In contrast to the scripted and circus-like surrender of Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., Sen. Jinggoy Estrada turned himself in to the Philippine National Police in Camp Crame with less fanfare shortly after the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division issued a warrant of arrest against him and his co-accused in connection with the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam that is making many Filipinos here and abroad fuming with disbelief and anger.
Estrada has been accused of pocketing P183.79 million in kickbacks from dealings with fake non-government organizations (NGOs) from 2004 to 2012.
Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brain of the scam, who was instrumental in putting up these bogus NGOs, was shrewd enough to have been able to lure, among many others, the three senators, namely Revilla, Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile (also awaiting arrest), to funnel their individual yearly outrageous hundreds of millions of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a.k.a. pork barrel fund, to non-existent livelihood projects in exchange for a percentage amount.
What makes the alleged plundering of the lawmakers scandalous and inhuman is because the tax-payers money, supposedly allocated to these NGOs, were for the purpose of helping improve the quality of life of the poor in our society through livelihood programs and other small scale community projects.
Suffice to say that instead of the poor benefiting from the senator’s pork barrel, for which the intention was in the first place, it was surreptitiously rechanneled by Napoles to benefit herself and her cohorts.
While this disgraceful scam is now being attended to by the Sandiganbayan, the issue that I want to bring up here is the claim of Estrada that ‘carelessness’ in his PDAF allocation got the better of him.
If the amount of the allocation, year after year, was peanuts and marbles, I would understand and perhaps bear no malice towards it. But we are talking here about oodles of money, and tax-payers money at that, so how could one be so careless and gullible to entrust such a huge amount to someone whom he claims at first he didn’t even know?
“I was made to believe that they were legitimate NGOs. Who is the senator who is stupid enough to endorse his pork barrel to bogus NGOs? I will be the first one to denounce it. I do not endorse the bogus NGOs. That is the job of the implementing agencies. Why blame us?”
It truly does not sound like the question comes from a senator worth his salt. Stupid? Who else?
“Our job as legislators is purely recommendatory. It is the implementing agencies that decide whether the NGOS are legimate or bogus. The least that they should have done is to inform the senators that the NGOs are bogus,” Jinggoy said.
What a dumb excuse! If you can’t do it, could you at least send a competent member of your staff to verify and ascertain, at least, that the money has been put to good use?
If Estrada’s foremost interest was in helping the poor, would it not have bothered him, as is being alleged now, that huge amount of money came back to him in the form of kickbacks?
Manna from heaven? Well, sort of if only ones conscience is clear.
But silence is golden…..until a whistle is blown.