22 August 2013

[FYI in Manila Bulletin] Napoles not a one-woman gang, says Gabriela

by Ellson A. Quismorio

House Representatives from the Gabriela Women’s Party on Thursday insisted that businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles (JLN) is no one-woman-gang who pulled an extensive and methodical pork barrel scam only to turn fugitive later.

“We should not be misled into believing that Napoles is the lone operator here; she merely facilitated the utterly corrupt network of entrenched bureaucrat capitalists,” said Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan.

Ilagan made the comment at the heels of President Benigno S. Aquino’s remarks wherein he blamed Napoles, head of the shady JLN group of companies, and his predecessor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for all the corruption currently tarnishing pork barrel. 

“Who knows, the investigation may lead into the very doorsteps of MalacaƱang, the biggest padrino of all bureaucrats? Does this explain why the Napoles case is dragging on for too long?” she added.

Fellow Gabriela Rep. Emmi de Jesus thinks that the president is now panicking on how to reconcile his preference to retain the pork barrel system amid snowballing public anger on the massive scam.

“The people will not back off on its plea to abolish all pork,” she said, echoing the common stand of the party and the rest of the militant Makabayan bloc in Congress. “We must stress that there are many other Napoleses who continue to reign and connive with others.”

De Jesus pointed out that while the Palace likes to point the finger to Napoles and Arroyo for the PDAF scam, it avoid tackling Aquino’s purported “presidential pork” which makes the discretionary funds of lawmakers trivial in comparison. 

Bayan Muna, which is also part of the Makabayan bloc, said that at least P418 billion out of the P2.3-trillion national budget for 2014 may be considered presidential pork. 

The PDAF received by each congressmen and senators amount to P70 million and P200 million, respectively. It is spent on the projects of their choosing, although the money is ultimately disbursed by implementing agencies to groups that will carry out the projects. 

But as what has been demonstrated by the scam, bogus non-government organizations like those from JLN can take hold of the money, reward conniving solons with a rich kickback and use the rest to “fund” ghost projects. 

“We demand the money to be rechanneled foremost to education and health services. We say no to corruption and plunder, and we want to stop the annihilation of the dreams of our children,” Ilagan said.

Meanwhile, the FOI Youth Initiative (FYI) in a statement called on both Houses of Congress to restore public trust by passing legislation that would protect public funds like PDAF from corruption.

“We call on the House of Representatives and the Senate to show their sincerity in our struggle against corruption by enacting laws that will safeguard the spending of the people’s funds, starting with the passage of the Freedom of Information Law (FOI).”

The pro-transparency measure would give Filipino citizens the right to access any information held by a government agency, including those related to government expenditures and the bidding of government projects. Solons who support the passage of FOI have said that it could have prevented the pork scam.

The FYI likewise appealed to President Aquino and the legislature to “unite with us in the call to eliminate the pork barrel system to ultimately destroy the root of many sources of corruption in the country.”

“We recognize that the purpose of the PDAF is to supposedly address the needs of the constituents of Congress in their respective localities. However, time and again, the pork barrel system, through the PDAF, has become an incentive for those who assume public office driven by greed and without the objective to genuinely serve,” the group said.  

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