Cartoon by Roni Santiago
Cartoon by Roni Santiago

At a time when many Filipinos here in the United States are heaping lavish praises on President Aquino for the gains achieved by his “matuwid na daan” campaign comes this spate of disturbing reports about a “P10-billion pork barrel scam.”

The reports, which were first published by the Philippine Daily Inquirer, reveal how the pork-barrel funds of senators and congressmen are channeled to fake non-governmental organizations (NGOs) set up by a businesswoman identified as Janet Lim Napoles.

The reports stated that a company named JLN created the NGOs with the employees themselves acting as presidents of the bogus entities.

The NGOs would apply with government agencies for funding and get the approval of the lawmakers to order the government to take the money from their PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) or pork barrel. Later, the government agency would send to the bank a letter authorizing the release of the funds. These would be drawn by the fake NGOs and eventually deposited in the account of JLN.

Napoles would then deliver the lawmakers’ shares of the loot.

Under the PDAF system, a senator is allocated P200 million worth of PDAF projects, while congressmen, including party-list representatives, get P70 million each in the yearly budget.

It was reported that former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile, acting Senate President Jinggoy Estrada and Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Gregorio Honasan and several congressmen allegedly channeled their PDAF to the fake NGOs.

Like Napoles, the senators implicated in the scam denied involvement in the alleged misuse of millions in PDAF.

In the wake of the reports about the scam, Senators Franklin Drilon, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Chiz Escudero have separately called for a full-blown legislative investigation into the allegations.

By all means, a deep probe on this scam that involves a huge amount should be conducted by the proper authorities.

For many years now, the pork barrel system has been known to be a source of graft. Many lawmakers are known to have been unashamedly receiving kickbacks from contractors undertaking the PDAF projects. There is the so-called 20 percent “SOP,” which is actually a euphemism for bribes.

Due to the payment of the bribes, PDAF projects are usually substandard. For example, a road-cementing project funded with the pork barrel develops cracks as soon as heavy trucks pass along it. This is so because the base is so thin that it is only about 50 percent of the required thickness.

Judging from the reports, it appears that the Commission on Audit (CoA) has failed to do its job of monitoring the use of the P10-billion pork-barrel funds.

Any investigation on the matter should look into the “apparent negligence” of the CoA.

But regardless of the outcome of the probe, a move to abolish the “pork barrel system” should be initiated.