The Pork Barrel Scam: Getting Away with Billion of Pesos (Part 1 of 3 parts) #PDAFscam

pork barrelThe pork barrels of five senators and 23 members of the Lower House are allegedly being misused. At the center of the controversy is Janet Napoles. Who? The formerly unknown businesswoman is now very visible in online searches and news headlines for being involved in the alleged corrupt practices of very prominent politicians. Her extravagant, lavish children are currently as infamous as the mother. The Napoles daughter in particular flaunts the family’s wealth in YouTube.

The mastermind

Napoles is supposedly the mastermind of this P10 billion scam. We do not yet have the details of her villainous scheme, but an investigation is reportedly ongoing. Affidavits have been filed and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is investigating, as it should. The accused mastermind has denied her involvement through a statement read on nationwide television by her lawyer, Bruce Rivera. Napoles also claims that the whistleblower BenhurLuy only wanted money possibly to support the latter’s habitual drug use.

Scrutinizing overnight affluence

jane napolesThis is what we know so far. Napoles appears to have no legitimate business and has very dubious assets. Thus the visible extravagance could not be attributed to hard work and entrepreneurial genius. One rather furious blogger shared the results of her investigation on the reported business endeavors (established in 2009) of Janet Napoles and concluded that the site was merely a “hodgepodge of photos and mentions of exciting industries obviously taken online with no real indication of how they are directly involved in said industries.” The blogger summed the business in one word: Nothing. The wealth that is being shamelessly flaunted was given one definitive adjective: unexplained. The blogger’s humble opinion: “the stench of guilt is strong in this one.”

Mr. Anonymous Commenter reveals all

napoles pdaf scamThis particular blog instigated almost 700 comments as of this writing, the most controversial of which was from a “Mr. Anonymous” who shared information on the Napoles family’s ties with the public officials involved in the scam. He also revealed the name of those in the payroll, provided details on bank transactions and even shed light on the strategies used by the Napoles family in moving the money. Mr. Anonymous was clear in his lengthy revelations. The senators and congressman use the Napoles company (and others for sure) “to steal money from the people’s coffer – from you, from us”—his very words.

Anonymous Commenter said that he decided to open up so that netizens could spread the word on the scam and help protect the whistleblowers. He also clarified that he has no proof, but proceeded to identify safes where Janet Napoles keeps invoices, receipts, and files on government officials. Evidently, it’s not just our senators and congressmen but Cabinet members and undersecretaries, governors and mayors who are involved as well. In a more recent post, Mr. Anonymous provided a list of the members of the Lower House and the amounts they reportedly earned through JLN Corporation, the dummy Napoles business entity. Mr. Anonymous expressed frustration since our laws are designed to protect people like Napoles. He warned that if the public does not take action, the lawmakers involved in the scam would definitely cover it all up and get away with it all. Like usual.

Under scrutiny

 benhur whistle blowerIn the Philippines, an excessive lifestyle that has no definitive source could easily be explained. When politicians are involved, the hasty conclusion is that the wealth probably came from government funds meant to build new schools, provide new job opportunities, build housing, and deliver health care and social services to the needy. Perhaps if the Philippines does not have too many people living in poverty, there won’t be this much outrage when a US$230 million pork barrel scam surfaces.

 So who are involved this time? The Secretary of the Department of Justice Leila De Lima has made vehement denials to the press. She’s just one of four additional pork barrel scammers currently enjoying press attention. There were originally five on the naughty list. The other three should be enjoying another term in the Philippine Senate and yet they have been dragged into controversy so early. Sen. Loren Legarda, Sen. Koko Pimentel, and Senator Antonio Trillanes are probably not thrilled to be mixed up in this controversial scam. The NBI clarified that the names did not come from them.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has something to say on the matter. She strongly urged the five accused senators (how about the congressmen?) to go on leave while the investigations are ongoing. The five senators are Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Sen. Gregorio Honasan, Sen. Bongbong Marcos, and Sen. Ramon Revilla. Sen. Santiago believes that when a senator’s name is tied to terms such as bribery, falsification, and forgery they ought to go on leave “out of delicadeza.”

Senator Francis Escudero has already filed a resolution for an inquiry to be conducted by the Blue Ribbon Committee. Senator Teofisto Guingona, the Committee Chair announced that they will wait after all the current investigations have run their course before the Senate initiates a separate probe. But, should the Senate itself probe the scam – what some call “the perfect crime?” A good point was raised very recently by Senator Alan Peter Cayetano. The probe might get too emotional and it could “bog down” legislative work. Perhaps a separate, independent body composed of persons of integrity and good reputation should be formed to look into these very serious accusations.

Is there anyone left in this country who truly fits these stringent requirements?

Continuation in Part 2 and Part 3