The pork barrel scandal, aka the Napoles pork barrel scandal, is far from being fully uncovered yet, already, it has implicated government officials numbering 200, give or take a couple of dozen, mostly with the rank of Representative of the Lower House or a higher position. This used to be the stratosphere “exempted” from accountability and punishment — the “untouchables.” Considering the massiveness of the scandal in terms of monetary amounts misused and pocketed, the number of high government officials involved in the scandal, and the voluminous incriminating documentary evidences in the hands of media and government, this is one genie that certainly will not make its way back into the lamp.
The expose started with some people’s greed — Benhur Luy & co. — attempting to enhance their share of the loot by “cutting into” their boss’ (Janet Napoles) own greed, resulting in a case of “serious illegal detention” and subsequently, retaliation in the form of whole sale snitching on the modus operandi of the Napoles group deeply involved in siphoning government funds through NGO’s and distributing the “booty” to participants involved in the wicked scheme. Going back to the genesis of this “morality play” among villains, it began with: the heavy and sensitive workload apparently assigned to Benhur; his familiarity, from years of experience, with the mechanics, intricacies, officials, and amounts of money involved; and, perhaps, seeing the large disparity between his share and that of his boss, he may have been right in feeling shortchanged and so made his move to “correct” it by attempting to go on his own and, eventually, compete with Napoles but, alas, got caught by the boss with incontrovertible evidence in the form of “electronically documented text messages,” akin to what happens nowadays to philanderers since the advent of cellular phones — pitfalls of a new technology. The betrayal got Napoles livid enough to have Benhur, her trusted righthand man, detained in one of her houses that was being used to accommodate priests from China who were in the country, temporarily, for a variety of reasons. (Janet was a generous donor to the Catholic Church in the form of cash and kind such as this.) So, in a sense, given the place and circumstances surrounding the detention, it was not too “serious” after all, even if, legally speaking, the length of time the victim was detained qualifies it as a “serious illegal detention” crime committed that is non-bailable. Never mind that the accommodations were comfortable and the form of detention, more like a “spiritual retreat” in the upscale Magallanes Village house shared with foreigners/priests who kept to themselves. The fact is, the confinement due to the falling out between Benhur and Janet led to the intervention of Benhur’s concerned family, the NBI, the Philippines Daily Inquirer, Secretary de Lima, Executive Secretary Ochoa, and no less than the President himself receiving the letter signed by Janet asking for his help from supposed NBI extortionists demanding millions of pesos from her. There probably was some truth to the extortion charges that included Luy, his sister and her BF at the time, their erstwhile lawyer, Atty. Baligod. But events got out of control and the proverbial “stink object” hit the fan and the rest is “history” that has yet to fully unravel, seemingly endless and and still bursting, not unlike a case of diarrhea, quantitatively and in the olfactory sense.
First to be accused and charged were Senators from the opposition whose pork barrel funds were funneled to NGO’s established and controlled by Janet Napoles, and then, allegedly distributed by Janet, in cash, to those that helped facilitate the scheme. The list of recipients of funds as kickbacks begins with the Senators themselves that chose the projects and recommended the respective NGO’s to be used. Others that shared in the loot were: staff members, lovers and wives of Senators (with or without the Senator’s knowledge, but potential primary suspects themselves); go-betweens; agents; and officials of government departments and government implementing agencies whose cooperation were needed in facilitating the transfer of funds from the Department of Budget to the implementing government agency concerned, finding its way to a Napoles NGO bank account and, finally, landing in Janet’s lap. And from there, armed with cash and new “project proposals,” Ms. Napoles let the good times roll, hoping, and more often than not, getting, a repeat from the legislators.
The gazillions of questions this sordid scandal poses are serious and include the President’s role in receiving a hard copy letter from Napoles dated the same day and acting on it the very next day, instructing his Secretary of Justice to assist and look into her complaints, this occurring weeks before the widespread scam became public knowledge. Question: is this the normal speed by which the President receives a letter — not by email — and responds to its’ request of assistance in less than 24 hours, this from a “total stranger” if, indeed, Janet was a stranger to him at that time as he has claimed? And then, of course, you have questions of: who else are involved; what about the other non-Napoles NGO’s numbering 82 compared to Napoles’ 10, engaged in similar nefarious activities as per COA findings; what of the other years yet to be investigated; how clean is COA, for that matter, in these affairs considering these activities managed to pass through under their noses “undetected” all these years; will everyone implicated be investigated; is there a coverup being implemented to protect high officials from both the Executive Branch including cabinet members, and the Legislative Branch, many of who are members of the Liberal Party — the President’s political party; were pork barrel funds (PDAF)and the unconstitutional DAP funds used in bribing Congressmen to sign, without first reading, impeachment charges against the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court; were similar funds subsequently used to bribe, this time, the Senator-Judges to render a guilty verdict against CJ Corona which the overwhelming majority of Senators did — mission accomplished; will all guilty of whatever crime be punished? As to which of these questions and corresponding issues will be deemed containing the most egregious of crimes against the people will depend, most likely, on one’s political affiliation and bias and there again is the rub: everything is “politics” in this country where everything is “politics” — so called “country governed by laws and not by men.” That description is a delight to hear but we seriously doubt that to be the case.
The scam being exposed now would not have been unveiled had Napoles and Luy come to an amicable settlement before the fireworks lit up the sky shining light below on the shameless shenanigans of Napoles, her associates, and everyone else involved in the fraudulent scheme. Just as ugly is the on-going aftermath filled with betrayals among the thieves; snitches galore; creation of scapegoats dead and alive; finger pointing; bribes to “fixers;” more fabrication of more fraudulent documents; erstwhile friendships chucked; and, in at least a couple of instances, spouses were said to be the culprits without the knowledge or full knowledge of their partners too busy being politicians. It’s like watching cockroaches scampering for cover, darting every which way, when a bright light is suddenly turned on in a dark and filthy room — the “paradise” of the cucaracha and the rat.
The next presidential elections being less than a couple of years away, makes the rendering of justice on crimes committed by high powerful government officials more likely to yield to political machinations if not outright bribery, than the likelihood of non-selective justice prevailing. The blindfold worn by Lady Justice, we suspect, may be of a see-through material and the scale she carries, calibrated to be unfairly partial to the weight of gold or a career promotion over evidence presented. Still, life goes on in a country, as yet, ruled by corruption and embedded in the culture (not nature) of its people. And, finally, to lighten things up a bit: make a guess who our next President will most likely be? Only one guess allowed — scout’s honor? Not funny!