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09:53 PM September 22nd, 2013

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By: Antonio Montalvan II, September 22nd, 2013 09:53 PM

Are things being left unsaid of the pork barrel scam because of lack of evidence? Or are there those that are deliberately left unsaid?

Have we already seen the entire range of that scam or are we only at the tip of the iceberg?

Having seen now how systemic the thievery goes in the pork barrel of legislators, are we now to believe that only Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla have allegedly been dipping their fingers into it? And the rest of our senators and congressmen are simply saints? Come on, we certainly were not born yesterday to have our legs pulled.

Paraphrasing that, are opposition senators and congressmen the only thieves? Frank Drilon, partying with Jimmy and Janet Napoles “about 10 times,” as he admits, is no porker (no pun intended)? Inday Espina Varona advises in social media to keep “eyes on the money.” Eyes on the money, yes. Guilty by photography, no. But partying at the Napoles mausoleum at Heritage Park? Why, we must be palsy-walsy with each other if you party with me at my family’s sanctum sanctorum—my parent’s mausoleum, morbid as it may sound. No, we must not be done yet with Frank Drilon if we must use the same standard on Jinggoy Estrada’s own photos with Napoles.

Are our suspicions now correct that in fact there are other Janet Napoleses who operate parallel get-rich-quick scams with proadministration legislators? Except that, fortunately for them, these scam operators do not have a Benhur Luy to illegally detain, an activity that then reaches the ears of the NBI? Let’s admit it, uncovering this scam was accidental. We have known for years why candidates scramble to get elected each election—because it is the surest passport to the lifestyle of the rich and famous. We have long tolerated why they suddenly live in grandiose mansions with swimming pools and keep chunky heavy-cylinder cars in their garages. Some thieving senators and

congressmen may not have mansions, but they have money anyway. Some distribute the largesse for political patronage, some don’t. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Thievery in government is something we have long known. All that money being distributed in thick wads—and they get thicker every election—is something we have long accepted even with the advent of automated polls. Why, we even teach our young how to steal the people’s money by training them how to buy votes for the Sangguniang Kabataan elections. Benhur Luy’s illegal detention that led to this Pandora’s box was, on another angle, not an accident waiting to happen, because thievery had long been accepted by us. What shocked and awed us now is the sheer magnitude of it. For the first time, we now have a peek at how the pork barrel has enriched people in and out of government.

Yet, knowing now how systemic it went makes it doubly difficult to accept that it happened only with opposition legislators. Which makes it tempting to think, even with a credibly feisty justice secretary, that this is nothing but a witch hunt for opposition legislators. There are those who truly believe that this in fact is now part of laying the groundwork for the fall of the opposition in 2016.

Now that it has been laid bare in the open, those that have not been accused yet are clamming up. For all we know, they have already bought as many paper shredders as Napoles had. We will never know the truth anymore. We will never know, for example, why Napoles got to hobnob in presidential parties. We will never know where Ed Angara’s pork barrel that went to his own NGO was truly spent. We will never know how Alan Peter Cayetano spent the millions he did get via the Napoles NGO route. We will never know how Tesda’s Joel Villanueva, a friend of the President, was able to improve his lifestyle from the Napoles bounty he had also gotten. We will never know because these legislators are friends of the President.

The truth will forever be swept under the rug or stashed away in hidden transcripts that we will no longer get to hear. And that is why the only way now to redeem the people’s trust is to truly abolish the pork barrel, including that of the President. We must renew our call. Let us not believe what Congress and President Aquino have said. The pork barrel has not been abolished. It will only be reprogrammed. The system of political patronage that it feeds will stay. Once we hear news that fake bidding for public works projects is still very much alive, you can be sure that legislators are still stealing our money. Make no mistake: Even without Napoles, senators and congressmen will still be thieves. It does not take having a bogus NGO to steal.

That is the reason why Peachy Bretaña, that impossible voice of the Million People March, is now calling for another signature campaign. “The President and legislators have agreed to scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), but the pork system itself continues. The government also still has to account for spent discretionary funds, including those used in the last three years. And we know, of course, that not just three senators and a handful of representatives were involved in stealing our taxes.”

“You and 84,981 other petition signers were crucial. Please join me in signing this new petition at www.change.org/100days.”

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