyss that has put the credibility of Philippine lawmakers into credibility.
According to news reports P10 billion pork barrel scam (Priority Assistance Development Fund – PDAF popularly known as the pork barrel). In this scam, eight senators and 23 congressmen channeled their PDAF allocations to bogus NGOs run by Janet Napoles.
The PDAF funds were intended to pay for irrigation facilities, farm to market roads and other farm inputs which never reached the intended beneficiaries. According to whistle-blower allegations 60 per cent of the funds reverted back to the politicians involved.
Never in the history of the Philippines has a scam of this magnitude taken place with the plunder of public coffers abetted by politicians who swore to uphold the law and protect public interest.
The people are rightfully outraged. Lawmakers implicated in the pork barrel scandal should voluntarily submit themselves to an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman, according to a group of former government officials.
Legislators have greater accountability for the disposition of public funds, even if alleged operators come up with the blueprint to pocket the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for personal use, said the Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO).
“It was their responsibility to ensure that their PDAF went only to reputable NGOs proposing priority projects and that these projects produced the promised benefits,” the FSGO said.
P10 billion in PDAF over the past 10 years was siphoned to a network of bogus NGOs put up by JLN head Janet Lim-Napoles.
The FSGO said the use of fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs) in disposing of the pork barrel should not have escaped the lawmakers’ attention.
“The senators and representatives who channeled funds to fake NGOs were not political neophytes. They and we were not born yesterday. Patronage of fake NGOs, particularly when repeated, provides grounds for charging culpable negligence, if not complicity in corruption,” the FSGO said.
The Ombudsman should investigate the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds and the senators and representatives should join the probe, it said.
“Our lawmakers should serve as models for compliance with the law. Only then can they have the moral authority to exercise oversight powers over the two other branches of government,” it added.
The FSGO also called on President Aquino to form a special committee that would review the PDAF process and recommend safeguards to prevent the misuse of the pork barrel. The committee should be composed of representatives from the budget and justice departments, and the private sector.
“It is time for the President and the people to prove that election to public office does not give officials a grant of impunity to plunder public funds,” it said. The FSGO also noted that the pork barrel, which was meant for public good, had apparently done the opposite.
“Whatever problems it was meant to address, the PDAF has proven itself a cure more destructive than the disease. No benefit can possibly justify the crimes it has spawned and the systematic corruption of public institutions and officials it has promoted,” it lamented.
Napoles is also under investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation for the alleged diversion of Malampaya funds. In the Malampaya fund scam, a witness said local governments were supposed to receive agricultural kits through the dummy NGOs.
“But no delivery was ever made. All the receipts for the liquidation of the funds were manufactured,” the witness said. An online petition urging the Ombudsman to investigate the P10-billion pork barrel scam gained more than 7,000 signatures in less than 48 hours, debunking the perception that the public has grown cynical about corruption in the government.
The continued support for the petition among netizens seems to indicate outrage with an objective: Punish those responsible for the diversion of public funds intended for hospitals, schools, farmers, roads and projects that should help poor Filipinos.
“Even the devil would be shamed by the gall and impunity of these crocodiles. It’s time we show once again the true power of the people,” petitioner Moenil Lapa of Cebu City wrote.
“PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) is gravely misused by those who are in public service. Absolutely no more doubts about it. Please DONT ever close your eyes on this fact,” wrote petitioner Teresa Herrmann of Virac town, Catanduanes province.
This issue deserves full investigation by the Ombudsman and the NBI with the guilty politicians thrown out of office once found guilty and thrown in jail and barred from seeking public office. President Aquino should throw his full support in this investigation. It will be a test of his resolve to go after the big crooks in government.