Mahimbing na natutulog sa pancitan o kasali sa pagnanakaw?

It seems the strategy of those involved in the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam is to finger-point until our heads spin. I guess we have to break some fingers to get to the truth.

The annual pork barrel for Congress is in the billions, P200-M each for 24 senators and P70-M each for 288 congressmen.

What does it take to get that money flowing?
1. The lawmaker informs the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that he wants to avail himself of his pork allotment. He identifies “the beneficiaries and submits nominations for the DBM’s approval.”*
2. The DBM, in turn, “vets the items, approves, releases the money to the implementing agency.”*
3. The implementing agency then vets the NGOs (non-governmental organizations) that seek funding for the projects that the lawmaker identified.*
4. Finally, NGOs submit papers to the implementing agency and the lawmakers to show the projects were implemented.*
Sa madaling salita, ang mga mambabatas ang nagbubukas ng gripo at ang mismong mga mambabatas din ang pumipili kung sino ang babalde sa pinaagos nilang PDAF.

Wala sanang problema sa kalakaran na ganyan kung umaabot ang lahat ng goods and services na pinopondohan ng PDAF sa mga lehitimong benepisyario. Pero hindi ganun ang nangyayari.

Marami dun sa mga lehitimong benepisiaryo ay walang natatanggap o, kung meron man, iyon ay kulang-kulang. Kaya naman marami sa kanila ay galit at nagtatanong, “bakit wala o ganito lang ang laman ng aming balde, Ginoong Mambabatas? Sino ang bumalde nung PDAF na para sa amin?”

Nakalulungkot at nakagagalit ang naging paliwanag ng mga mambabatas. They cried foul and postured like they were victims of politics or unscrupulous NGOs and bureaucrats.

They said, it’s a demolition job meant to destroy my political career”…”why investigate only the opposition?”… “I only met Napoles through a common friend”… “I never met Napoles”… “I only allocate my pork, it’s the COA (Commission on Audit) and the implementing agency’s job to scrutinize how my PDAF was spent”… “my staff takes care of everything, I trust them”… at kung ano-kano pa. At kung sino-sino pa ang tinuturo.

Compare those replies with the statement of Rep. Sid Ungab, one of the lawmakers named in the scam. It was alleged that he coursed his PDAF through an NGO identified with the Napoles group.

He said, “My office always ensures that all the projects we undertake are fully implemented and executed, as in this case, we were in close coordination with the DA (Department of Agriculture) when each phase of the project [such as delivery of materials; inspection of the said materials and distribution] was being executed. The appropriation was fully liquidated, documented by the DA as the implementing agency, and the project was fully implemented and delivered to its intended and actual beneficiaries. I personally attended the distribution of the farming implements and materials to the actual beneficiaries so I am shocked and quite upset by this news.”

Ungab’s statement is unequivocal. Straight to the point. No side-stepping. No excuses. No finger-pointing. It takes balls to do that because it is easy enough to check if he is telling the truth. His beneficiaries were identified by the whistleblower so anybody can go and ask them if they got the goods and services he claims they got. I hope, for his sake, that he is telling the truth.

But my point is, bakit walang mambabatas ang nakasagot ng diretso tulad ni Sid Ungab? Nagpaikot-ikot at nag-tuturo sila; natakot ba sila na baka meron mag-check kung nagsasabi sila ng katotohanan?

Marami pang tanong ang bumabagabag sa aking isip nung humiga ako para magpahinga kaya siguro napanaginipan ko na na-interview ko ang isa sa mga senador na pinaghihinalaang nagbulsa ng PDAF.

Sa aking panaginip tinanong ko siya ng diretsahan.

“Paano nangyari na ninakaw ang milyun-milyong piso na ipinagkatiwala sa iyo ng taong bayan, nakatulog ka ba sa pancitan o kasali ka sa pagnanakaw?”

Parang nabigla siya sa tanong ko kasi ang sagot niya ay, “Who me?”
Sumagot naman ako ng “Yes you, Your Horror” bago ko ipinagpatuloy ang pagdiin sa kanya.

“Meron bang maglalakas loob na mag-scam ng PDAF kung kayong mga mambabatas ay marangal, tapat sa katungkulan, at mahigpit magbantay sa pag-gamit ng PDAF?”

Parang napikon siya sa sinabi ko. Sinumbatan niya ako.

“Are you calling me a thief and my colleagues thieves?”

Lalo ko pa siyang diniin.

“Bossing, walang mangyayaring pork barrel scam kung walang mambabatas na katulad mo.”

Tuluyan na siyang nagalit.

“That’s an insult! That’s not fair! Why single me out, why put the blame solely on us legislators, aren’t the NGOs, the bureaucrats, and the local government officials also guilty?”

“Opo, Ginoong Senador, guilting-guilty rin sila, kaya kailangan bunutin natin mula sa ugat ang korapsyon.”

Mukhang napahinahon siya sa sinabi ko.

“I agree,” sagot niya, “We must pull out the roots, that’s the only way to solve the problem. I will call for a congressional hearing so we can identify the roots.”

Napailing ako.

“Bossing, bakit ka pa magpapa-congressional hearing? Manalaming ka na lang, makikita mo na ‘yung ugat na kailangan bunutin.”

*Information on the PDAF process came from a Rappler.com report.

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).

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