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11:33 PM August 18th, 2013

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August 18th, 2013 11:33 PM

Of the many horrors one can find in the Commission on Audit’s Special Audit Report No. 2012-03, which COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan released to the public last Friday, Table 26 on page 58 offers a particularly repulsive example.

It lists the five legislators and one legislator’s relative who served as incorporators of nongovernment organizations which subsequently received fund transfers from the legislators’ own pork barrel allocations. Some P188.6 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) monies allocated to the six lawmakers were channeled directly into NGOs they or a relative built in the first place.

Forget about keeping appearances. Between 2007 and 2009, the period covered by the COA’s special audit, then Sen. Edgardo Angara allowed the release of P14.4 million to Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan Inc., an organization he was himself an incorporator, stockholder and board director of. His appalling lack of  delicadeza  looks positively naive, however, when contrasted with the naked greed of Rep. Matias Defensor Jr. of Quezon City; he prioritized the release of a total of P99.5 million from his pork barrel allocation to a foundation he was incorporator, stockholder and trustee of. The name of the foundation? The Matias Defensor Sr. Foundation Inc.

The others listed in Table 26—Amado Bagatsing of Manila, Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan, Anthony Miranda of Isabela and Jeannie Sandoval, the sister-in-law of Federico Sandoval II of Malabon/Navotas—also channeled millions of pesos from their pork barrel funds into their own or their relative’s foundations. Sy-Alvarado had the lowest amount listed, “just” P12.9 million, but the funds went to the Jose Sy-Alvarado Foundation Inc., an NGO named after her father-in-law and of which she was the president on record.

Shameless, just utterly shameless.

Tan said she wept when she read the report; indeed, a close read can be overwhelming. The product of a two-year-audit (June 2010 to September 2012) and a year-long reporting process (September 2012 to August 2013, including some three months for the implementing government agencies and legislators involved to respond to the findings), the report is the political equivalent of a sex video scandal—the graphic record of repeated acts of violation, but with the Filipino people as the victim.

The businesswoman at the center of the so-called

P10-billion pork barrel scam exposed by the Inquirer is implicated in the COA report too; 10 of the 82 NGOs the COA identified as dubious (either “unknown or unlocated at their given addresses, or have given nonexistent addresses, or [with] addresses traced [to] a mere shanty or high-end residential units without any NGO signages and of which, some turned out to be the residences of their owner/officer”—to quote from the report’s Executive Summary) are linked to Janet Lim-Napoles. All told, the 10 NGOs received over P2 billion in pork barrel funds between 2007 and 2009.

The “Inquirer validates our findings,” Tan said last Friday, referring to the Napoles stories. But the other way around is also true: The COA report validates the Inquirer stories as well as the newspaper’s editorial position.

We have always understood the eyewitness testimony against Napoles (from whistle-blowers who used to work in the businesswoman’s inner circle) and the documentation on the fake NGOs or fake projects as proof that the pork barrel system was being gamed. The elaborate fakery was designed to move pork barrel funds into lawmakers’ pockets, with operators taking a generous share of the money. Unlike other, older forms of corruption, where at least the proposed bridge or road or school building or basketball court would actually be built, with the usual commissions going to those who made the project happen, the pork barrel scam glimpsed in the Inquirer stories seems to have been designed to do this without all that. To forget, in other words, about keeping appearances.

The COA report shows us that the scam Napoles was alleged by the whistle-blowers to have masterminded actually fits the general pattern of fund abuse: rules were not followed, recipients were chosen on mere endorsement, projects were nonexistent, receipts were fabricated, releases were unliquidated. In other words, and to borrow a phrase from the information technology industry: The irregularities in the use of the pork barrel are not a bug; they are a standard feature.

Time to finally abolish the pork barrel system.

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