MANILA, SEPTEMBER 9, 2013 (MANILA STANDARD) By Horace Templo - My pensioner-friends prefer discussing these days the trivia and speculation about the mother of all Philippine scams—the pork barrel scandal—than the stagnant pension of the Social Security System, which observed its saddest ever “anniver-sorry” last September 1, with neither members nor employees having any reason to celebrate.

Still they hope that the President would attend the two-week late SSS formal anniversary program on September 13 to hear him announce that long-awaited pension increase other than the names of its best collection partners.

Blame it on the August unraveling of the saga of Janet Napoles. This issue continues to dare the Million People Marchers into making the loudest national protest on September 11 on Edsa against this administration’s perceived stubbornness to permanently scrap the pork barrel system.

Janet’s saga came into public view when she illegally detained eventual whistleblower Benhur Luy, her former assistant. He was rescued only after three months on March 22 by National Bureau of Investigation agents led by Assistant Regional Director Rolando Argabioso, the same group that captured the fugitive nephew of Freddie Aguilar.

Benhur jolted us with the affidavit that he immediately executed regarding a P10-billion pork barrel scam, alleging that Janet masterminded it.

The detention resulted in the court’s ordering, on August 15, her arrest without bail. She was forewarned apparently and became a fugitive, successfully eluding the 17 NBI task forces that hunted her. She eventually surrendered to the President while escorted by presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda on August 28 at 9:37 p.m.

Janet is now detained and is apparently getting a special but not VIP treatment from the President’s men who claim they only want to ensure that she is alive for the trial.

Other whistleblowers have come out to corroborate her systematic use of non-governmental organizations in drawing money from the government’s Priority Development Assistance Fund.

This is how it is done. Congress first enacts a lump sum budget to be released in equal amounts to all legislators including the President who gets the biggest allocation. Money would start to flow out from government coffers when projects are endorsed, and approved by the leaders of Congress and the President through the Budget Secretary. Obviously, only the favored ones get approvals.

The Department of Budget and Management then releases the pork barrel to implementing agencies such as the state universities, public hospitals, Philippine Forest Corporation, the Departments of Public Works and Highways, Social Welfare and Development, Agriculture, etc., which would subsequently utilize or release the funds to NGOs and accredited people’s organizations.

Supposedly, the P10-billion pork barrel was disbursed in 2007 to 2009 to NGOs and POs to carry out the noble objectives of the endorsed projects.

But based on the exposes, the P10-billion went to Janet’s NGOs which rechanneled them to her personal bank accounts and to those of the endorsing legislators.

The DBM and the implementing agencies must have kept a Napoles’s list of the names of projects, beneficiaries, amounts and dates of release. These details are also in Janet’s notebooks.

We couldn’t avoid but notice the similarities of the sagas of Janet Napoles and Harry Stonehill, an American who was able to build a business empire in the Philippines after the war out of almost nothing. He was investigated in 1960 by Congress for tax evasion but nothing was coming out of it until his former general manager Meinhart Spielman—Benhur’s counterpart—accused Harry of beating him up in 1962.

Spielman also confessed to the still-unblemished NBI of Director Jose Lukban everything he knew about Harry’s business malpractices of bribery, influence peddling, economic sabotage, etc.

The secretary of justice then – Senator Jose W. Diokno – pursued the investigation which resulted in Harry’s arrest on March 3, 1962. Supposedly recovered from NBI raids was his “Blue Book” which contained the names of 200 politicians, businessmen and media men who received regular bribes from him.

But Harry was hurriedly deported on August 3, 1962 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s father—then President Diosdado Macapagal—without being made to reveal any of the 200 names in his list.

In criticizing the deportation and the non-revelation of names, Secretary Diokno commented, “Harry Stonehill was deported but who can deport the truth?”

With some editing, his comment could very well describe the eventual end of Janet’s saga.

But what about the pork barrel system?

President Ferdinand Marcos in 1972 abolished Congress with its pork barrel system. But after Congress was restored, the President’s mother -President Cory Aquino—also resurrected its pork barrel system via the 1989 trial balloon special development funds for the Visayas and Mindanao. She then expanded it full-scale the following year, re-tagging it as the Countrywide Development Fund. This was relabeled in 1996 as PDAF, similar in sound but completely different from the more credible Philippine Development Assistance Programme of the Canadian International Development Agency. CDF or PDAF, it is the plain and simple pork barrel.

It was the President’s mother who released this evil pork barrel from its cage; it is her son’s karma to recapture it and put it back in the cage.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved