One small step, a giant leap for justice

The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas is set to conduct the preliminary investigation into my complaint that a P13.5-million contract funded from the pork barrel of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon for the development of the Iloilo Esplanade was anomalous.
On Wednesday, I received a letter from the just-retired Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelayo Apostol informing me that a fact-finding investigation done by Ombudsman graft investigators in Iloilo City has been upgraded into a formal charge for criminal and administrative offenses.
The cases, docketed as OMB-V-C-14-0489 and OMB-V-A-14-0347, primarily involves Edilberto Tayao, regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways, and the chairman and members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).
Apostol’s letter did not mention Senate President Drilon who was listed in my complaint.
A check with the Office of the Ombudsman elicited information that the cases are entitled, “OMB-RO6 and Manuel Mejorada versus Edilberto Tayao, et al.”
For me, the upgrading of my complaint into a formal charge is a giant leap for justice.
I wish to highlight that the Office of the Ombudsman, Region VI, has filed this as co-complainant.
What does this mean? It demolishes the defense of the Senate President who said that the anomalies were just “a figment of my imagination”.
After I filed this complaint on September 10, 2013, no less than Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the anti-graft body’s investigators to determine whether it had legal and factual basis.
I was told that Ombudsman Morales gave this instruction in a hand-written note on my complaint.
The report of the fact-finding team validated my charges that the items of work stated in the project’s contract were “ghost” or non-existent.
This is enough vindication for me. The complaint is based on facts. The award of the contract was anomalous. Public funds were squandered.

Now, it’s not just me talking, but the Ombudsman Region VI as well.
But it will not, and must not, end there. It should proceed to the next step, which is an indictment of the public officials involved in this corruption.

For a background on this case, you can read this previous post:

https://manuelboymejorada.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/down-the-drain/

The Supreme Court as the final arbiter and savior

The Supreme Court as the final arbiter and savior

This is a perfect situation where the system for checks and balance was put into place. The Executive and the Legislative have corroborated (to use a milder term than “conspired”) to tweak the budget process and allow them to abuse and misuse public funds. True, the people have a role to play in rectifying the wrongs, but the system is so corrupted that the voice of the people is rendered out of tune. The electoral ballot, the only weapon ordinary citizens have to bring about change, has been debased by vote-buying fed by this abuse of the system. Hence, in this situation, only the Judiciary stands as the institution capable of saving the nation.

Plunder and unexplained wealth complaint versus Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

Plunder and unexplained wealth complaint versus Senate President Franklin M. Drilon

 

It’s not enough to be angry, again

We are missing a point in debates about which way the anti-pork rallies are headed. We should not even be having those debates — whether it’s just anti-pork, or it’s straying into “anti-PNoy”.
The people are angry, period. But wait! We need to bring perspective into what is happening.
Is it enough to be angry? Do we just go through another cycle of protests?
I think the turn of events should jolt the Filipino people into wakefulness. The problem is that we easily get lulled into letting our vigilance down. After EDSA, we rode on the crest of a belief that evil has been booted out, and decency will be restored. We put down our guard until Erap’s abuses became intolerable. Then came Gloria. it took so long before we found our collective voice again and propelled PNoy to the Palace in 2010.
Again we went back to sleep, thinking “matuwid” will take us to our destination quickly. And now this.
We must realize that we have civic duties as citizens. We can’t trust government, no matter who leads it, to carry out its work with utmost sincerity and devotion without us constantly riding on its back. The temptations for abuse abound. It is our duty to keep a round-the-clock watch. The people can’t delegate that role to the bureaucracy.

Pork for votes: How the Aquino administration used pork barrel for political victory

(A special report for TNT Libre)

TNT Libre Page 1 Aug 26 2013

Liberal Parties allies of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III in Iloilo province were recipients of a pork barrel largesse of not less than P100 million shortly before the 45-day campaign period leading to the May 13, 2013 elections, documents obtained by TNT Libre show.

The biggest single beneficiary of this pork barrel bonanza was Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor who received P40.5 million sometime in March 2013 as “financial assistance to the Province of Iloilo for the implementation of priority programs and projects.”

Included in this package were P14.5 million for “food subsidy, burial and medical assistance, transportation allowance and livelihood programs”, P16 million for “small and medium enterprises/livelihood”, P4.3 million as “educational assistance/scholarship program for 1,720 college students”, and P5.7 million for “educational assistance/scholarship for 11,400 students in high school”.

The Province of Iloilo has its own funds in the regular budget for assistance to persons in distress, and this pork barrel package was clearly intended to augment the Capitol’s ability to extend help to more people during the campaign, an official of the provincial government, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

The documents were made available to this paper just as thousands of Ilonggos prepare to stage a local version of the #MillionPeopleMarch this morning at the Iloilo capitol grounds. TNT Libre asked an Executive Assistant of Gov. Defensor to react to this story, but received no reply as of press time.

And even as President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III tried to defuse the public outrage over the pork barrel scandal, the documents provide evidence that his own administration has its big share of the issue on the misuse of public funds.

During the campaign, then vice gubernatorial candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Rolex Suplico had assailed what he described as the Liberal Party’s misuse of government resources to  buy votes. But his protestations fell on deaf ears.

Based on the initial batch of documents, the misuse of the pork barrel to advance the political agenda of the Aquino administration reached gargantuan proportions.

The documents made available reveal that at least P77 million of the pork barrel was disbursed just last March 2013 just before the campaign period started. “It is more in the level of P100 to 120 million,” said a source from the DBM.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was then general campaign manager of the LP, was pinpointed as the architect for the allocation and disbursement of pork barrel funds for political campaigning.

Twitter messages asking for his comment to his @frankahan account on the issue over the weekend were unanswered.

Six municipalities in the second congressional district of Iloilo partook of a P24.15 million package for various projects, another Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed.

The LGU of New Lucena, Iloilo got a share of P5 million, P2 million for Sta. Miguel, 5 million for Sta. Barbara, P5 million for Leganes, P2.5 million for Alimodian and P4.45 million for Zarraga, Iloilo from this package.

The special allocation for the second congressional district was intended to bolster the candidacy of Pavia municipal mayor Arcadio Gorriceta for the congressional seat then held by Augusto Boboy Syjuco, a source revealed.

Drilon and Gorriceta are considered “best friends”, which goes a long way back to their high school years.

Because Alimodian’s incumbent municipal mayor was supporting the candidacy of Dr. Ferjenel Biron of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), its allocation was channelled through the Iloilo provincial government and given directly to the barangays that expressed support for the Liberal Party, it was disclosed.

Only the municipality of Leon was excluded in the second congressional district along with the LGU of Pavia from this package.

“Leon was omitted because its municipal mayor and all barangay captains refused to shift their support to the congressional candidate of the Liberal Party in the district, Arcadio Gorriceta,” a source who was privy to the “cutting up of the cake” said.

Leon was committed to support 1-CARE party list Salvador “Kiting” Cabaluna III.

It was largely because of this pork barrel kitty that Gorriceta achieved victory at the elections in the three-way battle. Syjuco came in third.

AAMBIS/OWA party list congresswoman Sharon Garin received a portion of her 2013 PDAF (official name of the pork barrel is “Priority Development Assistance Fund”) also in March in the amount of P5.070 million, all of which was funnelled into the LGU of Guimbal.

From this amount, the sum of P4.7 million was labelled as “financial assistance to the Municipality of Guimbal, Iloilo for marginalized farmers for livelihood alleviation in Region VI thru distribution of seeds, seedlings, farm and garden tools and other suitable inputs in provinces of Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Guimaras and Antique.”

A source familiar with the pork barrel said the use of the Guimbal LGU as conduit “is almost the same as using a fake NGO.”

“The LGU has no business managing the funds from the pork barrel when its beneficiaries are from outside its territorial jurisdiction,” she said.

But she said this has been a practice institutionalized by the Garin family “to better administer the funds and make it disappear without a trace.”

In a text message, Rep. Garin defended the action. “Guimbal is one of the beneficiaries of this project. Channeling the project to one of the beneficiary LGUs is allowed. Check DBM guidelines for this,” she said in a text message.

The Garin family jumped into the Liberal Party bandwagon along with Defensor just last year.

In another SARO, the DBM authorized the disbursement of P8.150 million to a total of 163 barangays in the fourth and fifth congressional districts, with each barangay getting a share of P50,000 as “financial assistance for the implementation of social services (such as but not limited to burial, medical, transportation, educational, food, etc) in the Province of Iloilo.”

The funds were distributed to the following LGUs: Dumangas (23 barangays), Passi City (26 barangays), Banate (16 barangays), Anilao (3 barangays), Barotac Nuevo (7 barangays), Duenas (2 barangays), San Enrique (8 barangays), San Rafael (8 barangays), Barotac Viejo (26 barangays), Concepcion (5 barangays), Ajuy (13 barangays), Lemery (5 barangays), Balasan (10 barangays), Batad (10 barangays).

In addition to these pork barrel releases by the Aquino administration, Drilon also allocated P30 million to the municipality of Sta. Barbara, Iloilo in September last year for the construction of a 3-kilometer road and P6 million to the municipality of Oton, Iloilo for a drainage project in barangay Cagbang.

Both PDAF disbursements were deemed part of Drilon’s strategy to solidy the Liberal Party’s machinery in preparation for the elections.

Lampoon: Hog industry fears decline in sales

The hog industry of the Philippines has expressed concern that the public outrage over the pork barrel scam will lead to a sharp decline in their sales.
“Now the pork will suffer from a worse image problem,” one major hog raiser from Iloilo said. “It used to be that cholesterol issues were the only ones we had to contend with. Now the pork has become a national symbol for wanton theft.”

Presidential hat trick: The pork is intact

President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III seems to have mastered the art of the sleight of words.

scrap porkIn a nationally televised address on Friday, Aug. 23, Pres. Aquino told the Filipino people in so many words that “it’s the time to abolish the PDAF” and that he wants to set into a motion a mechanism for stricter guidelines in the dispensation of public funds for development. The well-crafted turn of phrases, however, couldn’t hide the true nature of the President’s intentions. The pork barrel will be there to stay, to be managed under new rules. The President’s trick failed to fool the people.

Listening to Pres. Aquino deliver his address was torture. It was hard to capture his drift, so to speak. I even missed that particular one line that became the headline, or misleading headline, about his plans on pork. “It’s time to abolish the PDAF,” he said. It was carefully tucked midway into his speech. It ended a paragraph, and in writing parlance, didn’t get the prominence it deserved.

As the President droned on, I was feeling short of breath. I tweeted: “Did he or didn’t he abolish pork?” or something like that. I saw tweets from the networks saying he had said it, but he said more things that left me confused. It was only later when the full text of the address was posted online that I saw for myself, the cheering was premature.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Pres. Aquino didn’t abolish the pork barrel. It’s still there in his 2014 budget proposal. What he said was that he wanted to institute safeguards to make sure the funds are properly spent. His vague point about each and every district getting a fair share for projects was the give away. When you talk of legislative districts getting equal share of the pie, that’s pork barrel. It still gives the congressman and senator a say on where the money goes.

This is the problem with Pres. Aquino. He thinks he can just explain away things and people will swallow every morsel of it. He is misjudging the mood of the people. He may have succeeded with Houdini tricks in extricating himself from tight situations before. He should heed the lessons of history: you can’t fool the people all the time.