Monday, November 04, 2013

An excerpt from Ted Laguatan’s article in the Inquirer’s Global Nation:

An excerpt from Ted Laguatan’s article in the Inquirer’s Global Nation:
Filing plunder charges against ‘pork’ thieves should not be this slow

“the national consciousness of Philippine justice moving at molasses flow rate...”


The national consciousness of Philippine justice moving at molasses flow rate also has everyone anxious and wondering whether these instant cases will be just like the Ampatuan massacre cases. Four years have passed and not a single Ampatuan defendant has been convicted.
The people are also aware of the fact that none of the Marcoses or their cronies have been convicted nor has the bulk of their stolen wealth been recovered. This lengthy or failed prosecution of defendants who clearly are guilty as hell is a damning reflection of the Philippine justice system.
The longer it takes to file charges (pork barrel scam), the more Filipinos continue to lose faith in their government. Already, many Filipinos are becoming increasingly doubtful of the possibility of jailing the big politico sharks. They are also concerned that with all these delays, the suspects are given so much opportunity to move and hide their loot and destroy the evidence. In other jurisdictions in the world, as a matter of common sense and practicality, warrants for immediate seizure of evidence would already have been long issued.
It is obvious to deeper thinking observers that the ultra-left forces and the propaganda forces of the powerful accused suspects together with the Marcos and Arroyo forces – have combined to misdirect the people by putting the blame instead on Aquino. They want to make it look like it is Aquino who is the wrongdoer instead of the actual thieves. Of course, it serves the interest of the ultra-left connected to Beijing to bring down the government; whereas, it serves the interest of the specified others to bring down Aquino.
Aquino should just ignore the taunts of the enemy. He should just continue to do the right thing - aggressively relentlessly bear down and even increase efforts in the fight against corruption and corrupt people. Results are what people appreciate and recognize.
The longer the Ombudsman delays in filing plunder cases against the accused, the more frustrated the people become – including those who support Aquino in his anti-corruption crusade. That frustration can very well eventually turn against President Aquino as the delay can be used by his enemies to question his sincerity.
While the Ombudsman is theoretically supposedly independent in carrying out her job, the public perception is that the President appointed her and therefore, he can influence her to step on the accelerator. The more she delays, the more the President’s credibility and rating goes down.
This is Aquino’s defining moment and a great opportunity for the country. He can either be a consistently strong moral leader, take the bull by the horns, throw all the bad guys in jail including certain allies, make his martyred father’s impossible dream of a better life for Filipinos come true – or get discouraged, fail to do all these and fizzle as a dud winding up forgotten in the dustbin of history.
Hopefully, the Ombudsman can read the sign of the times, be constantly sensitive to the fact that she is the representative of the people in bringing to justice erring public officials who betray the public trust. She must have a good feel for the public pulse. And what do the people want?
The people are justified in wanting and demanding speedy justice. They want plunder and other charges against the Senators, Congressmen and other officials filed as soon as possible. They want them arrested and jailed now. If this is done within the next 45 days, watch Filipinos and the world stand up and applaud. Filipinos and the rest of the world who hold us in affection – want crooked politicians and officials who have been blatantly stealing the people’s money and causing suffering to millions – to stop their corruption and get the punishment they deserve. Period.
The only real way we can rid the Philippines of endemic widespread institutionalized corruption is to alter the mindset of our people. The nation needs to impose harsh penalties against corrupt officials instead of rewarding them. We should also teach and develop among our people a deep appreciation of the value of honesty as a way of life. We should impress to our children the culture of honesty from the time they start school and preach it from every pulpit and shout it from every podium.
Well-meaning people understand the reality of the difficulties in the jobs of President Aquino and the Ombudsman. But as long as both and other officials continue to act in good faith in the sacred quest for a better country, they will not be lacking in support in fighting to end the powerful evil forces of corruption and social injustice that plagues our people.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Mendicant Children: Our Future





The situation regarding the controversial “pork barrel” scam is fast becoming confused and adumbrated. What started out as a hope filled brilliant light at the end of the tunnel has now been shrouded in sooty smog. What a big majority of us thought was a major headway in P’noy’s mission to eradicate corruption in government has been blunted by frenetic efforts of those who were most threatened by prosecution, together with their allies and those who benefit from status quo. A lot of us well meaning citizens were in ecstatic joy when the “pork scandal” first surfaced. But what is it now?...the whole event has turned into a temple of Babel, a confused plaza of shouting matches, misdirection with false leads, broad gauge shots of accusations and the creation of opportunistic alliances with groups that have no relevance to the issues except  for a common contrarian stance against the government of P’noy. All these have been cleverly orchestrated to delay the prosecution of the major protagonists (JPE, Bong, Jinggoy and some congressmen). 

The opposition has succeeded in no mean way. The popularity rating of P’noy has gone down significantly and quite a few who earlier supported Pnoy are now a befuddled lot, playing into the hands of the other side by joining marches that included the agenda of the left and being convinced of the clever ploy of making “pork barrel” per se as an evil thing, the president’s budget included. They have managed to convince a lot of people that the budget, even that of the president’s, is evil. By attaching the emotional term “pork” on the chief executive’s budget they, with the help of the mercenary army of hacks in broadcast and print media, have been successful in staining the president’s reputation. The ploy is not so much to hamstring the president’s ability to make the government function, but, to besmirch his name as a “pork” user himself to the point of calling him “Pork King”. At some juncture in time, the focus to get things done urgently was lost as there were those of us who joined in raising the number count and the noise level to several decibels higher, thus helping the cause of the other side.

For us who want P’noy to succeed, all we want to happen is to have a quick prosecution of the main suspects. The successful prosecution of the big time perpetrators will pave the way for reforms in government and its bureaucracy; this will spell the end of institutionalised corruption. The wheel of justice in our country grinds exceedingly slow and if we let this run at its usual pace we would have given the perpetrators a chance to be pardoned by P’noy’s successor, a somebody who may be as “friendly” as PGMA, who in her tenure pardoned the most obnoxious miscreants. When this happens, we are back to square one, and the evil powers have saved “happy days” once more.

Through all these years, what has transpired in the last few months would be the only real opportunity to cleanse government of graft and corruption. Without the expose’ of the PDAF scam involving our senators, congressmen and other government position holders, the country was traversing a moribund path towards an inextricable quagmire that will condemn generations of Filipinos into lives of deprivation, illiteracy and anomie. A sharp contrast to “daang matuwid” which promises the long sought redemption of the Filipino from the entrenched graft and corrupt way of life which only benefits the 1%.

Realistically, some of us in this forum may no longer see the changes come about in our lifetime, but, all we want is to be assured that systemic corruption has been halted and that this insidious cancer would not continue to metastasize and crush all hopes we have for our children and grandchildren.

The efforts of the other side have been fierce and relentless. The people behind the effort to blunt the resonance of the “pork barrel” scam are experts at managing and creating events. With the aid of spin doctors and incredible hacks in media they were able to confuse the issues through disinformation and misinformation. Desperate and vicious counterattacks have been fast and furious and have managed to succeed in shattering the conviction of some who were supportive of Pnoy’s initiatives earlier. Rallies started with honest intentions and were real expressions of outrage against the excesses of the legislators. Succeeding rallies became opportunities for the other side to obfuscate issues. Teaming up with parties with other agendas, but with common hostility towards Pnoy, they were able to distract and cause some of the pro Pnoy groups to lose their focus. In the meantime, the henchmen of the other side are busy at work creating all sorts of distractions designed to delay the prosecution of the perpetrators.

For those who continue to go against Pnoy and his mission, I urge you to examine your motives for siding with the other side. I refuse to believe that the reasons could be ideological, or a difference in program of governance or patriotism. I don’t think anyone will disagree that the system we have lived with all these years has been a patently corrupt one and that reforms have long been needed and neither is it arguable that our government officials; senators, congressmen and some members of the bureaucracy have committed heinous and unconscionable crimes against the Filipino people and this travesty need to be redressed.

What are the reasons why there are still people who support the other side despite their obvious evil intentions? Why don’t they support Pnoy?

Let me hazard a few guesses:

1.     they  believe that “pork barrel” is inherently evil
2.     they now believe that P’noy is equally guilty because he himself has “pork”
3.     they believe that P’noy’s sincerity is not enough to create positive change
4.     they believe that everybody in the COA report should be charged immediately
5.     they are part of the group of politicians who benefit from status quo,
6.     they are among those threatened by prosecution for involvement or are complicit to defraud the government,
7.      they have familial relationships with the those on the other side,
8.     they have existing businesses and undertakings that will be adversely affected by the reforms,
9.     they have close friends and associates who are enmeshed in the scandal,
10.  they have an axe to grind against P’noy,
11.   they owe a debt of gratitude with the suspects in the “pork barrel” scam
12.  they are of the conviction that we need to have a change of government or ideology (against Pnoy or any other president),
13.  they have a mercenary relationship with the opposition and the suspects
14.  they entertain the hope that the “well” has not yet dried up when they get elected in the future  
15.  they don’t really care because they have a weak allegiance to the country,
16.  they have a sense of loyalty for being with them for a long time etc. etc.
17.  They are employed in businesses, institutions and professional offices owned by the other side

                                                       
Well, if it is not any of the above, we can easily manufacture one. The human mind is so resilient that it can rationalize readily an opinion even if it is blatantly indefensible. Going through the list help us identify real motives from the rationalized ones.

No matter how much rationalisation is done to assuage and hide the guilt, the spectre of mendicant children of our future...maybe of our own grandchildren, weighs heavy on the mind and will haunt us because a sea change in the country was happening but we let it go with the tide.

   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Charges Have Been Filed, What Next?


What Next? Everybody’s asking.
 


When a dog has caught up with the car he is chasing what will he do with it? As everyone knows the dog will have earned the right to pee on the tires, it is not only right and just, but instinct dictates it.

The government has caught up with Janet Napoles, a potential star witness to the unearthed scams perpetrated by the some senators, congressmen together with possible accomplices in the bureaucracy. Like the speedy dog earning his right to pee on the tires, which the dog immediately did before the car drove away, the government should instinctively do what it has to do after a successful chase…investigate and prosecute immediately, otherwise the suspected miscreants would have time to regroup and make their getaway either by wheel chair, which is the getaway vehicle of choice of many miscreants; by pulling a Copperfield disappearing act; or by allowing it to go to the usual courts where the case will languish in the dockets far longer than even the life time of the youngest senator or congressman.

It seems that Philippine courts are the holding areas of the guilty rich and evil people for the Court of Courts up there, where all of them wait for Divine Justice to be meted out on them, something they have been successful in parrying on earth. Most will get their comeuppance here, where ultimate justice will be served on everyone and harsh punishment of hellfire and eternal damnation will be meted without the benefit of appeals. Some by grace and by the infinite mercy of the Almighty will not be punished in perpetua, but, for a limited stay in an unknown and desolate waiting place.  Attorneys Lorna Kapunan, Sigried Fortun and any of the “de campana” lawyers’ pleas will be not heeded. Even if you kill one of them to accompany their client it will be to no avail for he or she will have to worry about the unfiled cases against them on earth but are already set for litigation, up there, in the Court of Courts. They will be too busy defending themselves.

It seems that the Pnoy has been pussyfooting on making a decision to push for speedy investigations. It seems that unlike dogs (of the James Thurber kind), the government is lacking in instinctive actions. Thurber’s dogs seem to be a lot cooler and smarter. While Pnoy vacillates the suspects are able to regroup after the initial shock and are now busy with cover up strategies, intensifying media noise through their battery of paid hacks in print and broadcast media spewing all sorts of disinformation and sowing intrigue through innuendoes. Their lawyers are burning the midnight oil and eyebrows looking for loopholes, evidence suppression ploys, crafting libel suits by the hundreds, searching for jurisprudence that can be twisted, weaving tales, fabricating alibis, buying expert witnesses to prove forgeries, selecting medical practitioners who may come in handy when the going gets rough for their clients and other useful tactics to delay trials or even exonerate their clients from the charges. And chances are, they will succeed, a favourite case that is always alluded to is the Ampatuan massacre case which through shrewd lawyering was able to extend the trial for a ridiculous length of time with not a single accused being sentenced. With all the delay, more victims have been added to the list as men with tales to tell continue to disappear.

Something has to be done about our justice system, at least for the time being when we seek to prosecute the guilty parties of this heinous crime of depriving the citizens of the republic, most of whom are impoverished, of the money allotted for their amelioration. At least seventy percent of the money allocated by the government for services to be rendered to its citizens have been purloined by the very people who were supposed to look after them. Senators and congressmen have brazenly ransacked the till without regard to the people who have placed them in their positions. The pork barrel crimes become more insidious in a backdrop of grinding poverty and high unemployment rates.

Finally after some prodding from the people, charges have been put together and filed. This was a cause for elation, for at least, what seemed a stolid and immoveable phase has finally been resolved and the process is off to a start. The joy is short lived, we are now about to start on the next chapter which is the prosecution of the alleged perpetrators of the scam. Preliminary investigations follow soon after the charges are made. With the voluminous documents gathered by the Justice Department, truckloads as reported, one could expect that some time will be spent poring over all the evidences before the Ombudsman can file charges and issue warrants of arrest on the suspects. Plunder is a nonbailable offense, it calls for an immediate expulsion from any government position and it will place them in jail detention.

With the money and influence most of the suspects have at their disposal, the initial time estimate before charges could be filed would be at least two years. Then the litigations would probably take, conservatively another three years or more depending on how much money is available for their defense. Defense would include use of the network of friends in the courts, the effectiveness of their dilatory tactics, expert witnesses of all kinds, defaulting circumstances, fabrication of evidences and more depending on how many tricks the lawyers have in their bag of magic.

The estimated time for the cases to progress are experience based, historical and in the normality of things (normal being dilatory tactics and other influences will be exerted as is normal in Philippines). If allowed its normal course some of the suspects will probably get his just deserts in the Court of Courts while the others will probably still be around but with extreme depletions from their loot due to the lengthy litigations their cases have taken. The loot would have transferred to a new power group, the creation of the lawyer oligarchs.

But we should take hear.t that at the forefront of side of the people are three stalwarts, three “iron ladies” which journalists prefer to describe them. The ladies are Ombudsman Charito Carpio Morales, COA Commissioner Gracia Pulido Tan and DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima. All three are feistiness personified. Tough, uncompromising and doggedly determined to fight corruption and criminality.

We have seen how focused Leila de Lima was when the scam surfaced with the rescue of the whistle blowers from illegal detention.  Gracia Pulido Tan with her people in COA had assiduously put together a report that was so comprehensive that those alluded to either vehemently reacted or just went into a low profile stance. Ombudsman Charito Carpio Morales, in anticipation did her own investigate work even before the DOJ delivered the documentary evidence. She more or less promised that her work will be completed in a year’s time.

Despite this formidable team working on our side, the citizens, we cannot just lay back and feel smug that all will be well. This is not a time for complacency; we have hardly won anything, there is an eternity of time between now and the conviction of the guilty ones. The other side is composed of strong and well heeled; they will not just lie supinely in their backs and let justice take its course. No way. These are cornered rats fighting for survival with awesome resources. We are in for a long, vicious protracted fight and vigilance must be maintained till the threat is repelled.

All these dangers have been foreseen and what worried most of us is that nothing might come out of this because the suspected perpetrators are from the powerful political blocs and families who would definitely fight tooth and nail in their defense. The most discouraging thought is the ineptness and the slow moving Philippine judicial process. The Ampatuan case, where the accused parties are patently guilty of the most heinous wholesale massacre of media men and political rivals is more than five years in the works without any sign of ever being resolved. The first tranch of cases filed already included quite a lot; the waiting list of persons to be charged is even longer. If nothing is changed with the way courts handle cases the pork litigations will still be around in the next generation.

During the early discussions in our e-groups I came up with a suggestion on an abridged judicial process and other ways of proceeding.

 

The first step is identifying persons, institutions who may be involved in the scam.

The Defendants

      1.   Case against Government personalities (elected or appointed)

A.  Legislators and other government officials (elected or appointed) with pork barrel entitlements

B.  Accomplices in government. Officials of implementing agencies, cabinet members and their staff who knowingly aided and abetted the scam

 

2.   Non government personalities and entities

a.   Persons or institutions (companies, NGOs) who set up the structure of the scam operations

b.   Persons who operated the institutions involved in the scam

c.   And personnel who knowingly aided and abetted the scam

d.   Other nongovernment institutions and persons complicit in the crime (banks, law enforcement, others who aided the commission of the crime)

Secondly, to address the concern of the snails’ pace our judicial process moves I suggested the convening of a special court to expedite the proceedings.

 

Convening of A Special Court To Try the Cases

1.   Introduce new features in litigation rules which could prevent dilatory and other process impeding tactics.

2.   Nonstop hearing schedules

3.   One legislative defendant at a time. There will be similarities in most cases. The first one may serve as jurisprudence to expedite the trials of the subsequent ones

4.   Rigorous screening of judges who will be involved in trying the cases

5.   Rigorous screening of the team that will compose the prosecution to avoid unwitting or witting ineptness and errors that could result in defaults

 
Thirdly, there are a myriad concerns that are corollary to the judicial process in this scam. I have listed a few which I felt those involved should be aware of. The list is by no means exhaustive and there would still be quite a few that could be added.

 
Other Concerns

1.   Safeguarding witnesses

2.   Safeguarding material evidences

3.   Continuous search for new evidences and witnesses

4.   Money/asset securing procedures (precaution and pre-emption)

5.   Ensuring that the defendants do not flee the country

6.   Media management – media bureau to brief media and for press releases

7.   Security management of court venue/s and others where threats exist

At this time the first tranch of charges has been filed. The DOJ has done its investigation on the priority cases, the COA has completed a comprehensive report on the PDAF transactions (clean and the questionable ones), the ombudsman has geared up doing parallel investigative work even before receiving the documented evidences from the DOJ. It seems we’re off to an auspicious start and will be making headways into the successful prosecution of the guilty parties. We need to stay vigilant as there will be twists and turns as the cases progress.
Let’s all keep on trucking.



 

 

Monday, September 09, 2013

The Pork Rallies


 
 
    
More “pork” rallies are scheduled after the Million Man March at the Luneta last August 26. The series of rallies are intended to put pressure on the government to scrap the PDAF which more or less has been done or promised and urgently pursue investigations leading to the prosecution of the legislators alleged to have dipped their fingers in the “pork barrel”.  Now those objectives seem to be easily accepted common causes for rallying the people to get together in Luneta, EDSA, Plaza Miranda, Mendiola and other venues appropriate for venting their ire.

 

Not quite.

 

Enter the groups with agendas far removed from the purpose originally intended but would like to thumb a ride on the expected big turn-out for the event.

 

The leftists represented by cause oriented groups and the party lists with socialist leanings will be there. The speculated reasons they will be there would be to disrupt the proceedings and sabotage the scrapping of the pork which for years now have been the legitimate source of funding for their not too patriotic endeavours and also to discredit the Aquino administration which has been the gist of their rhetoric.

 

The group of the suspected legislators in the scam list are not expected to lie idle and just belly up without a fight. With the huge collective wherewithal of money, influence and power within this group they can organize an army of marchers, again with the end in view of discrediting the administration and the investigations conducted by the government agencies. It is a back against the wall situation for them and like cornered rats they will employ all the tricks they can muster, violence and mayhem included.

 

Another group with a special stake in all of these are the political groups, the opposition party who stand to gain with the retention of the status quo. They will make capital of the large crowd speculated to be more grass roots than the Luneta marchers. These are popular politicians whose popularity stem from their supposed images of being champions of the poor largely created by patronage politics which has been the conventional gambit of the “trapos”. This group also seeks the discrediting of Pnoy and his administration and may well be the most formidable because of its populist image, its efficient machinery and a big enough war chest to fund anything; from building cathedrals to financing revolutions.

 

Another group is composed of the progeny of the leader of the failed New Society. Much of the Marcos wealth remains intact with just a few crumbs surrendered to PCCG. A lot more of the plunder are still being pursued by the new, improved PCCG whose efforts seem to have had little progress thus far. Bongbong dreaming of the glory days in Malacanan would not hesitate to use the treasure cache left by his father to finance a grand “resbak”. The rally has been auspiciously set on the birthday of the Marcos. Expect hordes of “hakot” chanting for a return to old New Society. More than this motive Bongbong is also addressing the threat of prosecution with his alleged complicity in the “pork barrel” scam.

 

Not to be ignored are remnants of the not too distant past, the diseased Gloria and cohorts. Just like the legislators et al, this group is vulnerable to probes soon after the investigations and prosecution in the “pork barrel” are dealt with. Corruption is similar to cancer, the evil leaves a distinct trail which has an odious nexus, much like cancer metastasizing whose spread is interconnected. They, too, share the desire to see that Pnoy fails in his anti-corruption mission and they will easy to recognize by the kind of placards they bear during the rally.

 

There is, of course, the sincere and moral middle class who invented peaceful revolutions, the original organizers of the protest march at the Luneta to show their outrage against the “pork barrel scam”. These are the same people who led the EDSA I and EDSA II revolutions. Erap protested the fact that this was not a true revolution because the poor were hardly represented in any of these uprisings. Even Marcos said that the revolution that ousted him was not truly a people’s initiative because it was only in Manila and from people of the upper middle to upper classes of society; hardly populist. Through history the middle class have taken up the cudgels for the poor to ameliorate them from their wretched conditions. Those living in poverty hardly have the time to join these protest marches. They are too busy eking out a daily subsistence, or may even be clueless as to what is about in their midst, or are resigned to the fact that all these are just a tiresomeness that is not relevant to their lives. If ever they find themselves involved in these marches it is not for grievances or causes but as paid participants to mouth scripted chants and wave placards prepared by organizers.

 

It will be good if the turn-out is in great numbers. The government seems to respond well to numbers, big numbers and hopefully they are pushed to act with urgency on the investigations and expedite the filing of cases against the suspected perpetrators of the scam. The other demands are the abolition of the “pork barrel” which has already been attended to or promised to be attended to and the FOI bill which has not gotten any favorable response from Pnoy thus far.

 

Let us hope that nothing untoward will happen in the upcoming rallies. There is the risk that the groups with hidden agendas might start provocative moves which can trigger an inadvertent response from the crowd control officers in the rally. As happened in several demonstrations in the past these end up in violence with victims losing life and limb. Invariably, these are blamed on the peace keeping officers, crowd control group who are perceived as representatives of government and its leaders. The stakes are high with socialist ideologues smelling an opportunity to discredit government, suspected plunderers in desperate straits, ghosts of past despots crying reinstitution and contemporary politics rearing its ugly head to seize an advantage.

 

Pray earnestly that these demonstrations do not become sensational disasters that serve the immoral and harmful goals of some and that the government relent and heed the demands of marchers who are sincere of heart and purpose.

 

After Luneta, the subsequent rallies will not be a walk in the park, but a trek into virtual minefields which will sow confusion. There is so much at stake with so many groups of different agendas but all in agreement to thwart Pnoy’s anti corruption mission. Be not cowed by the colossal evil that confronts us. In the end Truth and Justice will prevail and there will be peace in our land.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Slow Justice Is No Justice

 
 
Despite all the noise of misinformation and disinformation being floated about to stir controversy, create confusion in order to delay or block the investigations and the filing of cases all these will settle down and the judicial process w...ill begin.
There seems to be enough evidence and testimonies to nail the guilty parties but the process will be painfully slow for reasons we all know too well. With most of the accused belonging to the power elite it will probably be as snail paced as the Ampatuan trial multiplied by the number of accused persons. The score in favor of the Filipino people... Nada, with only the lawyers of a certain ilk emerging as winners.
I do not know of ways of making the wheels of justice run faster in these cases. My simplistic mind can only suggest convening a special court to handle this. I would even go as far as suggesting that perhaps due process may be relaxed a bit in favor of the Filipino people rather than the powerful and monied individual which due process favors. It is only right that in this case we tilt the balance in our favor. The late president Ramon Magsaysay once said "those who have less in life should be given more in law". With the inequitable wealth distribution most of us would belong to those having less in life, 99% to borrow an OWS term.
If this is treated in the usual judicial manner we will never see justice served. With legal legerdemain the high caliber mercenary lawyers will just come up with blocks, all legal, and in a few years time, when Pnoy gets his deserved rest, all these will be relegated to the dust bin of history.
I do not know how to progress this. Maybe those amongst us who have the expertise and talent can come up with a workable plan. We do not have a dearth of these brilliant people in grupo58 and AFBP. Of course some of you may not agree and consider this as harebrained but I can say without fear of contradiction that we all seek redress from this despicable plunder of oyr money and would like to see justice served in our lifetime.
 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Best Laid Plans of Swine and Men


 



 
The “pork barrel” scandal has been the subject of so many news items, articles by renowned columnists of all major dailies. It has also occupied so much space in Blogosphere and anyone who has some real estate in this vast writing pad would want to put his or her few cents worth about pigsties and lawmakers. I am no exception. Now that Janet, the Pork Queen has surrendered to the intrepid boar hunter of Malacanan, the pressure to write about it in my blog has mounted. The topic is not about to write finis but the drama has moved on to the next act and anything written before that becomes stale and superfluous.

 

The pork barrel is a system of budget distribution involving our legislators working with the assistance of other lower government officials; elected or appointed. It endeavours to ensure that the economic, social and other basic needs of constituent groups are funded from the government’s coffers on an equitable and rationalized manner. Congressmen are tasked to provide the necessary service to their constituent groups; urban districts, provinces, townships, cities, provinces and other sectors which make up their constituencies. Senators have funds for national services and other aids to the citizenry in general and not of particular regional and sectoral constituencies. The legislators have handed out the “pork barrel” to their home constituencies in the form of money for roads, bridges, hospitals, puericulture centers, irrigation systems etc and all sorts of civic projects like the ubiquitous basketball courts in most city districts and townships.

 

Truly logical and laudable by its intentions but now sullied by thievery of the highest order.

 

The “pork barrel” has been with us for scores of years and despite its reputation for being a source of graft and corruption, the citizenry have been inured to it and resigned themselves to its being there. Almost everyone in government have been aware of the corruption engendered by the “pork barrel” system that it has had several lame attempts of deodorizing it through euphemistic names it has been christened with such as SLDP (Support for Local Development Project), CDF (Countrywide Development Fund) and now PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund). The “pork barrel” is the reason why candidates spend millions in electoral campaigns and go to the extent of murder and wholesale massacres because they know that they will be able to recoup their investments and much, much more once in position.

 

The shit hit the fan when whistleblowers came out, not altruistically but more for self preservation, to expose the operations of Janet Napoles who allegedly facilitated (for donkey years now) the siphoning of pork funds through a group of NGOs in varying shades of fakedness, some truly fake and others, legitimate but conscripted for the evil enterprise. This is how the “pork barrel” funds of quite a few legislators (senators and congressmen) where diverted and disbursed on ghost projects and some real ones but graft tainted. It was only at this time, when media made a cause celebre of it that we were made aware of the extensiveness of the scams and the magnitude of the high level thievery. In some instances only a minimal amount of the budget went to the actual completion of projects and in several cases nothing actually went to projects. For projects that have been started and completed little has been left to for actual use that it resulted in substandard completion of infrastructure projects, buildings, agricultural structures etc. leading to their short lived usability.

 

The implication of several high level names in politics and government agencies in the expose’ sent the threatened miscreants scrambling for alibis and scurrying to make ready their safe havens. Denials of association with Janet Napoles were sworn to only to be debunked when photos of Janet mingling with the power elite in social situations came out. One even featured the Pork Queen as a wedding sponsor or in others as business partners in some enterprise.

 

Media has been instrumental in communicating widely the stench. The expose’ happened at a time when poverty is rife in the whole country and the devastation created by recent natural calamities exacerbated the situation. Add to this the hunger ratings is at an all time low in the lower levels of society. Millions were in desperate straits.

 

As in most protests, the middle class have been at the forefront of the show of outrage and inevitably organized the show of displeasure for the “pork barrel” by enjoining the citizenry to march to Luneta last August 26, 2013. Prior to the march, opinion leaders, influential bloggers and a wide spectrum of civic organization leaders through their spokespersons expressed their outrage through conventional media and the internet. The middle class have been, through history, the catalyst, the movers and shakers in society to clamour for change on felt travesties committed by those in power; either by avaricious oligarchs or by corrupt government authorities. A bit unfair to the rich is the statement (though it has a vestige of truth) is the adage “the poor are amoral; the rich, immoral and the middle class moral”. Often times the middle class take up the cudgels for the oppressed poor of society who, at times, are somwhate clueless and may not be very aware of the oppression being inflicted upon them by government and of the ravenous greed of oligarchs. They are also being used as cannon fodder for a pittance by those on the left side of social ideology scale and of traditional politicians for the furtherance of their selfish agendas.

 

Now the circus is in town, the big top is up and the circus ring floor tedded with dry hay and sand to absorb the gore and the filth of upcoming tragicomic numbers. We will be at the ringside treated to the parade of wild beasts. Enter creatures from the bestiary...the thunderous crack of whips will elicit roars from the accused predators... clowns will waddle in to provide relief and a momentary lull, comic or otherwise...quick change artists will go in and out at the baton of a ring master. Let us just hope that this is not just a festive command performance to assuage our frazzled nerve ends and perhaps to cater to a slight touch of sadism to heckle and throw eggs and rotten vegetables to a bad performance of the dramatis personae; only for them to vanish into the proscenium and be forgiven and forgotten after the curtsy as the curtains fall. The curtain falls not on them but on us. Let us not make this happen.

 

What is common to the citizenry is the sense of outrage for the shameless thievery perpetrated by our elected government officials, the bureaucracy and some unscrupulous facilitators of the scam. The need to be indignant is so palpably felt in the midst of prevalent poverty, sufferings and sacrifices of the OFW, the struggle against hunger, the chronic lack of aid and services to alleviate the plight of the poor especially now that natural calamities have been more frequent and disastrous. Money that should have gone to efficient flood control projects, well built infrastructure projects have been pocketed by the guys who were supposed to look after their needs and concerns. It is sad to see that most of the poor people cannot connect this to the plunder of the government coffers. Sharing of the largesse from the plunder a’la Robin Hood through measly “pantawid” food packages are better appreciated by the masa. Some of them join rallies to avail of the “hakot” fee coming from the diverse interest groups. They are busy trying to keep their heads above the debris ridden flood waters, keeping body and soul together, making the “pork barrel” issue remote and irrelevant to the pressing needs that stare them in the eye the livelong day. Even if it takes a long indefinite period of time the issues have to be explained so that they will not be completely clueless of the real and main issues. We need everyone to have a sustained belief for change...for us to pursue with arms linked together with every well meaning citizen until such time the positive changes are seen to their fruition.

 

The marchers at Luneta share the outrage on the thievery involved in the “pork barrel” but they take different stands as to where the blame lies, who are to be included for prosecution, whether the announced changes in the disbursement system are sufficient to make it efficient, effective and foolproof.  There are those who believe that Pnoy is embroiled in this fiasco. They are of the opinion that Pnoy is protecting his people; his cabinet members and his “kapartidos” in the political scene. Add to this those who believe that there will be no real changes made, only a change of name, another euphemistic word for “pork barrel”. Some groups are of the opinion that Pnoy is not involved in the scam to plunder the government coffers and that he continues to be sincere and honest in his actions to ferret out the truth of the involvement of people and to bring them to the doors of justice regardless of political leanings, familial and social connections. Then again there would be other aggrupations having their own agendas, some ideological, some religious, some big business and others having specific interests attached to organizations they belong to. It is a motley bunch, these marchers, so don’t hold your breath, we may be in for a long wait despite the importance of a more expeditious solution.

 

In my simplistic assessment the two most important things that have to be done post haste. First is the prosecution of those found with enough evidence of guilt. There must be a way of hot-housing the judicial process otherwise the cases filed will just form part of the stockpile of cases pending resolution in our courts. The wheels of justice grind exceedingly slow but in our case it seems to have ground to a halt and justice will never be dispensed as the cases wait in the long queue. It seems that nailing the big fish is an impossibility and that we will never deliver a signal and a lesson to all those with ill will that crime does not pay. Perhaps the convening a special court to deal with the “pork barrel” cases should be organized to facilitate and expedite the resolution of the cases.

 

The second item is to look for an alternative delivery system of government’s money to bring to the citizenry the various basic services, economic assistance, and the creation of an ideal environment that is peaceful and secure, things that they have not enjoyed for so long a time. The delivery system should operate devoid of influence from politicians. They should be barred from having anything to do with the allotment of monies, choice of suppliers...any operational aspect which would redound to their having the authority and the discretion at any phase of projects. They may, however, direct the implementing body to projects that are needed by their constituencies as they would be closer to the ground and would be in the best position to know their needs. Lawmakers should not be given discretionary powers on anything involving selection of suppliers and authority to approve payments of any project. Keeping filthy hands away from the honeypot ensures full use of the government’s money, our money, to deliver services that should accrue to the citizens’ benefit. As a bonus, it disincentivises those not qualified for government elected positions from running, e.g. popular actors and actresses, basketball stars, colourful charlatans, all sorts of riff raff who by sensation and by chance have been favoured by media mileage.

 

While these seem simple enough to understand, in reality, these are easier said than done. The prosecution of the guilty parties will not easily be achieved. The people involved are in high places, with lots of money and influence and may have involved more people implicitly and explicitly. The Ombudsman has already expressed her dismay to the seeming reluctance of some government agencies to cooperate and comply with her requests for reports, statistics and other useful documents she will need to build her edifice of evidence against the errant legislators and their accomplices.

Cleaning up Janet Napoles’ pig sty is an Augean task which would require the strength of Hercules, the patience of Job, the swift justice of Judge Dredd and a dash of Solomonic wisdom. There are just too many legislators involved that the legislative function of the government would be frozen if most of them would be found guilty. It may not be such a bad idea, in fact I relish the thought of having the salaries and the perks of guilty persons cancelled and their budgets held in suspense. Apart from the savings it may cause Congress and the Senate to be more productive in the absence of the scalawags.

 

The creation of an alternative delivery system would require more studies involving methods, information systems, computerization, security systems and other necessary operational aspects. It will also require the recruitment of new staff to the implementing agencies to augment the work force left after sacking those involved in the scams, also the filling up of the new expertise requirements that the new delivery system will require and a remunerations review which will seek the raising of salary scales of the organization to attract professionals and also to ensure that temptation to participate in irregularities of the past are avoided. This is an administration model that may serve as prototype of the other implementing agencies of the government.

 

I continue to put my faith in Pnoy. I will not trust the job to any other person now in government. Most of them are not lacking in intelligence and the capacity to do governance work but the task ahead requires a unique trait, a rare quality among local public servants, that of being honest and sincere to be of service to people. His mission of ridding our government of the long staying, pervasive and deeply rooted corruption is the key towards shepherding change. He may not be the brightest, nor the most articulate and not the most decisive but he gets my vote as our leader towards a better government and a better nation because he is truly in the mould of philosopher kings, a true servant to the interest of his people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

Danse Macabre


 
 

Saffron daubed dancers on bowed legs
Gold tipped fingers tilted upward
Wide eyed but expressionless
Beckoning with uncertain malice

Peacock headdress strutting, eyes like
Black dots darting left, then right
Oblivious of the boisterous, crass crowd
Heads cranking on the plink of the gamelan

Foot bells tinkle at the angklung’s hollow beat
Earthy auburn songket sarong with gilded edge
Glittered playfully with each half turn of
Pretty boys masquerading as nubile dancers

At the last clang of the agong they scampered
Sucked into the emptiness of the night’s void
Piercing sounds shrieked from the dead quiet
Augured that somewhere tragedy has struck

It was a chilling, killing night in Bali
Terror struck with hellish ferocity
Blood striped pale faces run helter-skelter
Minced by shards strewn by wrathful blast

Mangled limbs dangled on dancing carcasses
The hapless hobbled and crept, lost in terror
The pall of the blackened smoke draped heavy
Kuta reeked with zealot’s pungent hate

In nearby Nusa Dua, the merriment ran on
Youthful artistes plied their age-old trade
While revelers loud with obscene laughter
Unaware of the other despoliation elsewhere

In the morrow they washed their bikinis
To rid of the red that came with the tide
Batik now indelibly stained with carmine blot
A stain in the land’s richly textured tapestry

Where now the inimitable Balinese smile?
Where now the art of the woodcarver, the painter,
The smithy, the batik dyer, dancer and the wayang maker?
Where now the white sands, the majestic promontories?

Senseless slaughter of anyone, anything, everything
Not for all the promise of virgins, white horses and
Heavenly gates can ever make right the selfish injustice
Pancasila violated by militant butchers of the faith

The music and gaiety of the festive stambul   

Drowned by pained moans of the stricken
And the wheezing whines from mutilated throats
Cry anguish, echoing strong even in distant lands

What a waste, what a shame! Why Bali? Why?
Fountainhead of art, island of beauty and amity
God’s pearl crushed by the ugly hand of inhumanity
Of ignorance, of intolerance and of manic zeal