Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Floods, hunger and isolation heighten people’s rage over PDAF scams. Political system on trial and how P-Noy and pols play their cards could determine their---and system’s----survival. Cayetano pushes for Lacson as ‘special scam investigator’ while Marcelo Tecson, former DOE Chief Accountant, wants P-Noy to appoint full-time ‘anti-corruption czar.’ These ideas are admissions of dysfunctional bureaucracy.

Political analysts are keenly monitoring the snowballing Filipino people’s rage over the pork barrel scams and the politicians, many of them now close allies of President Aquino, who had perpetrated them for years now.  The people’s anger and rage is expected to burst into full-blown fury in a mammoth people power rally on Monday, Aug. 26 at Luneta Park against the prevailing corruption.

As millions of our countrymen are trapped in immense helplessness and isolation in Central and Southern Luzon in the face of Maring, and the floods that the monsoon rains had brought, and amid the hunger and diseases these have stoked, their anger and rage against the pork scam has heightened. Doubtless in the minds of many, all the sufferings could be alleviated to a great extent if the many billions lost in political skulduggery had been invested in flood-control programs that really work.

Our political system is on trial in the pork barrel scandal and how P-Noy and the politicians play their cards could well determine their future and the system’s survival. 


Part of the analysts’ job is to monitor the political fallout from this “scam of the century.” Already some pundits have noted that the alleged involvement of Senators Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada in the scams, as brought to light by Janet Napoli’s two trusted lieutenants, has effectively finished off whatever higher political ambitions these two popular politicians  might have entertained.

A third senator, also in the opposition like the four others implicated in the Napoles scandal, is Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who has hinted broadly about his intention to run for “something higher” in 2016.  Would he be affected like Estrada and Revilla?  I assume not, for Bongbong commands a fixed constituency, whether his current image improves or worsens.  There’s also little question that young Marcos will be in the 2016 race whatever happens.


Another senator said to have moist eyes on the presidency---easily at least vice-presidential material for 2016, so they say----is Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano who’s pushing for a Senate investigation into the PDAF scams involving members of his chamber. Cayetano, who's with the NP led by former Sen. Manny Villar and Sen. Cynthia Villar, knows the immense value of TV expose---he was one of the most active participants  in the Corona impeachment trial, thus enabling him to retain his standing among the top three senators in the last elections.

Nothing could suit Cayetano’s ambition to hog the limelight in preparation for 2016 more than a formal investigation in the Senate---and he’s playing it to the hilt. Earlier today he beat his fellow senators in filing a resolution to abolish the pork barrel, even though, if I recall right from the list of 180 legislators implicated in the PDAF scams, he and his wife, former congresswoman and now Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano, were listed with their own PDAF-funded involvements.

The Senate, after much hemming and hawing by Chief Franklin Drilon---who wanted the NBI to finish its investigation first, adding that it would be quite awkward for the chamber to be investigating its own members---finally gave in to public outrage and demand. The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chaired by LP Sen. Teofisto Guingona III has scheduled hearings for next week, based on the COA special audit report for years 2007-2009 and a review of the existence and necessity of the PDAF (the LP leaders apparently waited until the COA report exclusively on the Gloria years was out!).


Ex. Senator Joker Arroyo
Cayetano has also interestingly proposed to the senators that former colleague Ping Lacson, who just finished his second Senate term, be designated “independent special investigator” in the Blue Ribbon Committee’s forthcoming inquiry. Cayetano’s major argument on Lacson’s credibility is that he did not accept any pork barrel during his 12 years in the Senate (the other porkless-throughout was ex-Sen. Joker Arroyo).

Blue Ribbon Chair TG Guingona has shot down Cayetano’s proposal for a special investigator, as he said his committee can do the job well, thank you. But assuming the chamber pushes anyway for this post, I would feel that Joker Arroyo would be far more qualified and credible than Lacson, as the former is a lawyer and does not have the kind of baggage the latter has. 


Ex. Senator Panfilo Lacson
Joker Arroyo operated largely by himself in the Senate, whereas Lacson was identified with the group of former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, one of those implicated in the PDAF scams and whom Lacson vigorously defended in an earlier controversy JPE had with Sen. Miriam Santiago over his Christmas gifts of P1.6 million for each senator except three (Miriam and Senators Pia Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes).

Because Joker was a loner he’d be far more credible than Lacson, but I doubt very much if the Lion of the Senate impeachment trial of President Erap would want to return to the public eye via this thankless, no-win job.

Another blow to ex-Sen. Lacson’s credibility is that he, like Janet Napoles and her brother now, was a fugitive from the law who couldn’t be tracked down by the NBI despite a nationwide year-long manhunt. Finally he decided to surface and immediately won an audience with P-Noy---all was forgiven. 

Janet’s feisty lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, was correct in saying that if Lacson could hide for a year, why cannot Janet?


One thing I dread, though, is that with the coming Blue Ribbon committee hearings on the PDAF scams the nation’s focus would again be riveted to the Senate in proceedings that would be run, like last year’s CJ Corona trial, much like a circus for grandstanding and ambitioning senators.

Because senators would themselves be on trial in such hearings, the Senate will not be able to concentrate on more crucial issues such as the deepening poverty, hunger and joblessness, the power crisis now a reality not just in Mindanao but also in Luzon, the rifts between ideological power blocs in Mindanao, the return of American forces, the dysfunction of the bureaucracy and other very serious problems.


A concerned citizen named Marcelo I. Tecson of San Miguel, Bulacan, a CPA for 25 years before becoming a "modest entrepreneur" and who was for more than five years Chief Accountant and later Finance and Management Service Chief in the Dept. of Energy, wrote to say that in fact he wants an “Anti-corruption Czar” to be appointed by the President to serve as “operating arm of the Anti-Corruption Cabinet Cluster headed by the President.”

Tecson notes that according to the World Bank, the PH government has lost $48 billion to graft and corruption in the last 20 years---and this lost amount has exceeded the country’s borrowings of $40.6 billion over the same period. In view of the magnitude of the corruption problem in our country “that transformed our economy from ‘second best’ to ‘basket case’ in Asia,' " he opines, the appointment of a full-time Anti-Corruption Czar who will activate “the anti-corruption system in the Executive branch” should be seriously considered. 

To my mind, however, the problem is that such an appointment would again add an extra layer to the bureaucracy, when the problem, as Tecson himself argues, is to make existing agencies of government, such as the COA and the Office of the Ombudsman, function as their independent mandates in the Constitution command them to do--- but they do not. More on Tecson's take on COA's dereliction of duty next.

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  1. I am apalled by the level of immorality and brazenness our politicians go for their own financial greed. How much money do they really need? How can they face our fellow Filipinos each day and act superior and innocent while they are a far more lesser species than the average Filipino vendors on the streets? They should all resign and let us be in a state of martial law. Enough is enough! I am disgusted and not proud to say I am a Filipino if this scandal be forgotten in a few months time...Shame on us, Filipinos, for letting these PIGS plunder us!!!

  2. I am just as appalled by the level of immorality and brazenness of our politicians as you are, Mr. Je.suis.jp. The problem is so mind-boggling that it leaves us ordinary citizens seemingly helpless to deal with it. But take a look at what happened today. Because of the threat of a really massive march materializing this Monday, P-Noy backed off and now says it's time to abolish the pork. But this is still small victory as we don't know what the Palace would do next or how that opinion would shape up, or how Congress, especially the House, would take this challenge from P-Noy. One thing sure, we citizens cannot leave it to the politicians. This is the one singular lesson we learned from the pork mess.

  3. the power crisis now a reality not just in Mindanao but also in Luzon, the rifts between ideological power blocs in Mindanao, the return of American forces, the dysfunction of the bureaucracy and other very serious problems. website