By BENJIE OLIVEROS
It could be remembered that it was Kabataan Party-list Rep. Terry Ridon who first brought to the public’s attention the alleged overpricing of the Iloilo Convention Center, the cost of which, per area, was higher than the Beijing Bird’s Nest, the main stadium built by the Chinese government for the staging of the Beijing Olympics. For that, Rep. Ridon earned the ire of Senate President Drilon, who, in a social gathering of lawmakers, shouted at Ridon “Jesus, what did I do to you?”
Now the former provincial administrator of Iloilo Manuel Mejorada is saying that Iloilo City has become the “bird’s nest of corruption” because local government officials are under the protection of the third highest official of the land, referring to Senate President Drilon. He mentioned that a lot more Disbursement Acceleration Program-funded (DAP-funded) projects are likewise tainted with corruption.
This has put the Aquino administration in a fix. How long and how far would it pursue the probe on the alleged corruption case of one of the main stalwarts of Aquino’s ruling Liberal Party?
Surely, it knows that the longer the probe is pursued – much like what is has been doing to Vice President Binay – the bigger are the effects on the Liberal Party and the whole Aquino administration. The longer the probe goes, the more likely that the Filipino people would be able to see the truth and would be able to judge the official being investigated. No amount of assurances and vouching for the integrity of Senate President Drilon by President Aquino would be able to erase the public’s doubts. President Aquino has vouched for the integrity of Philippine National Police Chief Director General Alan Purisima, but this has done nothing to restore the public’s trust on the police chief and there are more alleged anomalies surfacing.
If and when Senate President Drilon’s integrity is tarnished, more likely, it will bring down with him the image that the Aquino administration has been building that it has been undertaking so-called reforms for good governance.
Did the Aquino administration not expect this when it unleashed Senator Trillanes on Vice President Binay? It should have learned its lesson when it ran after Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla. Senator Jinggoy Estrada got back at the administration by exposing the DAP and the “reward” lawmakers got for having former Chief Justice Renato Corona impeached.
Corruption in the country’s political system is so systemic such that all government officials and politicians have their own skeletons in the closet. When one exposes the other, the other also has something to expose in return.
And this culture of corruption begins in the electoral system. Those eyeing elective positions have to raise hundreds of millions and even billions of pesos to launch a competitive election campaign. How do you think they would recoup their expenses if they win? What would those who contributed to the campaign kitty of winning candidates ask for in return? Why do you think politicians run for office in the first place if not for power and opportunities it provides for increasing their wealth?
And the easiest way for elected government officials to do this is through the pork barrel and other discretionary funds because they have control over what projects to allot money to, where to put it up, and to whom to contract it to? This is why government officials, up to President Aquino, are defending the pork barrel system to the hilt. This is also why the campaign to abolish the pork barrel system is an important part of the fight against graft and corruption.
Currently, this campaign is being buried by the surge of issues competing over the headlines of media agencies. It is imperative on the Filipino people to pursue it because even though the abolition of the pork barrel system will not eradicate corruption, without it, it will be more difficult for politicians to pocket taxpayers’ money. So let’s pursue the campaign to #AbolishPork.