On 24 March 2005, a hired assassin gunned down journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat while she was having dinner with her family at home in Tacurong City. In 2003, Esperat, who was the Department of Agriculture (DA) Resident Ombudsman for Central Mindanao, had filed charges against DA officials on a P432 M fertilizer scam.
The ensuing investigation revealed a possible connection with the even bigger P728 M fertilizer fund scam, which implicated Janet Lim-Napoles, then a big supplier of liquid fertilizer.
Napoles is now reportedly at the center of the biggest scam so far that has been uncovered by investigative reporters – that of the P10 B scam that involved the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), better known as the pork barrel, of a number of former and current Senators and Representatives.
Whatever problems it was meant to address, the PDAF has proven itself a cure more destructive than the disease. No benefit can possibly justify the crimes it has spawned and the systematic corruption of public institutions and officials it has promoted.
Alleged operators like Napoles may have devised the blueprint for raiding the PDAF, but the greater accountability rests with the Senators and Representatives to whom the funds were entrusted. It was their responsibility to ensure that their PDAF went only to reputable NGOs proposing priority projects and that these projects produced the promised benefits.
The Senators and Representatives who channeled funds to fake NGOs were not political neophytes. They, and we, were not born yesterday. Patronage of fake NGOs, particularly when repeated, provides grounds for charging culpable negligence, if not complicity in corruption.
We ask the Ombudsman to investigate the grave misuse of the PDAF.
We ask the Senators and Representatives implicated in the scam to clear their names by voluntarily subjecting themselves to an impartial official investigation by the Ombudsman to determine the extent of their actual involvement in the P10 B scam.
We also ask the President to constitute a special committee composed of representatives of DBM, DOJ, and the private sector to review the PDAF process and to recommend safeguards to ensure that the PDAF is not further abused.
Our lawmakers should serve as models for compliance with the law. Only then can they have the moral authority to exercise oversight powers over the two other branches of government.
It is time for the people, with the help of the Ombudsman and the President, to prove that election to public office does not give officials a grant of impunity to plunder public funds.
Department of Education
Edilberto De Jesus
Department of Education
Fulgencio Factoran, Jr.
Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Vicente T. Paterno
Former Minister, Ministry of Industry
Department of Finance