The biggest flaw of the Commission on Audit’s special report on the use of Congress pork-barrel funds is the fact that it had to rely almost entirely on documents under the control of the Budget department headed by President Aquino’s ideologue and strategist Florencio Abad.
As the COA report itself complained: “The DBM could not provide the Team, despite repeated requests, with complete schedule of releases per legislator from PDAF for soft projects…” (page 5). This means that not all senators and legislators were actually audited, since the DBM did not provide data for everyone.
While the COA did not specify which senators’ pork-barrel use the DBM provided documents on, this can be extracted from the report’s Table 4, entitled “Releases from PDAF. . . from CYs 2007 to 2009 Per Legislator as Provided by the DBM and Gathered by the Team” (emphasis mine).
That is, the DBM provided documents on the pork barrel releases, only for the members of Congress who are listed in the table and only for the amounts indicated. These documents included such details as the implementing agencies and the NGOs to which the pork barrel funds were directed.
The COA of course did its own research by investigating for instance whether the NGOs referred to in these documents as having received pork barrel funds were genuine or ghost entities.
Only two senators are known, and have publicly declared, that they had never touched their pork barrel allocations:
Senators Joker Arroyo and Panfilo Lacson. Unless other senators claim that they also have not asked for any pork barrel, we have to assume that the rest received their full allocation of P200 million annually, totaling P600 million for the years 2007, 2008 and to 2009, covered by the audit.
The table accompanying this column lists the amount of pork barrel funds the COA audited per senator, and the percentages these represent for each senator’s P600 million total PDAF allocations. The percentages in effect represent how much each senator’s pork barrel funds were audited.
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla, and Edgardo Angara were the most audited senators.
There was in effect a 100 percent audit of Enrile’s use of his pork barrel funds. If their use of the funds were audited in detail, it’s no wonder at all that the COA report found so many anomalies in their use.
The pork barrel of the senators allied to Mr. Aquino—Kiko Pangilinan, the Cayetano siblings, Ralph Recto, Loren Legarda, Antonio Trillianes— were hardly audited, with the amounts checked representing less than 10 percent of their allocations. This was obviously because the DBM refused to provide the COA with the documents on their pork barrel use.
No wonder the COA report didn’t have any findings whether these senators properly or improperly used their pork barrel.
Surprisingly or not, the COA —based on its table 4—appear to have been unable to get any documents on the pork barrel use of then Senator Aquino and Senator Mar Roxas.
Equally surprising, the COA report had no data at all on the pork barrel use of Francis Escudero and Jamby Madrigal, with not a single reference to them, as if they were not senators from 2007 to 2009, the coverage of the audit.
The DBM however provided the COA with documents on the PDAF releases to Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., Loi Estrada, and Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., who served as senators only up to the first half of 2007. The COA however even audited the use of pork barrel by former Senator Juan Flavier, who finished his term in 2001. Was the DBM deliberately making fun of the COA investigation?
The COA special audit probably was designed as an honest-to-goodness project to fight corruption. However, the COA forgot a crucial detail: that the audit would rely to a crucial extent on the DBM secretary, that he would be nonpartisan and release all documents the COA needed.
He didn’t. The COA forgot that Secretary Abad, the Liberal Party’s prime political strategist, is probably the most partisan Budget secretary ever.
The documents involving the use of pork barrel funds by administration senators most probably have been shredded by now.
The only person so far who can point out that the administration senators are as equally guilty as those in the opposition in the use of their pork-barrel funds is, to use Mar Roxas’ reference to her, “Ma’m Janet” Lim Napoles.
She is jailed at the PNP’s Special Action Force camp, very conveniently for administration operators to rehearse the accusations she will heap on the opposition. The Makati City jail was just too crowded and Vice President Jejomar Binay undoubtedly has people there who could squeal to him that administration operators were rehearsing Napoles to fabricate her testimony.
(And the charge that put her in jail? “Illegal detention” of accuser Benhur Luy last April in Napoles’ posh unit at Twin Towers condominium along Ayala Avenue, which the Justice department dismissed in May, after “Ma’m Janet’s” lawyers presented CCTV video of the ‘kidnapped’ going in and out of the building by himself and with even priests testifying that he was then enrolled in a religious retreat. Any charge of all, since she had at all costs—the P10 million reward Aquino offered for her capture was peanuts—to be put under the administration’s custody.)
The inescapable conclusion is that COA audit started off as a legitimate investigation. It was hijacked though to become a demolition job against opposition senators, and the opposition in general, for the 2016 elections. Poor Angara – he was sacrificed to make the demolition job credible, since after all he was on his last term.
The hijacking has the hallmark of a tuwid-na-daan operation by a self-righteous cabal purportedly to rid the country of corruption, which however is selective, targeting only its enemies and demolishing them by any means necessary, in order to hold on to power.
The strategy is brilliant: How can Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla salvage their reputation by claiming that their colleagues are also guilty, but just weren’t investigated?
But the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, as a poet put it long ago.
It may have pinned down the opposition senators, but Aquino now faces a firestorm of disgust and outrage, with the public believing more and more that his administration has a bigger—P25 billion annually under his watch as against P8 billion before him —and more corrupt pork-barrel system than during the years covered by the COA audit.