A new video of controversial LT (Land Transportation Office) chief Virginia Torres playing a slot machine in one of the local casinos surfaced a day after an earlier and poorly shot video of her doing the same thing was uploaded on YouTube. The new video made her response to the original video sound like a lie.

“Yes, I remember having dinner with a friend in a hotel. While waiting for the bill to be settled, I saw the slot machine on the lower floor and out of curiosity, I sat in front of one machine and marveled at the lights and read the instructions. I immediately left when the bill was paid. This happened way back.”

How can she get out of the jam she’s in? By revising her initial response with something more plausible, then so much the better.

“Yes, I remember having dinner with a friend in a hotel. While waiting for the bill to be settled I discreetly asked the waiter for the location of the nearest ATM machine. You see I decided to pay for our dinner but I had no cash on me. The waiter pointed me to the lower floor. I went down to the lower floor where I was immediately overwhelmed by banks of ATM machines with colorful flashing lights and catchy sound effects. I had never seen ATMs like that before. I had no idea how to operate them so I sat in front of one machine to read the instructions. I pressed the buttons after I thought I understood the instructions. But nothing happened. And that’s why you saw me in that new video standing up and moving to another ATM machine. I was so embarrassed when I learned they were slot machines and not ATMs. This happened way back, when I first arrived in Metro Manila from Tarlac.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada who has been prominently linked to the pork barrel scam refiled a bill he calls the Magna Carta for Journalists.

“Marami rin kayong mga kasamahan at kakilala na talagang hindi naman lehitimong miyembro ng media. Maraming bogus na media personalities. Itong bill na ito I believe would promote the welfare of our friends from the media.” He said this, by way of explaining why the hell anybody who wants to be a journalist must first pass an exam prepared and administered by a panel whose composition and qualifications will ultimately be determined by Jinggoy, since he is the author of the Magna Carta for Journalists.

“Remember I am a friend of media,” he added, to reassure journalists that he had nothing but their best interest in his heart. Jinggoy is also a friend of Janet Lim Napoles, if I may also add. Let’s go to the pork barrel scam.

I cannot find any plausible explanation why Jinggoy thought washing his hands ala Pontius Pilate is the best way to address the question why hundreds of millions of his pork barrel did not go to intended beneficiaries.

“It is not up to the senators to determine whether an NGO (non-government organization) is bogus or not. It is within the functions and the powers of the DA to determine if an NGO is bogus or not. Alangan naman na kami pa ang magsasabi na, “Oy, bogus ‘yan.” How will we know? Even if we endorse a certain NGO, we will have no idea whether it is bogus or not. It is done in good faith. If it endorses a certain project to a particular NGO, iniisip namin na accredited ng Department of Agriculture ‘yon. Ang office ko is not an implementing agency. The implementing agency here is the Department of Agriculture. Hindi naman kami nagpapa-implement. We are just here to determine the projects,” he said.

Every year, in the course of passing the national budget, Congress must review line by line not only the proposed budget but also how well the previous year’s budget was spent.

Senator, budget oversight is a duty, it is not a matter of caprice. You are duty-bound to care for our money as if it were your money and not to spend our money like it was your money.

You cannot claim to be too busy to comb the budget because oversight comes first, before all the other legislative work that you do like refiling a Magna Carta for Journalists bill. Seeing to it that the administration implements existing tax and spending measures or any new ones that you may pass is your number one job. Everything else follows. Think about it.

Sure, implementing agencies are responsible for projects identified by legislators but is it too much to expect a legislator to at least scrutinize his own pork barrel, specially during budget deliberations?

Why are legislators so sensitive when asked about their pork barrel? I think the answer is obvious and that’s why I believe calling for the abolition of pork barrel misses the mark.

The problem is not the pork barrel, the problem is the pigs who gorge themselves on it. Get rid of the pigs.

Get rid of the pigs and pork barrel will cease to be a problem. Get rid of the pigs and pork barrel will function as it is supposed to, as a fund that addresses particular local needs that the national government missed.

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