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The good, the bad and the lucky

Last week, newspaper headlines screamed that the Ombudsman would file cases against six more congressmen, allegedly for stealing from their pork. That’s the good news, because everybody thought the issue over the P10-billion PDAF scam already died with the detention of three senators.

The bad news is, not everybody jumped for joy over the newfound honor of the Ombudsman, such as Levi Baligod, the original lawyer of the “whistle blower,” who revealed that those six congressmen were at the bottom of the long list in the PDAF scam.

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The amount of pork of those six congressmen would be at the bottom of the pile, ranging from P1 million to P2 million and, according to Baligod, some lucky incumbent and former lawmakers received “commissions” by the hundreds of millions of pesos.

Moreover, the Aquino (Part II) administration hardly said a word about the alleged scam involving the so-called Malampaya fund. Aside from the PDAF, the Malampaya fund also turned out to be riddled with fraud, based on the special audits done by the Commission on Audit (COA), which concluded that sizable portions of the Malampaya fund ended up as “kickbacks” of certain legislators that colluded with bureaucrats at the Department of Budget and Management.

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Releases from the fund also reached nongovernment organizations (NGOs) put up by the jailed Janet Napoles, plus others that used similar modus operandi.

Thus, in 2013, the Ombudsman received complaints on the raid of the Malampaya fund, directed against 21 individuals led by former President Arroyo. The other lucky guys included former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and former Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. Nothing was heard of the complaints from Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ever since. Yet the complaints originated from the NBI itself, the same National Bureau of Investigation that confirmed the supposed involvement of the three senators in the Napoles-style pork scam.

Look at that—after two-and-a-half years, still doing nothing! And we are supposed to feel proud of the anti-corruption slogan “daang matuwid” of the Aquino (Part II) administration?

Indeed, the complaints against Arroyo, Pangandaman and Andaya talked about the outright misuse of P900 million from the Malampaya fund, supposedly intended for victims of Typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.” The NBI said the entire P900 million ended up in some Napoles-style NGOs.

By the way, during the investigation of the Senate blue ribbon committee, one senator commented that the P900-million release from the fund could just be the “tip of the iceberg.” For one, the former DBM boss, Andaya, reportedly admitted that, in his time, the DBM had approved the release of P14 billion from the Malampaya fund. Here was the direct quote from Andaya: “We have to divide the money to the different departments according to need.”

The Malampaya fund was actually the government share, as in “royalty,” in the natural gas project in Palawan, owned by Shell Philippines, Chevron Malampaya and state-run PNOC Exploration Corp. It was originally part of a “special fund” meant to cover the energy programs of the government, plus “other projects” that the President would have identified. It was supposed to be handled by the Department of Energy—not by the DBM.

Under the cute administration of Gloriaetta, the Palace issued two executive orders to allow the use of the fund for projects for agrarian reform beneficiaries, among others, to be handled by the DBM and DAR. It so happened that in 2009, typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng came and destroyed some P3 billion worth of infrastructure and agricultural crops in Luzon.

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The Palace transferred part of the Malampaya fund from the DOE to the DBM. Here was the thing—a DBM official, a certain Nora Oliveros, wrote a memo to Andaya, questioning in effect the release of P900 million, supposedly to help the typhoon victims. For one, there was no “rehabilitation plan” to support the request. The DBM still gave the P900 million to the “Agrarian Reform Fund” of the DAR under Pangandaman.

No wonder, the NBI noted that Arroyo in effect gave Andaya a “blank check” to bankroll projects outside the coverage of the Malampaya fund. The NBI also recommended for prosecution of 21 others, including former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, DAR undersecretary Narciso Nieto and DBM undersecretary Mario Relampagos.

Also in the NBI list was “star witness” Ruby Tuason, the self-confessed bagman of a senator currently in detention. The NBI even recommended the filing of plunder charges against Andaya, based on the findings of the NBI task force and the testimonies of “whistle blowers” that indicated that the entire P900 million went to 12 NGOs—all fake.

Reports nevertheless quoted Andaya as saying: “It was worrisome that we are setting a precedent wherein all those involved in the ministerial release of the funds, including DBM officials, should from now on become automatic co-accused in every graft case to be filed in the country.”

Part of the NBI report read: “The leniency of control displayed by the President (Arroyo) in the use of and access to an essentially presidential discretionary fund made the plunder of such fund either intentionally or through gross inexcusable negligence.” Andaya, in effect, also admitted that money was stolen from the Malampaya fund, but it was just that he did not know that people would “take advantage of a tragedy so as to make money and do their racket.”

Now, the NBI noted that Andaya himself issued a memorandum to Arroyo requesting to use the Malampaya fund for typhoon victims, and not the other way around. By the way, this May, Andaya would run for reelection in his home province Camarines Sur, as congressman of the district that used to be represented by Diosdado Ignacio “Dato” Arroyo, the son of Arroyo.

From what I heard, he already brought in his pre-campaign sorties this celebrity named Alden Richards of the “AlDub” fame on television, one of the most expensive talents in commercials nowadays.

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TAGS: COA, Commission on Audit, congressmen, detention, Ombudsman, PDAF, Priority Development Assistance Fund, scam, senators
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