By BENJIE OLIVEROS
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada did not confront head on the issue of his involvement in the pork barrel scam, instead, he slammed the “selective justice” of the Aquino administration, mentioned questionable transactions involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel funds of some administration allies, revealed how the Aquino administration used the PDAF to muster support for former chief justice Renato Corona’s impeachment and conviction, as well as its priority bills, and tried to puncture holes into the credibility of the Commission on Audit (COA) reports.
Perhaps he deemed that his involvement in the pork barrel scam is hard to disprove so he just tried to bring the house (or literally the whole Congress) down with him. It is much like saying “We are all thieves here so if you take me down, I can also take you down with me;” or perhaps, “Only those without sin should cast the first stone.”
Definitely, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada was not able to do anything to defend his case or absolve himself of any wrongdoing. He still has to be held accountable for his involvement in the pork barrel scam.
However, without going into the veracity of his specific allegations of fund misuse or corruption against some allies of the Aquino administration, his point regarding “selective justice” is worth considering. In a previous analysis, we pointed out that the more likely move of the Aquino administration is to let the issue cool down, pin everything on Janet Lim-Napoles and make a sample of running after one or two lawmakers, mainly from the opposition.
Well, it is exactly doing that. It is letting the issue cool down but it made a show of abolishing the PDAF but not the pork barrel. It asked lawmakers to submit their proposed priority projects so that these could be itemized in the budget of the line agencies. Still, lawmakers would have a say on what type of projects and where it would be placed. President Benigno Aquino III still remains deaf to calls to abolish his own pork barrel or discretionary funds. The Aquino administration is also adamant in refusing to heed the call to reallocate the pork barrel funds for basic social services. In its stead, it is petitioning the Supreme Court to modify the temporary restraining order against the releases of the PDAF to allow the release of funds earmarked for scholarships and hospital allocations.Well, in the first place, if there were enough budgets for education and scholarships, and health services, there would be no need to allocate pork barrel funds for these essential services.
And it has filed plunder cases against only three opposition senators out of the reported five senators and 23 lawmakers being linked to the pork barrel scam involving Janet Lim-Napoles. If we are to include those mentioned by the Commission on Audit report, but are not necessarily linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, there would be more. One could not help but question, why file cases against only three senators and why are they all from the opposition? If this is just the first batch, as Justice Sec. Leila de Lima claims, and there would be more batches of government officials to be charged, how do they choose who to charge first? With the broad web of corruption involving the pork barrel, surely, old and new administration allies have also been involved.
Estrada’s accusation that the Aquino administration provided an additional P50 million ($1.162 million)in PDAF to lawmakers who voted for the impeachment of former chief justice Renato Corona is not surprising. The PDAF, or pork barrel by whatever name it has been called, has always been used in such a manner: by the executive to muster support for its bills and other agenda such as the impeachment of public officials, and by lawmakers to get the favor of their constituents while earning some money on the side. This is why, with or without the involvement of conduits such as Janet Lim-Napoles, the pork barrel has always been a tool for political patronage.
Besides, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo used the PDAF to block efforts to impeach her, and President Aquino could have just as well used it to ensure the impeachment of former chief justice Renato Corona. After all, impeachment is a political and not a judicial process; and the PDAF is the best tool for this.
Even without yet studying the evidence of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, one could not simply dismiss his allegations. After all, his privilege speech was made not to lie his way out of the pork barrel scam – as he scarcely addressed the accusations against him – but to bring the house down with him. “Damay, damay na ito,” as the president would say when he acted as Napoles’s advance party to Camp Crame.
There may even be some measure of truth to it. For one, it is hard to believe that each and every one of the president’s men is clean and was in no way involved in diverting their pork barrel fund for personal purposes. Second, the pork barrel was and would always be used by the ruling party as a carrot to sway the votes of lawmakers and by lawmakers as a tool to get votes. The pork barrel is an essential tool for patronage politics. This is why the Aquino administration is hell-bent on finding ways to go around the opposition to it or how to make it palatable to the public without abolishing it, in essence. This is also why the Filipino people would not rest until it is completely abolished or those who adamantly defend it are removed from office.