We were about to strew ashes upon our heads and wear sackcloth in atonement for bashing the President’s Daily Inquirer this past year, having read the Yellow Paper’s explosive series of investigative reports on the pork barrel scam. In fact, we were about to petition Pulitzer organizers to revise their rules and give the highest possible award to PDI scribe Nancy “Yeah, we’ve met tapos ito po yung kwintas ko” Carvajal — and shut down this flimsy blog for good.
But something seemed amiss, so we decided to download the thick report by the Commission on Audit (COA) and read for ourselves how Janet Lim-Napoles and her filing cabinet of bogus NGOs turned the government into one ginormous ATM for herself and a host of lucky lawmakers.
That was when cracks began to show in PDI’s reporting about pork barrel corruption. Having read nothing on the pork mess but Carvajal’s exposés based on documents peddled by supposed whistleblowers, we were made to believe that the only ones who had benefited from the largesse were some obscure congressmen and a few big names — Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, Bongbong Marcos, Gringo Honasan and Tito Sotto:
But we had to wipe our reading glasses clean out of shock and disbelief when we saw familiar names on the COA list of “questionable” transactions, who were, in retrospect, conspicuously absent or buried six feet under in PDI’s pork exposés.
Yup, that was Iloilo Rep. Niel C. Tupas, Jr., the brilliant orator and legal whiz at the Senate impeachment court who had to be asked to warm the bench most of the time to avoid intimidating the likes of Serafin Cuevas, Rudy Fariñas and Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Tupas was tagged by COA in questionable NGO deals worth P542 million along with fellow BS Aquino BFF, Joel Villanueva, now the head of TESDA. Also, Edgardo Angara, father of Sonny Angara, who won a Senate seat on the Yellow ticket last May. COA was deeply suspicious of old man Angara’s P81.55-million financial assistance to a pet NGO and a P14-million feeding program with another NGO where he’s, uhm, an incorporator. That looks like the Napoles business model: cultivate a cottage industry of paper NGOs and monopolize the pork barrel pipeline.
Two husband-and-wife pork donors — the Villars of Las Piñas and the Cayetanos of Taguig — had also escaped the radar, despite being red-flagged by the COA report for various “deficiencies” such as, in the case of the former, dealing with “suppliers of questionable existence.”
Then there’s the P5-million granular fertilizer project funded by the now Customs commish Ruffy Biazon, who’s safely tucked in his juicy post despite a top-to-bottom dressing down of his underperforming agency by BS Aquino during his SONA last July.
COA also took issue with congressional heavyweights Edcel Lagman and Miriam Defensor-Santiago for exceeding their pork allocations and for various deficiencies involving budget releases to their pork projects — all reaching tens if not hundreds of millions of taxpayer pesos. But there were no screaming banner headlines like that about Tito Sotto, who was “tied to pork waste” by the Inquirer last July 29 for projects worth P6.5 million. The amount was loose change compared to Tupas’ loot yet there was no rightful mention in the country’s No. 1 Yellow Paper. Mind you, if a scandal worth P6.5 million merited a screaming headline then the Tupas booty should fill up a year’s worth.
After Revilla and Enrile, the most voracious pork eater probably is none other than Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, a longtime Gloria lapdog before his sudden and miraculous conversion into a BS Aquino lackey. Neptali cracks the Yellow whip in the House of Pork.
This felt like being cheated twice over. First, by the ruthless plunder of state coffers by pork-crazy politicos. Second, by PDI’s overwhelmingly selective revelations, which made it look like opposition senators, possible presidential contenders, and a few hitherto nameless and faceless congressmen had the exclusive franchise to the pork market, and that BS Aquino buddies and Liberal Party bosses like Niel Tupas and Neptali Gonzales were like Adam and Eve before the Fall — free of the stain of original sin.
But the emerging big picture is a political ecosystem greased by pork barrel money, financing the tantalizingly rich lifestyles of lawmakers of all shapes, and sizes and stripes.
Now that COA chief Grace Pulido-Tan let the cat out of the bag, PDI’s forced to report about the widening scope of the pork scam. Thanks to Gil Cabacungan, even if his reputation precedes him, for pitching the story about BS cabinet exec Proceso Alcala’s own meat processing operation to a PDI newsdesk that’s always looked the other way.
The August 17 banner story about the rare COA press conference gave PDI readers a shameful serving of half-truths and conveniently ignored facts, all the while announcing to the world that COA had validated its previous exposés. You already! But we wonder why there was no mention of the huge Angara pork. To be sure, it was not because he once played generous ninong to our virtuous PDI journos.
Don’t be surprised with the apparent PDI “news management,” one that contains the damage to Napoles and steers clear of President BS buddies. Whoever leaked the story to PDI editors (who eventually assigned the writing to the brilliant and no-strings-attached Carvajal) sure had his own news management in mind and specific, laser-focused targets for the exposé.
But as is often the case, the story has acquired a life of its own to the point that even if PDI intentionally obscures damaging information against the likes of Tupas and Gonzales, the inconvenient truth eventually comes out.