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Pork Barrel Scam Takes Its Toll On Ordinary People

“You know,” he told me, “I hope she rots in jail. And if one crazy inmate kills her, I won’t give a damn.  This will give a harsh lesson to those who are like her.  There are many Napoles in our government who hold high positions and continue to commit a crime by stealing from a poor tax payer like me and from the people they are supposed to serve.”

I immediately noticed that he used the singular form, tax payer, and not the plural form.  I could only surmise that he was being personal.

Then, Eddie, the 60 year-old tax payer, with his voice shaking, began to feel angrier and asked, “How can these people do this?  Do they have a conscience?”   Eddie was referring to Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged scam artist whose photos have graced the national dailies during the last three weeks, and the senators and representatives who were reported to have allegedly pocketed millions of pork barrel money.

We were drinking Emperador.  Eddie joked that now that he is retired, and with a meager income, he changed his brand of brandy from Fundador to Emperador because the latter is way much cheaper and tastes better.  It was 3 o’clock in the afternoon and too early for us to get drunk.  But alcohol appears to have made him more talkative and uninhibited.  This was normal for Eddie.   He trusted me enough that he was willing to share his thoughts on what has been happening in the political stage lately.

“We are at a crossroad.  Something has to happen. “

“What do you mean?”  I asked.

He said that many Filipinos are tired and angry like himself.  He said that the “Million People March to Luneta” that took place last week was not only a protest to put an end to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), but to all forms of graft and corruption in government.

“But I am not naïve,” he continued.  “It is not going to be easy.  Some friends I know still don’t care that some senators and congress people are corrupt because they are busy eking out a living. In fact, I believe that many Filipinos will still vote for the likes of Enrile, Revilla, Honasan, Estrada and Marcos if elections were held today.  None of these five will resign even if their names were mentioned in the Commission on Audit (COA) report.  They have the power, the influence, and the resources to wiggle themselves out of this mess.”

I was a bit surprised that Eddie did not mention any congress people. So I facetiously asked him why.  He said he could not remember the names of the other congress people because there are just too many of them listed on the COA reports.  I wanted to laugh but he was serious.  I did not want to hurt his sensibility.

Eddie asked to be excused for a few minutes to buy a pack of cigarettes.  When he came back, there was no letup in his discourse.

“Napoles is just one part of the pork barrel scandal.  We cannot ignore the other senators and congress people involved in the PDAF scandal.  Why can’t the government issue  warrants of arrest against them? Why just Napoles?  If the government is sincere, it should not leave any stone unturned. You know what I mean.  These politicians have the chutzpah to steal from a tax payer like me because they know that they will not be prosecuted.  Unlike in some countries like the United States, we have not had a politician tried and put to jail for corruption.  So these politicians are not afraid to steal my money because they think they are untouchable.  Now is the most opportune time to go after those implicated in the COA reports as having participated in the pork barrel scam.”

Out of curiosity, I asked Eddie what he would do if Napoles cooperates with the government to get a lesser sentence or if the PNoy administration, out of political convenience, goes after Napoles only and turns a blind eye on the five implicated senators and congress people?

He took a shot of Emperador, paused for a moment and said in a straightforward manner, “That means PNoy has no backbone.  If he is really serious in his “Daang Matuwid” call, he should do everything legally appropriate to investigate and punish everybody, regardless of status, involved in all forms of graft and corruption in government.”

It was almost six in the evening and I wanted to go home.  But Eddie wanted to stress one more point.

Remember this, Eddie said. According to Albert Einstein, “There are three great forces that rule the world: stupidity, fear, and greed.”  Once and for all, let us stop being stupid by not allowing ourselves to be manipulated by our politicians.  Let us overcome our fear by challenging our politicians to be more accountable and transparent.  Finally, let us expose the greed of our politicians whatever the cost may be.”

You must really be angry, I said.  “Yes, I am.  I continue to pay my taxes but look at what happens to my money.  I am pissed.  This has gone too long.  Enough with corruption.”

I left thinking that there are many more Eddies out there and that the “Million People March to Luneta” can turn into another People Power revolution, if the pork barrel scandal is not properly resolved.