The Philippine government has failed the country.
I’m not particularly adept at talking about politics. I only became politically conscious later on in my late twenties. I was trying too hard to be an artist and left the political arena to the ones who are better suited to the task. I just paid my taxes and my bills, never did crime, voted every election as soon as I was old enough to vote, and helped out when I can. I had artistic inclinations and wanted to focus primarily on that.
I think I slowly began forming a political consciousness during the impeachment of former president Joseph Estrada. I watched the news daily, parking myself in front of the television after work and I just watched the whole proceeding. I even joined the rally in EDSA corner Ortigas for his ouster. I think that’s when the seed was planted.
On the months leading to the 2004 presidential election, I began furiously reading up on each of the candidates and talking to the more politically-versed friends and family in the hopes of being able to vote within my conscience and make the right decision come election time. I think it was about that time that I had begun reading the front section of the newspaper when it arrived. I would scan through the headlines and pick out articles that meant something to me, issues and topics that I felt were of importance to me. Slowly, I began to form ideas and opinions. It was a slow process.
It was sparked again and there was surge in my political formation when the ZTE scandal broke out sometime around 2007-2008. I tried my best to catch up with the news reports but my late entry into politics meant that there were many things I couldn’t understand. But, at that point, I felt that I had reached a level where I could have a political opinion. I tried to keep myself updated with news, and when my parents stopped getting the newspaper and I was living alone, I went online to check the headlines — jumping from publication to publication to verify stories — and keep myself in the know. I was still struggling with the political set-ups (I barely passed Political Science 101 in college) but I knew enough to ask questions with people that I knew had concrete answers and opinions.
Pork Barrel Scandal
Now the country finds itself embroiled in another scandal, one to the tune of ten billion pesos in tax payer’s money that went back to politician’s pockets, coursed through one person who made it all possible. Janet Napoles is accused of forming fake NGOs (non-goverment organizations) who become recipients of legislator’s pork barrel fund, and when the money is paid to these fake NGOs, she deposits it into her account, gives seventy percent of the money back to the person who approved it and to everybody else in the pipeline and keeps thirty percent for herself. That’s the gist of the controversy and there is a paper trail that was left behind, put to light by several whistleblowers who have stepped forward to confess.
This is all alleged, of course, but from consistent and tireless reporting and fact finding from media institutions like Rappler and the Philippine Daily Inquirer, what we start to see is a large web of corruption that has been going on since the mid-90s and over ten billion in tax payer’s money going straight into the bank accounts of private individuals and politicians.
While the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) and the Department of Justice had in custody the whistleblowers, they let Janet Napoles free as they were “investigating and gathering evidence,” which meant that she had time to clean up her act, get her things in order, and make more appearances in the media to muddle the issues while never answering the questions. While the NBI and DoJ were off “investigating and gathering evidence,” Rappler and Inquirer were harder at work exposing everything they found by approaching the Securities Exchange Commission and other organisations and proved that Janet Napoles’ excuse of legitimate businesses had all been fake and bogus. There is probably cause (ten billion pesos is probably cause) and enough probable doubt on the veracity of her excuses to have brought her in, but they didn’t.
And then, Anonymous tips were placed in other people’s websites and blogs detailing a blow-by-blow account of Janet Napoles’ modus operandi but nothing was done.
There is probably cause here and she should have been detained for questioning. And when they finally sent out an arrest warrant, she had already escaped. She’s gone. In the wind and nobody knows where.
Now, the NBI are asking for any tips as to where her whereabouts might be. And now they are saying that “Her flight is an admission of guilt.” Well, duh!!! They dropped the ball on this one and I hope the people don’t go lightly on how they handled this investigation.
Hide and Seek
Truth of the matter is, while we are all playing a game of Where in the world is Janet Napoles, people might stop asking for the names of ALL the legislators who have assigned their pork barrel funds to fake NGOs and why are they not accountable for millions and millions of pesos. Each legislator is given a huge sum of money to put into projects that will “help their constituents” and approve this allotment of funds to NGOs to execute these supposed projects but, now that this scam and scandal has come out, not one single legislator has been able to account for the money that has been given out to an NGO.
Some of these legislators didn’t even know they were handing out millions and millions of pesos to fake/bogus NGOs! They claim no responsibility, passing the blame to other departments, and wipe their hands clean of this.
An estimated ten billion pesos was handed out and nothing. The Filipino people have seen NOTHING. While the country struggles and pays taxes and tries to keep afloat, a certain number of people and their families. Everyone else is expected to rot.
All the news article talking about the rise in our economy, apparently, is true. It’s just that it does not get spread around. The poor remain poor, the middle class are struggling and struggling to stay afloat, and the rich get richer, it seems.
What is worst is that the legislators refuse to investigate the pork barrel scam because they “don’t want to investigate their own.” They will just leave it to the NBI and DoJ to do the dirty work. These are the same people who have ruled over a sex scandal, the impeachment of former Chief Justice Corona, and the AFP scandal that came just a few years ago. And now, when we have a scandal of epic proportions that makes them all suspects of graft and corruption, they turn a blind eye? They plead the fifth.
They want to leave this to the DoJ and the NBI when they were the same institutions who let Napoles escape? Give me a break!
Now that we need leadership and transparency from our government, they turn their backs on us. They are continuing as if this isn’t their problem to deal with and this makes me very, very angry.
And Napoles has become the scapegoat and when they find her (or when she gets away), everything goes back to status quo. It’s the way things work around this country, it seems. People are angry, based on the comments section of each article, and I’m angry. I’m never usually this angry and it doesn’t last for very long.
Heads Better Roll
I want these people found, tried, sentenced, and taken out completely. Out of the system, out of the country, out of circulation, out of everything. It is amazing how, on the comments section of the various articles, people are calling for hangings and death penalty and not one person has come to invoke reason and human rights. It is usually the case on the outpouring of anger that they call for a hanging and there is always one or two voices who tries to placate and ask for calmer heads to preside and to “not go there.”
I don’t see anyone asking for calmer heads to preside over this matter.
Billions of pesos. Billions of hard-earned pesos taken from our nation and into their pockets. And nothing can be done. Not unless we demand, as a people, that we won’t take this seated down.
In the early 80s, we stood up to a dictator and in 2000, we put down another president, and later charged him for plunder and won. That Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave him a presidential pardon was inexcusable. I feel that it was a pivotal moment in our country when we could prove to ourselves that crime does not pay, that we will punish and persecute former presidents if we caught them red-handed for corruption, but no. The fucking bitch had to pardon him and in the process, we gave a signal to every Filipino and to the world, that you do not suffer the consequences of your crimes.
And it’s happening all over again.
Damn! When are we going to learn. When are we going to start being afraid of the law and when will the law come to our defence. When will we be courageous enough to stand up against the powers that be and tell them they cannot get away with it, that they won’t get away with this, and prevail.
They call Napoles evil. They call her many, many awful names. And the politicians who are suspected cohorts in this endeavour, they are called worst. But they still go unopposed and are still walking the streets and not afraid to show their faces.
We toppled presidencies before. That has always been our legacy. What will it take to bring that energy back again and demand. It is time to demand for what is right.
I’m angry. I’m really, really angry. This is not the end of this.