The 10 billion peso pork barrel scam & why Janet Napoles could have been our relative

Reading Time: 4 minutes

phil flagThere is something more that meets the eye concerning this alleged 10-billion-peso pork barrel scam than what has been said or alluded to in both print and social media circles.

No, it’s not the fact that top legislators, or their underlings, have conspired with the alleged mastermind and now fugitive Janet Lim-Napoles to set up bogus NGOs as back channels to tap pork funds in the billions, with very little actually being used for the benefit of the common good.

In the Philippines’ short but dodgy NGO history, it is old news given the Code-NGO controversy and the fact that even President Estrada himself was impeached over an allegedly bogus non-profit (dummy) organisation as well.

It isn’t also the fact that top senators of the republic have been implicated in accusations of having provided financial allocations, some on a recurring basis, on their Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to these bogus NGO projects.

We know only too well that the financial wherewithal of many of our esteemed senators go beyond their monthly salaries and that it’s somewhat tolerated. Except from now, as the peso amounts have been so staggering even for our “overly gracious” Filipino minds.

What is big about this whole issue is not just the Ivan Boesky-like pizzazz and scale upon which this whole scam was alleged to have been perpetrated.

It is the fact that the alleged perpetrator could have been our relative, or somebody you or I could have all called “Tita” (Auntie). Someone so familiar because “fixers”, for the lack of a better word, is as common in the Philippines as basketball courts in some corner somewhere. Now think about that for a minute, and how endemic that sounds.

Way back in 2004 when I had a project with the National Home Mortgage & Finance Corporation (NHMF), I was stumped when I had with me some foreign investors examining NHMFC’s housing portfolio as part of their due diligence, only to be greeted by an official agency sign at the door that said, “No fixers allowed, beyond this point”. How endemic is that?

Perhaps time has changed, but ask anyone who has had a legal case and he will tell you that you actually should hire two lawyers all the time: One who knows the law and writes up your counter-affidavit, and one who simply knows the fiscal or the judge if not in the same fraternity, just to ensure a level playing field.

I remember in my college years being offered the chance to pass the written portion of my driver’s licensing test for a few bucks, by a fixer who was clearly not officially on the Land Transportation Office payroll, but perhaps a gofer relative of someone inside.

But some relatives do have more fun in the Philippines. We Filipinos are only too aware of whose uncle was with the military or the Bureau of Internal Revenue or some government post, raking it in. I remember a classmate in college who drove an S-Class to school, his father’s claim to fame was being close to someone in the Bureau of Customs at that time.

President Aquino (or PNoy as he is fondly referred to), has actually gone at great lengths to fix what is endemically ingrained in the Filipino psyche: “Out-of-the-box packaging”. You may see that as funny, but it’s so true.

Pinoys are somewhat crafty “circumventionists” – put in some rules and we will figure out the best way to circumvent them in some out-of-the-box manner or scheme.

Install new traffic rules, and we find a way to make them mere suggestions. Was it not a Filipino who created the “love bug” virus? That crafty dude was eventually employed by Microsoft with a slap on the wrist. What is that if it is not an out-of-the-box, but highly successful job search?

But my point is this – fixers are ingrained in Philippine culture and tolerated precisely because we Filipinos allow this type of silly out-of-the-box logic to prevail. It is so silly that we underpay our policemen and yet expect them to “tow the line” and not resort to out-of-the-box schemes to earn a decent living.

Look into any government institution warped in century old civil service rules and you will see everybody grossly underpaid, yet the reason why underpaid servants stick around is only too obvious: some out-of-the-box low profile racket somewhere.

So far, PNoy’s record stands at 2 out of 3: One member of the executive, an ex-president on trial and behind aluminium sliding hospital bars, and one member of the judiciary, in fact the Supreme Court Chief Justice, actually impeached. All attributable to some out-of-the-box scandal.

Now, it all boils down to legislators and who amongst them abused their Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations. If PNoy’s moral crusade or “daang matuwid” (i.e. straight path) is to have any semblance of legitimacy after his term, he must win this final leg for a final 3/3 scorecard. The people expect nothing less.

On August 26, a “Million People March to Luneta” calling for an end to our political pork diet will take place. I, as a Filipino, fully agree and support this one.

But if I was to be a truly smart Filipino, not just an emotional one, why don’t we all  march against our silly logic and hypocritical expectations as well. To be more precise, why don’t we march against ourselves for voting these same clowns to office, not once, but many times.

Given how financially unrewarding it is to be in government service, isn’t it too obvious that many of these folks are in there for some out-of-the-box no good?

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

There is something more that meets the eye concerning this alleged 10-billion-peso pork barrel scam than what has been said or alluded to in both print and social media circles.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

phil flagThere is something more that meets the eye concerning this alleged 10-billion-peso pork barrel scam than what has been said or alluded to in both print and social media circles.

No, it’s not the fact that top legislators, or their underlings, have conspired with the alleged mastermind and now fugitive Janet Lim-Napoles to set up bogus NGOs as back channels to tap pork funds in the billions, with very little actually being used for the benefit of the common good.

In the Philippines’ short but dodgy NGO history, it is old news given the Code-NGO controversy and the fact that even President Estrada himself was impeached over an allegedly bogus non-profit (dummy) organisation as well.

It isn’t also the fact that top senators of the republic have been implicated in accusations of having provided financial allocations, some on a recurring basis, on their Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to these bogus NGO projects.

We know only too well that the financial wherewithal of many of our esteemed senators go beyond their monthly salaries and that it’s somewhat tolerated. Except from now, as the peso amounts have been so staggering even for our “overly gracious” Filipino minds.

What is big about this whole issue is not just the Ivan Boesky-like pizzazz and scale upon which this whole scam was alleged to have been perpetrated.

It is the fact that the alleged perpetrator could have been our relative, or somebody you or I could have all called “Tita” (Auntie). Someone so familiar because “fixers”, for the lack of a better word, is as common in the Philippines as basketball courts in some corner somewhere. Now think about that for a minute, and how endemic that sounds.

Way back in 2004 when I had a project with the National Home Mortgage & Finance Corporation (NHMF), I was stumped when I had with me some foreign investors examining NHMFC’s housing portfolio as part of their due diligence, only to be greeted by an official agency sign at the door that said, “No fixers allowed, beyond this point”. How endemic is that?

Perhaps time has changed, but ask anyone who has had a legal case and he will tell you that you actually should hire two lawyers all the time: One who knows the law and writes up your counter-affidavit, and one who simply knows the fiscal or the judge if not in the same fraternity, just to ensure a level playing field.

I remember in my college years being offered the chance to pass the written portion of my driver’s licensing test for a few bucks, by a fixer who was clearly not officially on the Land Transportation Office payroll, but perhaps a gofer relative of someone inside.

But some relatives do have more fun in the Philippines. We Filipinos are only too aware of whose uncle was with the military or the Bureau of Internal Revenue or some government post, raking it in. I remember a classmate in college who drove an S-Class to school, his father’s claim to fame was being close to someone in the Bureau of Customs at that time.

President Aquino (or PNoy as he is fondly referred to), has actually gone at great lengths to fix what is endemically ingrained in the Filipino psyche: “Out-of-the-box packaging”. You may see that as funny, but it’s so true.

Pinoys are somewhat crafty “circumventionists” – put in some rules and we will figure out the best way to circumvent them in some out-of-the-box manner or scheme.

Install new traffic rules, and we find a way to make them mere suggestions. Was it not a Filipino who created the “love bug” virus? That crafty dude was eventually employed by Microsoft with a slap on the wrist. What is that if it is not an out-of-the-box, but highly successful job search?

But my point is this – fixers are ingrained in Philippine culture and tolerated precisely because we Filipinos allow this type of silly out-of-the-box logic to prevail. It is so silly that we underpay our policemen and yet expect them to “tow the line” and not resort to out-of-the-box schemes to earn a decent living.

Look into any government institution warped in century old civil service rules and you will see everybody grossly underpaid, yet the reason why underpaid servants stick around is only too obvious: some out-of-the-box low profile racket somewhere.

So far, PNoy’s record stands at 2 out of 3: One member of the executive, an ex-president on trial and behind aluminium sliding hospital bars, and one member of the judiciary, in fact the Supreme Court Chief Justice, actually impeached. All attributable to some out-of-the-box scandal.

Now, it all boils down to legislators and who amongst them abused their Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations. If PNoy’s moral crusade or “daang matuwid” (i.e. straight path) is to have any semblance of legitimacy after his term, he must win this final leg for a final 3/3 scorecard. The people expect nothing less.

On August 26, a “Million People March to Luneta” calling for an end to our political pork diet will take place. I, as a Filipino, fully agree and support this one.

But if I was to be a truly smart Filipino, not just an emotional one, why don’t we all  march against our silly logic and hypocritical expectations as well. To be more precise, why don’t we march against ourselves for voting these same clowns to office, not once, but many times.

Given how financially unrewarding it is to be in government service, isn’t it too obvious that many of these folks are in there for some out-of-the-box no good?

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