I’m sure millions of Filipinos have heard, watched and read a great deal about “pork barrel queen” Janet Lim-Napoles’s checkered track record, having gone before several antigraft courts for corruption raps and got away with them, lucrative political influence and connections, as she partied and rubbed elbows with lawmakers, and spoiled brat, unemployed youngest daughter, Jeane, who proudly flaunted her ritzy lifestyle on social media.
This scam is bigger than you think. In fact, administration stalwarts have been carefully handling this issue because they know it might backfire on them. It does not merely involve corrupt lawmakers; it affects our entire Welfare State system– the executive office and its budget department, the legislative branch, our weak antigraft court, and their failed welfare policies that continue to breed corruption.
After the scandal broke out, Ms Napoles undeniably became the most hated woman in the country, as evidenced by angry posts and comments on news sites, Facebook, blogs and online forums. As a result, a number of lawmakers, opinion writers and bloggers called for the abolition of pork barrel.
The problem is, the people, pork barrel critics and anti-corruption groups mainly focused on Napoles who urged the media to be more accurate and fair in their reporting, saying her family has been affected by the allegations. This week she decided to file charges against her critics, including libel raps against Inquirer and Rappler. Her lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, told the media using the word “alleged” in stories is “not a license to commit falsehood.”
My take on this issue is this– stop focusing only on Ms Napoles. She could not have done it without the help, connivance and assistance of some influential people in the government. A private individual who allegedly ran a multi-billion pork monkey-business could not have established at least 20 bogus non-government organizations, created a number of questionable and even illegal bank accounts and made illicit deposits and withdrawals, made deals with lawmakers or their agents, and got away with them without the conscious participation and conspiracy of some well-placed creatures in the corridors of power.
So far we now know that a number of lawmakers and public officials did not only deny charges against them; they also claimed they don’t personally know Napoles. Reports reveal at least five senators and 23 congressmen were involved in the pork barrel scam operated by Napoles and company. The pork barrel funds, or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allegedly funneled to various ghost projects and NGOs over the past 10 years amounted to P10 billion
Resigned Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he does not know Napoles and denied receiving kickbacks for the use of his pork barrel, saying news reports about the scandal are “obviously selective and incomplete.”
“I have not received any bribe or in any way financially benefitted from nor in exchange for the utilization of my PDAF,” Enrile said.
Senators Ramong “Bong” Revilla, Bongbong Marcos, Jingoy Estrada and Loren Legarda also denied the allegations and claimed they were not acquainted with Napoles.
It’s funny how these lawmakers desperately tried to distance themselves from the alleged “pork barrel queen”. Napoles also denied she personally knows the senators.
Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala also claimed he doesn’t personally know Napoles. Whistleblower Merlina Suñas earlier revealed the DA has been instrumental in the funneling of state funds to fake NGOs.
“Hindi ko po kilala ‘yan. Never ko pong nakilala siya, hindi ko po siya nakilala,” Alcala said in an interview on GMA News TV’s “News To Go”.
The multi-billion question that our courts need to fully investigate is: How the heck did Napoles, a private individual and self-claimed business woman, manage to single-handedly mastermind and operate the multi-billion peso scheme with near impunity without the consent, help and conscious, indispensable participation of some well-placed people in the government?
She must be some kind of financial genius!
Let’s just assume not one centavo of the involved lawmakers’ pork barrel funds was illegally diverted, what about the alleged existence of at least 20 NGOs and ghost projects?
What about Ms Napoles’s alleged pork business, which employed all the six whistleblowers who turned against their boss? What kind of monkey business was her company, NJL Corp., engaged in? How did it make money to pay for its operations and staff salary?
Also, how did the Napoles family become so rich? Let’s not forget that Ms Napoles herself kept amending, changing her alibis. After her successful “coal mine” story was debunked by former AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon who said her wealth “did not come from coal trading”, Napoles came up with another explanation, saying her family’s wealth came from legitimate business and inheritance.
Here let’s try to simplify this controversy by looking at the funds involved– their source, handlers– and how they were allegedly funneled to various dummy NGOs and projects.
1. The Source
The pork barrel or PDAF is “a lump-sum appropriation in the annual General Appropriations Act to fund the priority development programs and projects of the government.”
2. Political Purpose
The President can always use the pork barrel as a carrot-and-stick approach to control political power and influence lawmakers. By the way, President Noynoy Aquino has his own political funds amounting to over P1 trillion! We all know money can buy friends and neutralize foes in politics. This is the reason why Mr. Aquino is against the abolition of pork barrel. As people often say, he who controls pork money controls political power.
Each legislator is allocated a sum of money — P200 million for senators and P70 million for congressmen — from which they can draw down like it were a private bank account. Aren’t lawmakers supposed to make laws? It seems part of their legislative duty is to write self-serving laws to benefit themselves.
The truth is, the people implicitly support pork barrel by asking too many political favors from their respective lawmakers.
Reports reveal at least five senators and 23 congressmen were involved in the scam.
4. The Alleged Mastermind
Janet Lim-Napoles, aka pork barrel queen (allegedly). Court records reveal the antigraft court acquitted Napoles for not being one of the “the dealer-payees in the transaction” and on this basis, “her participation as a private individual becomes remote.” However, she could not have masterminded the whole scheme without true “masterminds” in the government. Remember that Napoles is a private individual, which means she could not have gotten far without her co-conspirators in the public sector.
5. Political Influence/Connections
Is this what Ms Napoles did? She allegedly rubbed elbows with influential lawmakers and public officials. Years before the pork barrel scam broke out, court records show Napoles first learned the rules of the game in the military.
The five senators who were linked to the scam are the following:
- Ramon Revilla, Jr. – P 1.017 billion
- Juan Ponce Enrile – P 641.65 million
- Jinggoy Estrada – P 585 million
- Ferdinand Marcos Jr. – P 100 million
- Gregorio Honasan – P 15 million
This reminds me of the following quotation by a Russian-American philosopher:
“When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion – when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing – when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors – when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you – when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice – you may know that your society is doomed.”
6. The Corporation
Ms Napoles heads JLN Corp., which allegedly served as the central HQ for the pork barrel scheme and diversion operations.
7. The System
The system or scam allegedly involved the use of ghost NGOs and projects where the pork barrel funds, which were supposed to go to poor farmers and public welfare programs, were diverted.
According to reports and the whistleblowers, the 28 lawmakers implicated in this scam allegedly misused their PDAF allocations by transferring them to questionable NGOs run by Napoles.
Who benefited from this multi-billion scam? This is what our courts and proper authorities need to investigate!
8. Your Implied Consent
Whether you’re aware or not, you’re part of the system. The more you demand welfare services and freebies, the more your lawmakers or local/national politicians get more opportunity to steal. Remember the welfare programs you strongly supported in the past (e.g., PhilHealth, CCT, etc.)? They all reek of corruption!
9. Aquino’s Rocky Road
Tuwid na daan or pot-holed roads?
The President promised to fight corruption, yet it’s not actually clear how he’s going to do it. Mr. Aquino recently said he’s against the abolition of pork barrel. The president needs to know that one of the main sources of corruption in the country is pork barrel. In the government sector, it’s almost a no-brainer that where there’s money, there’s corruption. This is why the most corrupt government agencies are those engaged in money transactions, such as the Bureau of Customs, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Commission on Audit, GSIS, Games and Amusement Board, PAGCOR, to name a few.
Organized syndicates in the government have been costing us billions in tax money!
10. The Vicious Cycle
With the President’s refusal to end pork barrel we can never break the vicious cycle of corruption. Since corruption is simply a vicious, evil practice, the way to fight it is to limit or end any possible opportunity for people to exploit the system and to take advantage of systemic loopholes.
No, you can’t fight corruption without cutting the size of government, including pork barrel and other unnecessary government agencies and corporations, Mr. President.
This scam simply shows the country’s Welfare State is in serious, irreparable crisis.