The P10-billion racket being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is one more reason why the pork barrel system should be abolished. One of the sources of the billions of pesos allegedly stolen by the JLN Group of Companies is the pork barrel of senators and congressmen. Others are special funds such as the Malampaya Fund and the Fertilizer Fund of the Department of Agriculture.
“As long as government is there, there is money,” the alleged mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles, reportedly told her employees. I would like to add: As long as the pork barrel is there, there would be graft.
As narrated in Sunday’s issue of the Inquirer, the modus operandi is very easy and simple. By just using the names of bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and foundations as well as of bogus recipients, and by forging the signatures of local government officials, the JLN companies were able to collect from the government P10 billion in almost a decade of operations.
The scam begins when a JLN official or employee (usually Napoles herself) approaches a senator or congressman to buy his/her pork barrel allocation, camouflaged as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), for which the legislator is paid 50 to 60 percent of the amount of allocation, as kickback or commission.
(Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and then Rep. Rene Velarde of Buhay Partylist were the first to be named by the Commission on Audit among legislators whose pork allocations were the source of funds allegedly rechanneled to bogus NGOs but were encashed and given to Napoles herself.)
A JLN team prepares a list of beneficiaries of fictitious NGOs and foundations, from which the legislator chooses. The Department of Budget and Management then prepares the Special Allotment Release Order. The JLN team then makes a list of individual beneficiaries, all fictitious. The team prepares all the paperwork, forging all the signatures.
When the check is released, it is deposited in the bank account of the bogus NGO beneficiary. After the check is cleared, the money would be withdrawn and the cash delivered in suitcases to Napoles herself. It is not yet known where the money goes after this.
The modus operandi proves that not only should the pork barrel system be discontinued but that the government should be strict in accepting and registering NGOs and foundations, as well as partylists.
At present, it is very easy to register NGOs and foundations and partylists. All one has to do is: concoct a name for an NGO or a partylist; claim what sector it represents and its intended beneficiaries; and come up with a list of officials (JLN had its employees as officials of its bogus NGOs), and he/she is in business. It is no secret that some party lists, whose nominees are sitting in the present Congress, are bogus. Jo Christine Napoles, the eldest daughter of Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind, may sit in the House of Representatives as nominee of the OFW Family Club, of which former Ambassador Roy Señeres is the first nominee.
Everybody knows that the pork barrel system is a principal source of graft and corruption. It corrupts a long line of people—from legislators to contractors to district engineers, treasurers, clerks, down the line. It weakens the moral fiber of the people.
On top of that, the government loses tens of billions of pesos because of it; money taken away from its people in the form of services.
Abolish the pork barrel and you eliminate half of the source of corruption.
President Aquino made the people believe, during the campaign and after his inauguration, that his priority is to fight corruption.
He can easily do that by not including in his budget proposal the PDAF or pork barrel. Congress cannot put it there because it is prohibited from adding to what Malacañang has proposed. Congress can only remove or reduce funding enumerated in the budget proposal.
It is that easy to eliminate at least half of the graft and corruption that has been bedeviling the nation for decades. Yet year after year, president after president sends to Congress budget proposals for the PDAF. And Congress, quickly, happily, and greedily passes the PDAF budget.
I am sure that President Aquino, the self-proclaimed nemesis of graft and corruption, has again submitted to Congress a budget for next year that includes the hated PDAF.
Why do the presidents do it? Because it is a means of making the legislators do what the president wants. Cooperative legislators get their pork allocations quickly; uncooperative ones don’t get theirs as quickly. The pork is a sort of carrot-and-stick for the legislators. In short, the pork is a bribe by the President to members of Congress. Because of the pork, presidents, including President Aquino, are guilty of bribery. Giving bribes is a form of corruption, ’di ba President Noynoy? So why are you doing it?
Mr. President, please stop this source of corruption once and for all, as you promised. Withdraw the budget for the PDAF. There are very good reasons for doing it. Let that be your legacy to the nation. Your presidency will be remembered for that, if not for anything else.