“This time, Malacañang might be aiming to save the reputation of its closest allies, while sacrificing a few others who the administration might view as dispensable.” – Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Why did it take so long for the administration of President BS Aquino III to release to the public Napoles’ list of politicians involved in the pork barrel scam? As anti-pork groups such as the Abolish Pork Movement and #ScrapThePork Alliance gear to hold a Black Friday protest and noise barrage on May 16 4 p.m. at Welcome Rotanda, following weeks of pressing the Justice Department to release the list, Justice Sec. Leila de Lima finally released a copy to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
But by now various groups are questioning the Aquino administration’s involvement and seeming attempt to evade being linked to the pork barrel scam. Statements from progressive groups described events of the past few days, where various unofficial “Napolists” hit the headlines, as signs of “an orchestrated effort” by the Aquino administration to veer itself away from the scandal, and direct the peoples’ anger on the opposition.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had received the original Napoles list in an affidavit on the evening of April 22 at the Ospital ng Makati, but she delayed releasing it citing that it might result in “mayhem.” Meanwhile, so-called rehabilitation czar, former senator Panfilo Lacson, released a list which, he said, was handed over to him by Napoles’ husband. The digital files of former Napoles trusted aide Benhur Luy reportedly contained the names of lawmakers Napoles had dealings with. Another whistle-blower Sandra Cam also said she has a list, which, she claimed, is “closer to the truth”citing that she has in fact been visited last week by an undersecretary who wanted to remove his or her name from the list.
Then, last Monday, Pres. Aquino himself said he had seen three versions of the list.
Taken together, all these lists contain names of no less than half of incumbent senators, some former senators, some Cabinet members and almost a hundred representatives of the Lower House – all denying involvement.
“If President Aquino was the first one to receive the infamous list, why didn’t he disclose it right then and there?” asked Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon. The youth legislator also asked, “Why did his admission come days after he received the list? What happened during the length of time that he kept this fact hidden from the public? These are the questions that the public demands the president to answer now.”
The progressive group Youth Act Now said in a statement that the existence of multiple lists is muddling the issue. But instead of confusing the people, the seemingly “deliberate obfuscation” of the pork scam issue, is clarifying things, like the wider and deeper extent of corruption, and the Aquino administration’s likely involvement in it.
“Despite the release of the list, Aquino says he still trusts his cabinet members such as Budget Secretary Butch Abad who was also implicated. Aquino even went so far as to say that they will not be fired unless heavy evidence supported it,” noted Jay Del Rosario, vice chairperson of Karatula, an artist group active against pork and corruption. Karatula warned the public against the “deeply rooted culture of impunity” as evidenced by the Aquino administration’s “continued evasion, abuse of power and outright violation of public trust.”
The artist group reminded the public that Aquino has his own pork barrel amounting to P1.3 trillion ($28.88 million), the largest in our country’s history. “Besides that, the Aquino administration was instrumental in the use of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, a program for bribery and political bullying. We cannot simply gloss over these aspects; all must be put to justice.”
Muddling the pork issue
With the delay in the release of the “official” list drawn up by Napoles, there are now suspicions that the Aquino administration has been orchestrating a whitewash.
“We question the political motive of the Aquino administration, its selective prosecution of opposition solons while mum on the involvement of Sec. Abad, Sec. Alcala and other administration allies,” Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante Sectoral Party, said in a statement.
“Aquino wants to protect his allies and keep their already weakening alliances intact at the expense of truth and justice,” KPMM Sammy Malunes said in another statement.
Even if the multiple lists followed by denials are muddling the pork issue, it also reveals, at the same time, the wider, deeper extent of pork corruption and thievery. Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon urges the public to follow the “pork trail” which, he said, may lead to Malacañang. Ridon said the Napoles list is part of the same “badly written script that began with Napoles’ “surrender” in August last year.
“This time, Malacañang might be aiming to save the reputation of its closest allies, while sacrificing a few others who the administration might view as dispensable,” Ridon said, noting that there are “administration allies” in the Napoles list.
“Mr. Aquino might think that we can get easily confused by the recent developments, and the involvement of more and more public officials in this intricate issue. Mr. President, for your information, the youth can see through your lies, and we see a guilty spider tangled in its own web of lies. We are not forgetting the fact that you control the greatest pork of all,” Victor Villanueva, spokesman of Youth Act Now, said in another statement.
The youth group, which has members and chapters all over the country and was one of the main organizers of the large anti-pork barrel protests last year, vowed to organize more large-scale protests if Aquino and his cabinet secretaries “keep on muddling the issue.”
Punish corrupt officials
In delaying the release of Napoles’ supposed official list of politicians involved in 10 years of the pork barrel scam, the Aquino administration is being accused of likely “sifting through the lists and picking ones that will be redeemed and ones who will be damned,”Kabataan Partylist Rep. Ridon said.
The youth legislator told Malacañang and Aquino’s allies that: “The public deserves not only parts of the truth, but the whole truth.”
Aside from Kabataan Partylist, various groups are calling for the filing of cases and exacting legal accountability on those who took part in the scam. Given the turn of events concerning Napoles and her lists, the Koalisyon ng Progresibo at Makabayang Manggagawa branded Aquino’s platform against corruption as a complete sham.
“Aquino has the power to go after the lawmakers named in both the Napolist and Benhur Luy’s list, but he chooses to be deliberately wishy-washy about it because many in his own camp and the Liberal Party are included in it,” said Sammy Malunes, spokesman of KPMM. His group is urging the public not to wait for Aquino’s term to end before seeking his accountability in the scam.
“Pres. Aquino should step down because he is incapable of showing moral strength and credibility in crucial issues such as this,” Malunes said of the pork barrel scam.
Aside from urging the public to air calls on making all the corrupt officials behind the pork barrel scam legally accountable, the labor alliance said these crooks should also be made to return every single peso they stole from the Filipino people.
“This is a matter of justice. Throwing these officials in jail will serve that interest, but it will not be enough,” Malunes said, adding that those public officials cum thieves “should be compelled to give back what they stole, with interest.”