By Dionesio Grava
First Posted in ireport.cnn.com
Even to a country long numbed by the excesses of a pompous bunch of mostly dullards who pass themselves off as ‘honorable’ legislators, the most recent revelations on how some of them surreptitiously skinned the motherland to the tune of P10 billion takes the cake.
Imagine a nation with a big majority of its people barely able to sustain themselves and their families with daily essentials — many homeless or living in hovels under perilous circumstances, eking bare existence or even begging to be able to make it to another day — while some of these so-called leaders enjoying the best that a government can offer, isolated from the rest of the world in their luxurious offices, expensive chauffeured cars and already enjoying millions of fees and top-of-the-heap perks for occasional official functions still had the nerve to steal so much from the suffering people they are supposed to serve.
Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago stated in a news report that Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile received P118 million in the Senate for 2011 in addition to having control of 52.51 percent of the entire Senate budget (the total amount for 2013 is P1.7 billion). Enrile has the discretion on how this money will be spent without the need of providing receipts and other documents.
Senate Protempore Jinggoy Estrada received P62 million income, Majority leader Vicente Sotto III received P56 million, and Minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano received P55 million, Santiago said. Each senator receives P43 million a year as income but as we know it, these people don’t thrive on regular salaries only.
The Facebook group Magdalo Cyber Army, citing Senator Santiago’s blog as source, mentioned that in addition to salary and honorarium, each senator has monthly funds for capital outlay of P16 million and travel allowance, P59 million; membership of the Commission on Appointments is P50,000 per month; oversight committees usually have annual budgets from P5 million to P38 million. There are also monthly
allowances for personal services and MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses), membership in permanent committees and Senate Electoral Tribunal. Then there’s the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel. Each senator is allocated an annual PDAF budget of P200 million while a congressman, P70 million.
Magdalo asked: “So, if the are already earning millions, why the need to steal PDAF? These greedy giant pigs are just so shameless and heartless! Ang kakapal ng mukha. Mga walang puso.” (How thick their faces. Heartless.)
He may have been referring to allegations by six whistleblowers that their boss, Janet Lim Napoles, is the brains behind a P 10 billion racket that creates ghost projects involving the PDAFs of five senators and 23 congressmen and state agencies using 20 dummy NGOs.
Also tapped by the Napoles syndicate were the Malampaya oil fund and allocations by the Department of Budget and Management for the Technology Resource Corp. (formerly the Technology and Livelihood Resource Corp.), National Livelihood Development Corp. and National Agri-Business Corp., Department of Agriculture and Department of Agrarian Reform.
Newspaper accounts linked the names of senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Gregorio Honasan, Lito Lapid and Vicente Sotto III to the anomalies. From the House of Representatives: Masbate third district Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, Conrado Estrella III of Pangasinan’s 6th district, Rodolfo Plaza of Agusan del Sur, Benguet Representative Samuel Dangwa, Masbate Rep. Scott Davies Lanete, Lanao del Sur Rep. Mohammed Hussein Pangandaman, An Waray Rep. Neil Benedict Montejo, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, Bukidnon Rep. Florencio Flores Jr., Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, Camarines Sur Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella and Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Lagdameo Jr. Under Philippine laws, all accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. Civil cases
require mere preponderance of evidence.
According to a six-series report published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Napoles was also investigated in 2008 by the Senate blue ribbon committee regarding the P728-million fertilizer scandal involving then Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante. The sources of funding for the supposed projects also came from the pork barrel of three senators and 11 members of the House of Representatives. She testified then that she had used dummy companies in that scheme but no charges have so far been brought against her in connection with that case. That may lend to allegations that she had been boasting, “We control the government.”
UPDATE: In connection with the ongoing investigation regarding the alleged misuse of P10-billion pork barrel funds by 28 lawmakers, Commissioner Kim Jacinto-
Henares said some congressmen and senators are hiding their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALNs). Henares said they must investigate
everything and that includes the SALNs of politicians.
PHOTO CAPTION. Illustration is shared from the QUI TAM LAWS VS. CORRUPTION (Facebook Page) through the Filipino Overseas for Better Philippines (FB Page). It conveys the people’s disgust over Philippine legislators’ preoccupation with pork barrel funds while on the other hand neglecting their sworn duties including that of the country’s defense requirements.