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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.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

COA adopts strip-tease style of releasing info about pork barrel scam in 2010-2013, which adds to citizens’ skepticism re circumstances of Napoles’ ‘surrender,’ incarceration and planned ‘state witness’ status. “Three Furies” should also look into the P-Noy years too, so as not to be perceived as protecting his Congress allies.



Ombudma Carpio-Morales, COA Chair Pulido-Tan and Justice Secretary De Lima
At this point in the national life of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), there’s a common complaint from citizens high and low, as recently articulated by Vice President Jejomar Binay. They demand that the Commission on Audit give the Filipino people the true and complete picture of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam in the Aquino administration, and not just in 2007-2009 as COA has released in its "special audit report" earlier last month.

This demand is only fair and just.

In the PDAF controversy first trumpeted in the front pages of a newspaper, COA was quoted as asserting that some P6.156 billion was transferred from 2007-2009 by three Cabinet departments---namely, the Departments of Agriculture, Public Works and Social Welfare and Development---to some 82 NGOs, which came from the PDAFs of five senators and 180 members of the House. Ten of those 82 NGOs bagged a total of P2.157 billion, all of which are linked to Janet Napoles’ scam network. 

All 82 NGOs are bogus--non-existent. 

But COA stopped releasing the rest of the story. Instead, in strip-tease fashion, it has dished out little tidbits from succeeding years 2010-2013,  as though to whet the people’s appetite. This is unfair and unjust to everyone, especially to those legislators who have refused to indulge in the massive scams. And the Filipino people deserve to know the truth.

XXX

The magnitude of the pork barrel scams provoked tremendous public outrage that erupted in the massive “Million People March” of Aug. 26. From all indications this rage and fury will continue, especially since the public perceives that the Napoles corruption ring represents only the tip of the iceberg---and that the picture is incomplete, as bits and pieces of scams from 2010 to the present begin to surface. 

The two chambers of Congress are on trial here and ALL ITS MEMBERS, not just the opposition senators in COA's 2007-2009 list, are suspect; but the way this current administration is behaving, there doesn’t seem to be any urgency in getting all the information in. 

In contrast to the way the 2007-2009 scandals were dutifully disclosed by COA and blown up in the media, this time that agency is merely saying that all the data citizens need to get an informed picture of more recent PDAF disbursements are in COA's website and that of the releasing agency, the Department of Budget and Management.

 We have to retrieve them ourselves. 

But it's not right for COA to suddenly become coy and evasive about information on who indulged in pork barrel scams in the Aquino administration and who did not---ESPECIALLY SINCE THE PDAF MORE THAN DOUBLED IN THIS CURRENT DISPENSATION, and scams such as the Philippine Forest Corporation appear so gargantuan.

The prevailing belief among citizens is that now that there's more PDAF to steal in this administration, there could be more 'stealers.' Can the citizens be blamed? Bare those records now.  

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No wonder citizens suspect that this administration is out to protect its allies. No wonder, too, that COA Chief Grace Pulido-Tan’s move to first send that special audit list to Malacanang before releasing it to the public ran into such hale of criticism.  The nagging question: WAS THAT LIST FIRST SANITIZED?  

There’s also skepticism about the true circumstances of Napoles’ surrender to the President and her delivery to Camp Crame, escorted by no less than the Chief Executive, then her detention in a Makati jail whose facilities were first checked out by DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, and finally the Laguna prison.  

Then came the  Palace's trial balloon about making her a state witness. Is this P-Noy's guarantee to her that she won't be meted such a heavy sentence? Is it designed to manage what she is going to testify to? 

In addition, sharp political analyst Ado Paglinawan has raised the query: if Napoles is being detained for kidnapping her trusted lieutenant, what will she testify to about pork barrel?  

Mukhang nagkaka-buholbuhol ang mga plotters, so that all these moves are now being viewed by wary citizens as part of a grand moro-moro to protect the President and his allies. But nagging questions persist, such as, did the Liberal Party really receive P100 million from her for the 2013 campaign? 

Had COA, with its army of 12,000 personnel, come clean with its continuing list of solons channeling PDAF to bogus NGOs, this would have indicated that the Aquino administration does not consider anyone sacrosanct. But no, after several whistle-blowers exploded the 2007-2009 PDAF scandals, it's the press that's leaking post-2010 scams in bits and pieces---not COA.

XXX

No less than Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala was quoted last Friday as admitting that while his department had stopped the process of accepting pork barrel funds in 2010, it resumed last August 2012 owing to the insistence of lawmakers and upon advice of DBM. 

But the DA’s releases were just a tiny corner of the issue, for the fact is that pork barrel funds gradually rolled up from P7.89 billion in 2008, to P9.67 billion in 2009 and P10.86 billion in 2010---all under President Macapagal Arroyo. But then, under President Noynoy Aquino, the pork barrel suddenly jumped to a whopping P24.62 billion in 2011, to P24.89 billion in 2012, and to P25.24 billion in 2013. It was projected to shoot up to P27 billion in 2014--- until the Napoles scandals erupted.

XXX

Lacking an official list from COA, there are reports that this most-favored party list group, Akbayan, was the recipient of over P4 billion in funds, through Rep. Kaka Bag-Ao, just soon after the Aquino government came into power. There are also listings of other leftist solons who have supposedly raked in PDAF funds since 2010, e.g., Bayan Muna’s Teddy Casino (who failed to make it in the 2013 elections), P100 million and Neri Colmenares, P114.275 million; Paeng Mariano of Anak Pawis, P100.795 million; and Luz Ilagan and Emmie de Jesus of Gabriela, P99.5 million and P85 million, respectively.

But there are also teaser floats from COA Chief Pulido-Tan about two more senators being involved in the scam. Hence the Senate is all agog.

All these, however, are mere bits and pieces---but no official listing of the scams and their sponsors for 2010-2013.  It’s now more than half-way through 2013 and still no list from COA for 2010-2012.

XXX

Three powerful women behind the newly formed Inter-agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC) who have been tasked to investigate the pork scams---namely, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, its chair, with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan---have vowed that there will be “no sacred cows.” 

These three women officials have been dubbed by media as the “Three Furies” in allusion to the viper-haired virgin goddesses of ancient Greek mythology who pursued unpunished criminals (the ‘Furies’ were supposed to be ugly-looking, which does not apply to these three women officials). Our present-day "Three Furies" were quoted as saying that “we will go where the evidence leads us” and that it will be “non-partisan,” covering both opposition and administration solons. 

That’s reassuring, but the proof would be in the presentation of facts. The IAAGCC team’s first task is to make sure that the list of members of Congress who engaged in dubious use of their PDAF in the Aquino years is completed fast and that the Filipino people are given the correct information.

Otherwise, if the “Three Furies” would insist on spending all their time in media hammering away on just the 2007-2009 list to make the Arroyo administration appear super-corrupt, they would look like they're merely protecting P-Noy and his allies.

The IAAGCC team’s credibility is at stake, but this could also affect the stability of the nation.



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2 comments:

  1. The Rule of Law and Justice must Prevail !
    No one or nobody is above the Rule of Law !
    Extreme, Severe and Heavy Punishment must be applied to those Guilty !!!
    ( Concerned Pinoy )

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree with you entirely, Yellow Viking. But the rule of law and justice must apply to all, both to opponents of the present dispensation as well as to his allies. Let's demand from COA Chief Grace Pulido-Tan and DBM Secretary Butch Abad that they disclose all info on the pork barrel of all legislators for 2010-2013 and not just those from 2007-2009. Above all let's demand for full disclosure of President Noynoy's Special Purpose Fund for these years. Fair is fair.

    ReplyDelete