Friday, March 28, 2014

‘They just lie there, and they die there’

By Val G. Abelgas
Grace Pulido Tan
Grace Pulido Tan
Two feisty woman officials reminded us last week why campaigns against corruption in the Philippines never succeed. They don’t succeed because after the corrupt acts are exposed and publicized, there is no follow-up, much less prosecution of the accused.
Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan of the Commission on Audit (COA) has ordered the agency’s officials to monitor compliance with recommendations contained in annual audit reports to ensure that government agencies and institutions take them seriously and act to implement such corrective measures.
Tan hopes the new system would put an end to auditors reporting the same recurring problem every year because there are no follow-ups to recommendations. Audit findings will then not suffer the same fate as dreams in the song “Mona Lisa,” Tan said, where they “just lie there and die there.”
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, on the other hand, is exasperated that no charges have been filed in court against those named in numerous exposes and Senate committee hearings, and said the Ombudsman should start filing cases against those implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
“Since it has been six months, I think it would be best if the Ombudsman could at least file some of the cases in court now because the public are getting jaded with these public revelations in the Senate probe plus they are not seeing any action,” Santiago said. “We don’t want public interest to die on this matter because it’s just too important. Plunder is just too important to the national economy.”
One wonders why despite the voluminous evidence and the many witnesses who have willingly testified to the extent of the corruption involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the congressional pork barrel, the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) or the presidential pork barrel, the Malampaya Fund and several programs of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Ombudsman has not filed any formal charges before the Sandiganbayan against those implicated in the shameless scams.
Are the exposes being squeezed dry by the administration and its allies to damage the reputation of some leaders of the opposition and possible contenders for either the presidency or the vice presidency? Is the Aquino administration really serious in prosecuting the big fishes in these scams regardless of party affiliations, or will these scandals go the way of previous corruption scandals that have been left unresolved?
Let us look at the numerous corruption scandals that have shocked the nation in the last few years, but have remained unresolved:
The P1.3-billion election computerization deal with Mega Pacific to supply the Commission on Elections (Comelec) which the Supreme Court voided because the deal was tainted “with graft and legal infirmities;” the alleged P532.9-million overpricing of the President Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in the Manila Bay reclamation area, which the Ombudsman deemed as overpriced by 250 percent and the bridge by 67 percent;
The P200-million Jose Pidal case, wherein Sen. Panfilo Lacson accused Mike Arroyo of amassing more than P200 million from campaign contributions of her wife and putting the money in secret bank accounts, including that of “Jose Pidal”; the $503-million Northrail project, which former Senate President Franklin Drilon described as one of the “colossal corrupt deals” of the Arroyo administration; the $329-million National Broadband Network; the $466-million Cyber Education Project; the P728-million fertilizer fund scam; the still to be probed P3.1-billion irrigation project just before the 2004 elections whose funds the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas claims were diverted to the campaign; the P455-million ice making machine scam also under the Department of Agriculture; the P5-billion swine scam; and the P120-million Ginintuang Masagani Ani (GMA) project scam.
Add to these the P10-billion pork barrel scam, the P900-Malapampaya fund mess, the billions DAP funds illegally doled out to senators and congressmen before, during and after the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the billions more in agriculture funds that were allegedly coursed through fake NGOs.
In most of these cases, the culprits remain free, the whistleblowers have either been silenced or are now six feet under, and only the case against Abalos and Neri in the NBN-ZTE deal has been filed by the Ombudsman, and the Executive Department has blocked investigations by fraudulently invoking executive privilege.
The only case that landed in court – the $2-million bribery case against former Justice Secretary Hernani Perez – was obviously mishandled by the Ombudsman and was dismissed two years ago.
All these corruption scandals hogged the headlines for days, only to die down when another scandal, either in government or in show business, displaced them on the headlines. In the Philippines, corruption scandals are never resolved; they just fade away.
Or as the COA chief said: “They just lie there, and they die there.”

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