Just my opinion as an ex-Senate reporter
By Raïssa Robles
Former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, former Senate President pro tempore Jinggoy Estrada and Senator Bong Revilla are all multi-millionaires. Today they stand accused of the lowest of crimes any politician or government official can commit – pocketing funds supposed to go to the poorest of the poor.
Wonder no more why the country’s poverty rate has not only NOT dropped, it has actually been rising. Because all that money supposed to uplift people from poverty allegedly went to line the pockets of some already and sensationally wealthy people.
I’m not saying that Senators Enrile, Estrada and Revilla are guilty. What I’m saying is that grand theft of the very poor is the crime for which they have just been indicted by the Office of the Ombudsman.
And if you read the separate indictments – one against each senator – you are presented with a very detailed easy-to-understand paper trail that will take your breath away.
Just a word of caution. Don’t read it while eating or after. It may make you vomit.
I have posted a copy of each indictment at the end of this piece.
The three senators stand accused of stealing a combined P1.14 billion, broken down as follows:
Enrile P345 million
Estrada P278 million
Revilla P517 million
Consider this. Under our type of democracy, poverty alleviation is mainly the job of government. The government collects taxes in order to re-allocate these among all sectors of society, putting a special emphasis on the poor. It is for this reason that we have the “Conditional Cash Transfer Program” which gives poor families cash provided they keep their young children in school.
And it is for this reason congressmen and senators have been given millions of pesos in pork yearly, so that they can earmark these sums to their constituents, particularly the poor among them.
Just to give some examples as shown in their indictments.
The Ombudsman said that Revilla, for instance, allocated P517 million for the poor – and of this amount, P40 million was supposed to have bought “Agricultural Production Packages (knapsack sprayers, gardening tools and liquid fertilizers)” and gone to beneficiaries in the following provinces: San Agustin, Surigao del Sur; Bansalan, Davao del Sur; Buldon, Shariff Kabunsuan; Malalag, Davao del Sur; Gen. Salipada K. Pendatun, Maguindanao; Upi, Shariff Kabunsuan; Alubijid, Misamis Oriental; Montevista, Compostela Valley.
The P40 million simply vanished and never reached the intended recipients.
Meanwhile P20 million of Enrile’s pork was supposed to have bought “Fertilizer, Gardening Packages, and Knapsack sprayer” for beneficiaries in Don Marcelino, Davao del Sur; Banaybanay, Davao Oriental; Manukan, Zamboanga del Norte; and Magpet, North Cotabato. The P20 million also vanished and never reached the intended recipients.
Also to have vanished was a P22.5 million chunk of Estrada’s pork supposed to have gone to “Financial Assistance/Grants for livelihood materials and farm implements/inputs” for beneficiaries in the towns of Clarin, Misamis Occidental and Talusan, Zamboanga, Sibugay.
Where all that money vanished, I will answer in the next piece.
One third of all Filipinos belong to the farming sector. It is one of the sectors in most need of money but this comes in dribbles. In the specific examples I just gave, the combined amount that was lost amounted to P82.5 million. That kind of money would have been very welcome to revive the farms destroyed by typhoons and pests.
Last month, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala turned over P57 million worth of agriculture projects and assistance to poor farmers in Davao. That’s a piddling sum compared to what has been lost in the pork scam supposedly intended for farmers.
All the indicted senators have conceded that millions of pesos of their pork had been lost and these did not benefit the poor. As to where the money went, they indicated they did not know. But all of them insist they had nothing to do, nor were they responsible in any way for the disappearance of all that money.
Senator Enrile, in the counter-affidavit he submitted to the Ombudsman, said the implementation of pork projects “is the exclusive function and responsibility of the executive department.”
Senator Estrada said he “had no hand towards the implementation of the projects funded by the PDAF [such that his choice of NGO to implement his PDAF projects was] clearly recommendatory [and] is best left to the motivated and the willing.” Whatever did THAT mean?
The Ombudsman also quoted Estrada as saying he “did not conspire with anyone to pilfer or misuse his PDAF allocations, and his association with Napoles did not necessarily mean that he connived with her to divert PDAF disbursements; and following the Arias doctrine, he merely relied on the recommendations of his subordinate.”
The Arias doctrine refers to a corruption case brought before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan which essentially acquitted a public official from the acts of “dishonest or negligent subordinates.” In other words,
Revilla Estrada was blaming his staff for the pork scam.
Revilla took a different tack. In his counter affidavit, he said his signatures in all the pork documents were forged. If there were irregularities, he said he “should not be held liable as [his] involvement in the PDAF released (sic) is limited.” How limited, Revilla did not say.
If you ask me, all their arguments are fantastic for one obvious reason. The Senate is the only government entity given vast powers to investigate anomalies through the Blue Ribbon Committee. When the pork barrel scandal first broke middle of last year, none of the three senators angrily stood up and demanded that his name be cleared in a wide-ranging investigation. All three waited and waited months before speaking out.
A law professor has waded in to say there is nothing to force these senators to resign while their cases are going on, because all are innocent until proven guilty.
For me, that sums up everything that is wrong with our democratic system. Our leaders have no sense of delicadeza that is evident in other democracies like Germany or Japan. At the faintest whiff of scandal, an official in those countries resigns out of a sense of honor. Many of our officials are called “Honorable” without deserving that title.
Even if the three senators are still not convicted of any crime, it is clear they did not take great care of the people’s money. And yet they rant and rave whenever they accuse other government officials outside the legislature of corruption and scandal. These senators have lost the moral ascendancy to investigate other officials of wrongdoing.
Let the heckling begin whenever they accuse any official of a crime or investigate him for one. You can read below the indictments filed by the Ombudsman against Revilla, Estrada and Enrile.