By BENJIE OLIVEROS
So many lists of those allegedly involved in the pork barrel scam have come out. The latest is the “official” list from Janet Lim-Napoles herself, which was turned over by Justice Sec. Leila de Lima to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. The list identified those who had dealings with Napoles, which included 10 incumbent senators, two Cabinet members and more than 60 current and past representatives of the Lower House.
Panfilo Lacson also came out with a list, which, he claimed, was given to him by Jimmy Napoles, husband of Janet. The Lacson list identified 10 incumbent senators, former senators Manny Villar and the late Robert Barbers, former Batanes representative and current Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agriculture Sec. Prospero Alcala, and 68 current and former representatives of Congress. Another list, this time obtained by GMA news, had 13 incumbent senators.
Whistleblower Sandra Cam also has her version of the list, which named 16 senators and 82 congressmen. The Philippine Daily Inquirer published a list, which it culled from the digital files of the relative and former trusted aide of Napoles Benhur Luy, naming more than 100 lawmakers including 25 past and present senators.
There are so many lists coming out that it is difficult to ascertain which is closer to the truth. In fact, this may have been done on purpose to make it difficult to pinpoint and hold accountable those who were really involved in the pork barrel scam.
This brings back memories of the famous I have two CDs press conference of Ignacio Bunye, the spokesperson and press secretary of then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in 2005. Bunye tried to preempt the surfacing of a recording of the telephone conversation between Arroyo and then Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano where the former was ordering Garcillano to ensure her lead of one million votes over her rival in the presidential race, the late Fernando Poe Jr.. Bunye said the implicating recording was tampered with.
Despite this seeming attempt to confuse the Filipino people, all lists clearly show:
1. The scandalous magnitude of the corruption scam – involving billions of pesos of taxpayers’ money and almost a hundred government officials being implicated – considering that this is just one branch of government, involving just one type of fund and just one operator in the person of Janet Lim-Napoles, surely there are more scams waiting to be uncovered;
2. The incontrovertible proof that corruption in the Philippines is systemic and that there is no way that the Aquino government could not have known right from the start who should be held accountable considering that even key officials of the current administration were involved, and when the lists began to surface, President Aquino was forced to admit that he had seen three versions of the list;
3. The attempted cover up and the real reasons behind the VIP treatment Janet Lim-Napoles has been receiving ever since her “surrender” up to the present and why even President Benigno Aquino III went out of his way to accommodate her and to ensure her “safety;”
4. The impunity in corruption where corrupt officials could just as easily get away with stealing from the nation’s coffers and maintain themselves in power no matter who occupies the seat in Malacañang;
5. Corruption is so deeply embedded in the country’s political, socio-economic system so much so that it would take no less than decisive, radical measures to restructure the country’s political and electoral, economic, and socio-cultural system to eradicate it.
If the Aquino government does not act on this decisively and hold to account – not just a few lawmakers from the opposition while saving the members of his administration, political party and his allies, – ALL those involved then it would also show that Aquino’s much-hyped anti-corruption drive, under his presidential campaign slogan “kung walang korap, walang mahirap” (If there is no corruption then there would be no poverty), is just a painful joke that it has been playing on the Filipino people.