Sin of Omission

In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) yesterday, July 22, 2013, what President Benigno S. Aquino III did not say is as loud as what he did. 

Image source:
Mind you, the president is known for being so confrontational. He did not mince words to shame people in public before. No occasion is sacred. Even anniversaries where people expected to hear feel-good, pat-on-the-back speeches were not spared. 

One of the scathing remarks he gave in that SONA was poured out on the Bureau of Customs. 

“Saan po kaya kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha ang mga kawani sa ahensyang ito? Marami pong gabi bago ako matulog, talaga pong aking iniisip, kulang na lang ay sabihin nilang, ‘Wala akong pakialam kung mapunta sa masasamang loob ang armas; wala akong pakialam kung ilang buhay ang masira ng droga; wala akong pakialam kung habambuhay na matigang ang mga sakahan. Ang mahalaga, yumaman ako; bahala ka sa buhay mo.’ Hindi maaaring ganito ang kalakaran sa pamahalaan. Kung hindi mo nagagawa ang iyong trabaho, hindi ka karapat-dapat na manatili sa pwesto.”
(Read the full Filipino text here: Official Gazette)
In English: “Where do these people get the gall? One can almost hear them say, ‘I don’t care if the weapons go to criminal elements; I don’t care how many lives are ruined by drugs; I don’t care if our fields remain barren forever; What matters is that I am rich; it’s every man for himself.’ Such practices have no place in government. If you cannot do your job, you do not deserve to remain in office.”
(Read the full English translation here: Rappler)

But, in that SONA, he could have said those same words to some of the lawmakers. Where do these supposed “honorable” people get the gall to steal from their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or more popularly (read: notoriously) known as pork barrel? 

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Recently the Commission of Audit released a report exposing a P10 billion racket in the government. “By just using the names of bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and foundations as well as of bogus recipients, and by forging the signatures of local government officials, the JLN companies were able to collect from the government P10 billion in almost a decade of operations.” (Source: Inquirer.Net

Allegedly, these fake NGOs did a liposuction at the Senate and Congress, “for which the legislator is paid 50 to 60 percent of the amount of allocation, as kickback or commission.” (Ibid)
“Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and then Rep. Rene Velarde of Buhay Partylist were the first to be named by the Commission on Audit among legislators whose pork allocations were the source of funds allegedly rechanneled to bogus NGOs but were encashed and given to Napoles herself.” (Ibid)
And it appears that the names on the list would grow. At first, whistle-blower Benhur Luy, “the self-confessed bagman of an alleged public fund syndicate” (Rappler), gave a list naming 5 senators and 23 congressmen. But, it appears to be the proverbial iceberg tip. 
“Indeed, the allegations made by Luy in the affidavit he recently submitted to the justice department make up but a small part of a larger anomaly. … But while Luy claimed that Napoles had made some P10 billion from the scam since 2006, he was able to provide details in his affidavit for only more than P500 million. … Through the National Agri-Business Corporation (Nabcor) alone, at least 49 lawmakers were identified as sources of pork barrel that went to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that state auditors had questioned over a 5-year period.” (Ibid
Those 49 lawmakers are both administration and opposition solons. 

Again, to echo the president, where do these people get the gall? “Saan po kaya sila kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha?” The pork issue is so fresh in our minds that it is as if the pig was just slaughtered. But, somehow, it escaped the president’s attention that he did not mention it in his SONA.

In fairness, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is now conducting a “thorough and impartial” investigation. According to Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, “The President is always very strict and this is something that he has repeated to us —that government should never accuse without evidence and that we should never proffer accusations without proof. The investigation will settle that.” (Rappler)

Here's a satirical cartoon's take on the issue.
Click on the image to enlarge. Image source: Rappler

But Inquirer columnist Neal H. Cruz believes there’s another reason why the president wont touch the pork barrel of the lawmakers.
“Because it is a means of making the legislators do what the president wants. Cooperative legislators get their pork allocations quickly; uncooperative ones don’t get theirs as quickly. The pork is a sort of carrot-and-stick for the legislators. In short, the pork is a bribe by the President to members of Congress. Because of the pork, presidents, including President Aquino, are guilty of bribery. Giving bribes is a form of corruption, ’di ba President Noynoy? So why are you doing it?” (Inquirer.Net)
Personally, I am not advocating for the abolition of the PDAF. I am just calling for a better, transparent way of allocating the fund. 

Image source: Asian Journal
At the very least, the president could have appealed to both the Senate and Congress to work on reforms that could prevent such scams. 

Yet, why did he not even utter a single word on the issue? 

My take? The president should remember that the sin of omission is as grave as the sin of commission.


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