Pork barrel scam is beyond Napoles

By KIMBERLIE NGABIT-QUITASOL
www.nordis.net

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — “The pork barrel scam is not just about Janet Napoles, it is about corruption in government and corruption concerns all of us,” according to Atty. Levi Baligod.

Baligod, the lawyer who filed complaints against erring government officials involved in the pork barrel scam, spoke to police officers about corruption here last April 9. He said that while citizens should be vigilant against corruption, more is expected of police officers in upholding the law and eradicating corruption among their ranks.

Pork still exists

Baligod said that the present line budgeting system of the government did not completely do away with the pork barrel scheme. “The present budgeting system retained the most important feature of the pork barrel where the spending of public funds is in the sole discretion of the legislator, funding their pet projects,” he said.

At present, legislators early on submit their proposed budget to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) based on a “menu” or identified list of project categories before the amount is allotted to them.

Baligod said that it would be better if Congress would create a 10 year development plan for the country which the executive branch would implement so that all projects and programs would be implemented to contribute to achieving the goals of the said plan. He added that every administration would then be assessed based on how much it has contributed toward the achievement of the plan.

He said the creation of a long-term plan would ensure that even after the administration is changed the development goals would not be derailed. He cited as an example Australia that has created a commission for the future to craft a long term development plan for the country.

Baligod said that he has gathered evidence showing that the disbursement acceleration program (DAP) also facilitated the corruption of public funds. He said he was able to gather evidence that some P270M was also corrupted in a Napoles-like scam through the implementation of DAP projects, and plans to file this complaint much later. He however did not give anymore details.

Slow paced

Citing the failure of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file appropriate charges against the third batch of legislators last year and against the 74 other non-government organizations (NGOs) involved in the pork barrel scam, Baligod said the government is taking too long to fully address the pork problem.

“Maybe the DOJ is facing some more important matters at the moment that is why they were sidetracked from the pork barrel scam but as responsible citizens we should step up and pursue the case until it is finished,” Baligod said.

Baligod said that in the Commission on Audit (COA) 2013 special report, 82 NGOs were identified to have been involved in the pork barrel scam but only the eight NGOs connected to Janet Napoles were charged. He said the past two years would have been enough to investigate these other NGOs and gather the necessary evidence to file charges.

“Two years after the pork barrel scam was exposed, and for the past two years the government knows that these 74 other NGOs were involved but the government has done nothing,” he said.

Baligod disclosed that he is ready to file charges of malversation of public funds against these other NGOs but he still is undecided where to file the case. He said some P2.9B were coursed through the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) and P5.4B through the Technology Resource Center (TRC) went to these 74 NGOs. He said the NGOs also received funds that passed through the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) but he does not have the total amount yet.

“If I file it with the DOJ, they still have the third batch of legislators to charge. The Office of the Ombudsman has not yet resolved the complaints against 47 legislators involved with the pork barrel scam,” he said.

Baligod is considering to file the case with the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee because it has subpoena powers and could recommend the Ombudsman to attend hearings.

Baligod said the 74 NGOs are not connected to Napoles but funds from the pork barrel of legislators were also channeled to them just like the Napoles NGOs. “The pork barrel scam is not just about Napoles, there are other Napoles-like businessmen; we have identified about four of them who did just what Napoles did,” he said.

Baligod refused to name the NGOs saying that it will all be revealed after the case is filed.

Baligod further said that in March last year, DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima announced that they will file charges against the third batch of legislators, but a year after the statement no charges have yet been filed. He confirmed that majority of the legislators included in the third batch are allies of President Benigno Aquino III.# nordis.net

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