“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce.” That plays out in those five notebooks that have surfaced in the still-unfolding pork barrel scam.
The notebooks record the dealings of detained Janet Lim-Napoles from 2012 up to August 2013, Whistle-blower No. 11 told probers. They list cash doles, properties, bank accounts (over 400 at last count), and “other information.” Such as?
Code names, for one. “Kuya” and “Sexy” are the handles for Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. An entry in one note says P20 million was allotted for “Kuya” and “Sexy.” “Pogi” is used for Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. Smile, Bong. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, 89, is dubbed “Tanda” (that means “old man”).
Probers got an overview of Napoles properties in the second notebook, with red cover. Those include 28 houses, scattered from Forbes Park in Makati, Punta Fuego in Nasugbu, to California in the United States. Eat your heart out, Ampatuans. (They had only 24 mansions.)
In the list are 30 cars. The justice department says the models are varied: Mercedes-Benz, BMW, snazzy Porsches, even the humble Toyota Vios. Are the Napoleses’ three yachts, which suddenly lifted anchor, recorded, too?
The third notebook is blue and lists “documents received by the whistle-blowers on behalf of their boss.” These range from credit-card numbers and details of credit-card transactions. The fourth notebook, red, contains the names of contact persons and their phone numbers. The fifth notebook, blue-green, serves as an “organizer” of those who turned whistle-blowers.
Where did we hear this farce before as tragedy?
The South China Morning Post provides a clue in a recent cover story: “Embarrassment of Riches,” which relates how the elder daughter of Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos “inadvertently” left behind, in the People Power uproar, “a very interesting notebook.”
“The book contained lists of vast secret holdings belonging to Imee’s father and held by dummy nominees in various corporations.” Marcos Sr. had dummies everywhere: from coconut, bananas, and banking to real estate.
On April 25, 2012, now Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno wrote the decision that affirmed an earlier Sandiganbayan decision that ordered the forfeiture of $3,369,975 of assets in Arelma S.A, formed by Marcos Sr., in favor of the government.
Imee’s notebook was among the “incriminating documents” left behind in Malacañang after Chinook helicopters scooped up the Marcoses and cronies like Eduardo Cojuangco ahead of furious crowds marching on the Palace.
Those documents led investigators to, among other discoveries, secret Swiss bank deposits totaling US$356 million and four buildings in Manhattan, New York, Raissa Robles wrote in the SCMP feature.
“PCGG commissioner Maita Gonzaga now occupies Imee’s old office. She showed me a curious design feature: a secret door disguised as a wall panel that leads to a fire escape. It is a metaphor, perhaps, for the intricate web of offshore accounts, foundations, fake identities and dummy companies that has kept much of the Marcos money well hidden.”
The Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists reported that Imee, now governor of Ilocos Norte, has a secret account stashed in the Virgin Islands. “Imee formed a company overseas called Sintra Trust, in 2002, which was used to open offshore accounts in Singapore.
“The problem here is that as a sitting provincial governor, she never disclosed the accounts in her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth. Under the country’s 1987 Constitution, every public official is required to do so.”
Imee refuses to comment.
Man, however, does not live by pork alone. We ignore structures at the risk of embedding further greed.
And that precisely is the main issue that the 2013 Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR) raises: Pork barrel items play into the claws of politicians, because they chop up, robot-like, the tax peso across the board. It turns a blind eye to varying needs of particular areas.
The needs of local government units are set by their geography, say University of the Philippines economics professors Emmanuel de Dios and Toby Melissa Monsod. The physical space that a province, town or city occupies determines the health, livelihood and economic chances of its inhabitants.
Failure to tailor socioeconomic services to the local geography courts disaster. Health underscores this reality. The diseases that afflict people are set by where they live. If a tropical country like the Philippines fails to prioritize tropical diseases, it will rack up huge human development losses.
Malaria is the ninth leading cause of morbidity here. It festers in 58 out of 80 provinces that are “forested, swampy, hilly and mountainous.” The PHDR estimates that a person afflicted with malaria can lose one to five working days per malaria episode. About 14 million Filipinos are at risk of this disease. Simple arithmetic spells out an unacceptable cost.
Other “neglected tropical diseases” endemic to the Philippines and pinpointed by the PHDR include: schistosomiasis, lymphatic filariasis or elephantiasis, soil-transmitted helminth infections or STH, food-borne trematode (FBT) and leprosy, notes Lala Ordenes of Vera Files.
“STH, or intestinal worms, affect two out of three preschool children and school-age children and two in five of the general population in a province.”
The economic benefits of a peso spent on deworming can be stunning: “Among school-age children, this translates to 25-percent reduction in the number of days a child is absent from school.” That adds up to “an additional year of education.”
Those notebooks kept by Imee and Janet record human pain and degradation…