Remember the three spokesmen for the prosecution panel in Chief Justice Renato Corona’s trial and the prosecutors who portrayed themselves as daang-matuwid anti-graft crusaders?
Did you ever wonder why Representatives Rey Umali and Jorge Banal even dared to violate bank secrecy laws by possessing Corona’s bank accounts, which they tried to smuggle into the trial as evidence? Were you in awe at the House of Representatives’ efficiency that it had 188 members of congress sign the impeachment complaint against Corona and transmit it to the Senate, all in one afternoon?
It turns out it was all about money, as data now available from the Department of Budget and Management’s website incontrovertibly show: P15 million in pork barrel funds—euphemistically called the Priority Development Assistance Fund, or PDAF—for each congressman were released to most of them on the very day they signed the complaint, on December 12, 2011. There’s a Filipino term for that: kaliwaan, which can be roughly translated: “Give me my money at the same time I give you what you want, simultaneously.”
No wonder most of them didn’t bother to read the complaint, no wonder there was a rush to sign it that the 188 who did was more than the number of congressmen needed.
Rep. Tobias Tiangco’s allegation then, for which he was pilloried in the trial itself, is proven accurate by the facts: President Aquino bribed congressmen to sign the impeachment complaint against Corona by dangling before them the release of their pork barrel funds.
Now I understand why Rep. Umali risked illegally possessing Corona’s confidential bank accounts, given to him, he said, by a little lady, which he plotted to be released to media. For his trouble, he got P35 million in pork barrel fund, on December 12, more than what his colleagues got.
P15 million seems to be the congressmen’s magic number, as this is the same amount each of them got after the trial as additional reward, sourced from the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund.
What a greedy, gullible bunch. They could have had some delicadeza to give up their remaining pork barrel funds for the year so there wouldn’t be any suspicion at all that they had been bribed to sign the impeachment complaint.
But they were told that if they didn’t sign the complaint they could kiss goodbye their remaining pork barrel for the year. “E sayang naman,” one congressman told me, “Panggastos rin sa Pasko yun.” (It would have been a waste if I didn’t get it, especially since it would have helped me for my Christmas expenses.”)
Aquino’s emissaries also cleverly told them that the pork barrel releases for the succeeding year, in 2012, would be suspended during the trial. Such releases indeed slowed down to a trickle during that period, as Budget Secretary Florencio Abad estimated that they needed the funds, which would amount to nearly P2 billion, to bribe the senators to decide that Corona was guilty.
What a bunch of hypocrites the spokesmen for the prosecution panel were. Marikina Representative Romero Quimbo got his P14 million a few days before the rest did, while now Senator Juan Edgardo Angara got his on December 15. Lorenzo Tanada got his P12 million on December 22. Instead of admiring this younger generation of congressmen, I’m instead reminded of that old Filipino political quip, “So young, so corrupt.” How early to lose one’s principles in the heat of politics.
Even as he was close to President Aquino that he would be appointed to the crucial post of secretary of Transportation and Communications a few months after the trial, then Congressman Joseph Emilo Abaya wouldn’t want to be left out in the distribution of the President’s largesse. He got P15 million of his pork barrel released also on December 12.
Most of the prosecutors got their pork barrel on the day of the signing of their impeachment complaint or right after: Neil Tupas, Umali, Marilyn Agabas, Giorgidi Aggabao, Rodolfo Fariñas, and CIBAC Party-list Representative Sherwin Tinga.
Prosecutor and Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga either is a very smart fellow or was in the inner core of the conspiracy to take out Corona. He got the remaining P20 million of his pork barrel allocation early, on November 24.
Don’t admire just yet Akbayan’s Arlene Bag-ao for not getting her pork barrel in exchange for her trouble as member of the prosecution panel. She was a smart schemer.
Right after Corona’s trial, Dinagat Representative Ruben Ecleo, already a fugitive from justice for two years, was finally expelled from Congress, in July 2012. This cleared the way for Bag-ao’s appointment by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte as “caretaker” (officially “legislative liaison officer”) of the island province, practically its acting congressman. She exploited the post to the hilt to win as Dinagat’s representative in the May 2013 elections, the first Party-list representative to be promoted as a regular, or district, congressman.
Even one of the presumed plotters in the filing of the impeachment complaint, Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd, got P35 million of his pork released on December 12, the day of the signing of the impeachment complaint, as if to give himself a bonus. Even Speaker Belmonte got P5 million of his pork barrel on that day.
During the trial, Tañada pontificated: “This is a case of the people versus the chief justice. The people have a right to know.” What a hypocrite. Didn’t the people have the right to know that money flowed for congressmen to sign the impeachment complaint?
The people didn’t have anything to do with Corona’s trial. It was pork barrel. Why does Aquino still have the gall to complain over being called Pork Barrel King?