On PDAF scam saga, and beerhouse karaoke

by Jego Ragragio, originally posted at After the filing of charges vs. 3 senators, what’s next? It was only a little over a year ago that whisleblowers Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas opened the floodgates and exposed the PDAF scam. The Commission on Audit would soon follow suit and release their report for PDAF use from 2007 to 2009, providing validation and evidence for the accusations leveled by Luy and Suñas.


Since then, we have been treated to one sideshow after another, in the form of media blitzes, privilege speeches and Senatorial exposes, hospital trips to and fro, and even a doctor’s press conference publicizing  Too. Much. Damn. Information. Now we’re even being threatened with the release of sex tapes, allegedly featuring no less than DOJ Secretary De Lima.

Sometimes, we can’t help but wonder when the clown car will show up.

For whatever circus it has been, the wait appears to be over. The Ombudsman has formally filed charges of plunder against Senators Enrile, Estrada and Revilla. It is only a matter of time before they are arrested and have their day in court. For certain, just as the Senate was the focal point of the nation during the Corona impeachment, so too will the Sandiganbayan be under everyone’s watchful eye.

In a country where the impudent evade the long arm of the law through stealth or wealth, where jailed criminals are given VIP treatment and 10-minute starlet visits, where the family of one of the biggest thieves in the history of mankind flaunt the stolen wealth and are even elected into public office, news of the filing of charges against these Senators and the likelihood of arrests being made gives a glimmer of hope that our system *can* be made to work, that not everyone can get away with such thievery.

The real question is, what’s next?

For sure, there is more work to be done. As far-reaching as Napoles’ scheme is, it doesn’t even account for half of the P6 billion identified by the COA as misused funds. There was never only Napoles. We should encourage the investigating agencies to continue to look into all viable leads.

That being said, for our part as citizens, perhaps the most important thing we can do is to remain focused. Too often we are distracted by irrelevant, peripheral matters, just because it tickles our fancy – whether that fancy be criticizing this administration, or advocating for the revival of the death penalty, or calling for anyone’s/everyone’s resignation, or proposing a suspension of Congress while the PDAF scam is sorted out, or hallucinating about how great the Martial Law years were, and so on and so forth.

Heck, we get distracted every time an accused senator makes a privilege speech – a contradiction in terms for sure, as it is more hours-long accusation/drivel than speech, and it is really no one’s privilege to hear it. Yet every time a senator reveals the Pasabog of the Week, we go gaga over it and start frothing at the mouth against this administration, for things that may be easily and more simply explained, as opposed to “Itz a conspirazeh!” Really, people?

A few weeks ago we were distracted by the accusation of Napoles that Budget Secretary Butch Abad is the “brains” behind the scam – even as she provides no proof of her claim, and even as Napoles’ accusation is so easy to fact-check. Rather than fact-check and vet the claim for accuracy, we cried out for blood and for Abad’s resignation. Really, people?

Then there was the vaginal bleeding, and Napoles’ doctor making a public statement (inappropriately, in my view) about how Napoles has “urges.” I do not know where to begin with this, except to ask, in relation to how much discussion this tidbit got: Really, people?

And the lists! Good Lord, the lists. Never mind that Napoles and even Luy could just invent a list on the spot and claim that it is accurate, never mind that Sandra Cam isn’t even involved in the PDAF scam but tossed her hat in with her own list anyway, never mind that we need evidence to back those lists up for any of them to be of any value; we caught wind of it, we then demanded the lists be publicized, and when we got what we wanted, we complained that they were conflicting, that they may have been whitewashed, that the lists are useless. Really, people?

Lately, we’re distracted with the alleged prospect of Secretary De Lima having a sex tape or four. As if that has any bearing on De Lima’s competence to supervise the investigation and prosecution of the plunder charges against Napoles and her cohorts-in-high-places, much less any bearing on the PDAF scam as a whole. And yet strangely, the purported sex tapes occupy discussion space in social media. Really, people?

At some point, we have to step back and take a look at the bigger picture, and what really matters in it. In times past, we complained that the criminal masterminds roam freely, untouched and untouchable; now there is reason to hope that that can finally change. We have clamored for charges to be filed and arrests to be made; now we have charges filed, and the issuance of warrants of arrest is only a matter of time. We have clamored for an expansion of the investigation; now more people are being investigated, even those within the administration party.

No matter how trifling these steps may seem, they are steps nevertheless. It is movement away from the tired traditional politics we’re so cynically used to.

bong revilla speech

Of course, it’s easy to downplay the gains when you’re on the receiving end of the accusations. Earlier today, Senator Bong Revilla, one of those charged with plunder in relation to the PDAF scam, delivered yet another content-free privilege speech. He had promised bombshells, but all we got was a dud. He promised fire, all we got was smoke and mirrors.

He said he would deliver a Senatorial privilege speech. Instead, Bong Revilla brought us beerhouse karaoke.

Will this latest charade distract us yet again?

Screen cap of Senator Revilla from Rappler youtube video. Some rights reserved.