TAKING ON corruption is never easy. After two years of investigation by nearly three dozen lawyers of the Office of the Ombudsman reviewing thousands of documents, the corruption cases involving the use of pork-barrel funds against an incredible tally of legislators are far from being concluded. Many of the cases have not even reached trial stage.

The government’s efforts to clean up the pork-barrel mess have thus far produced plunder, graft, and bribery charges against eight legislators—three senators and five members of the House of Representatives—filed before the Sandiganbayan.

The eight are among over 100 legislators who purportedly participated in the misuse and abuse of the pork barrel, otherwise known as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Read: Part 8 of PCIJ’s series on “Pork a la Gloria, Pork a la PNoy”
* Ombudsman on PDAF cases: Long, rough road to justice

A third complaint that the Department of Justice filed only last August 4 against two senators and seven former and current House members is still undergoing review by the Ombudsman.

“We consider these PDAF cases as [among] the most important cases that we are prosecuting,” Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard A. Mosquera tells PCIJ.

“In fact,” he adds, “a substantial number of prosecutors are involved [in these cases]. And our most senior prosecutors are directly supervising [them].”

After more than a year in court hearings, however, the Ombudsman has yet to get a conviction on the first eight cases that are now pending at the Sandiganbayan. Comments Mosquera: “Some cases proceed quickly, while others are not as quick.”

The investigation began on March 22, 2013 when the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) “rescued” Benhur Luy, from a Taguig City condominium owned by his cousin and boss, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles. Luy would later become a whistleblower exposing massive pork-barrel fraud, pointing to Napoles as the head of a network of bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that siphoned off pork-barrel funds in collusion with legislators.

Mosquera says the Ombudsman currently has 35 prosecutors exclusively focusing on the eight ongoing cases filed before the anti-graft court and five new PDAF cases. These prosecutors are apart from the scores of lawyers of the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office who continue to gather documentary and testimonial evidence against more potential respondents. Mosquera is serving as lead prosecutor in the cases. Mosquera heads the Ombudsman’s prosecution team.

For each of the eight cases, the Ombudsman is presenting some 5,000 documentary exhibits. The number shoots up to about 8,000 when the exhibits’ sub-markings are included. The number of witnesses who testify ranges from 30 to 50 per case.

“There is only one prosecution team for all the cases,” he says. “But on the other side, ang sa defense naman, iba-iba ang mga abugado ng mga akusado. So natural na iba-iba ang pagpapalakad nila ng depensa (But on the other side, the defense has a variety of lawyers representing the accused. Naturally, the way they carry out their defense would be different from each other).”

He can only be thankful that while the “fairly complicated” pork cases have required more than extraordinary attention on the part of the Ombudsman, these have also served as a landmark in how the regulatory and integrity agencies of government could work together to build cases against corruption.

“It’s very encouraging to share and to note,” Mosequera tells PCIJ, “for probably the first time in our history as a country, talagang nagtulong-tulong ang Office of the Ombudsman, Commission on Audit, National Bureau of Investigation, Anti-Money Laundering Council, Securities and Exchange Commission, and even the Civil Service Commission.” – PCIJ, August 2015

By Davinci S. Maru

HUNDREDS of mourners marched on Wednesday afternoon from Manila’s Sampaloc district to Mendiola in Malacañang to bid goodbye to loved one.

The bereaved, clad in traditional black shirts, walked in paces behind a simple brown casket under the oppressive sun. But instead of dirge music, the mourners broke out in wild, staccato chants of pain and longing.

It looked like a typical funeral cortege, except that it wasn’t. The send-off ceremony was not for a beloved person but just as important, a cherished cause — the passage of the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).It was a cause that the marchers has pushed in the last 15 years in the Philippine Congress. It was a cause that has died a slow death in a regime that calls itself “Daang Matuwid” or straight path.

The proposed legislation, which would have defined specific, clear guidelines for the citizen’s right to access information in the custody of government agencies has not moved past the Committee on Public Information in a Congress dominated by the Liberal Party coalition of of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s administration.

Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan, convenor of the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, which organized the march, urged the marchers to turn their grief into rightful indignation. Instead of waiting hopelessly for Congress to pass the law — with just months to go to the May 2016 elections, he said the Coalition would turn instead to what he calls “FOI practice.”

That means, he said, the citizens and civil society organizations filing requests for documents and data, simultaneously, to demand greater transparency and accountability.

“Hindi ito ang katapusan sa ating paglalaban ng ating karapatan
,” he said. (This is not the end of our struggle to assert our right to information.) The Right to Know Coalition of 160 member-organizations and individuals, will continue to assert their right to information, in whatever form, on matters of public concern, he said.

The FOI bill passed on third and final reading in the Senate on March 10, 2014. In the House of Representatives, however, the consolidated version of a counterpart bill has hurdled the vote of the Committee on Public Information but has yet to be reported out, and debated, in plenary on second reading.

The Philippines is the last of the eight founding member-states of Open Government Partnership (OGP), a multilateral initiative led by the United States, which has not enacted an FOI law, Malaluan said.

The FOI bill has not merited mention in the six state of the nation addresses that Aquino has delivered as President. It was mentioned, though, in a sentence in the Budget Message to Congress that Aquino submitted days later.

At the funeral march, the FOI advocates, fists clenched in protest, chanted: “FOI is dead, sinagasaan sa tuwid na daan.” (Run over on the straight path.)

Pallbearers carried the casket from across the gates of the University of Sto. Tomas to the gates of Centro Escolar University on Mendiola Street, a few meters away from the gates of Malacañang Palace. There, the casket was laid at its final resting place.

The Right to Know Coalition members offered a funeral spray and lighted candles. In a fitting send-off, they sang the classic Filipino song, “Hindi Kita Malilimutan” against a backdrop of three black-cloaked, scythe-wielding hooded figures. The grim reapers bore the smiling faces of Aquino, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, the trio who, in the protestors’ view, caused the death of the FOI bill by sheer inaction and indifference. – PCIJ, August 2015

SO WHAT if pork money or earmarks for legislators line the budget of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)? Who gets how much, and how?

Why, in the first place, do legislators have to course their pork monies to TESDA for allotment to private Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs)?

Read: Part 7 of our series on “Pork a la Gloria, Pork a la PNoy”

* TESDA’s pork money mill: Who gets how much, how?

TESDA Director General Joel Villanueva has expressed a sense of powerlessness when it comes to how pork funds lodged at his agency should be expended, and for which TVIs.

Villanueva told PCIJ last week that legislators, through TESDA’s directors and managers at its regional and provincial offices, are the ones who get to accredit and select the TVIs.

“They were the ones who dictated the costing, the partners, ‘yung ibang tools,” he said, referring to lawmakers who had already channeled their pork to the TVIs through TESDA. Villanueva added that the legislators get to identify which TESDA unit should manage their pork, and the officers of these units in turn get to enroll the service of TVIs.

“The funds are given to the regional and provincial offices,” he said. “Ayoko namang sa akin ma-sentro lahat, kaya sabi ko, kayo mag-manage niyan… ibang-iba ako kaysa sa nauna sa akin dito (I didn’t want everything to be centralized under me so I told them, you manage that… this is where I differ from my predecessor).”

By Villanueva’s account, TESDA has turned into a reform and reformist agency, in part because it had a controversy-ridden past under his predecessor. Augusto ‘Buboy’ Syjuco Jr. was TESDA’s boss.

While he was serving as a congressman of Iloilo’s second district from 1998 to 2001, Syjuco has been charged with graft for alleged misuse of his pork-barrel funds. That, however, was just the beginning of Syjuco’s entanglement with pork and the courts.

Since 2013, the Office of the Ombudsman had filed graft charges against Syjuco before the Sandiganbayan four times.

Just last March, the Ombudsman filed a new criminal case against Syjuco for the purchase of P9.25-million worth of books using TESDA money, through a printing contract that was awarded sans public bidding.

The Ombudsman indicted Syjuco for awarding the contract in July 2006 to Grand C. Graphics, Inc. to print 250,000 copies of a book that he himself wrote, Salabat for the Filipino Soul Book II and which he described to be “a book of Filipino virtues” and “a career guide for Filipino children.”

But Villanueva’s depiction of a TESDA now fairly high in the integrity meter is not one shared by some TESDA employees and partner training institutes.

Two senior employees of TESDA told PCIJ a different story – of “scholarship vouchers” awarded to favored private contractors by TESDA’s regional and provincial offices, in exchange for commissions of 20 to 35 percent of contract cost paid up– front or at the close of the program, always in cold cash.

One of the insiders explained, “At the end of the program, when it’s time for the PO to pay the chosen schools, that’s when there are ‘arrangements.’”

Uso sa mga PO (provincial offices) ang ganyang kalakaran (Such shenanigans are popular at the POs),” said one of the insiders. “Since PO disburses the scholarship vouchers to their chosen private schools, and the chosen private schools will report their scholars, true or false, there is no way to find out talaga.

By contrast, the source added, “ang public schools at TESDA training centers, totoo talaga ang naka-declare kasi talagang mahihirap ang mga clients (with the public schools and TESDA training centers, what’s declared is true because the clients are really poor).”

By the account of the source and another TESDA insider, the amounts involved are huge. One of the sources said that the collection, per contract, “would range from 100K (100 thousand pesos) up, depending on the number of scholarships awarded to the schools, which amounts to millions per school.”

The second source and TESDA insider rued that the moneymaking ventures continue to thrive at TESDA because many of its officers and senior employees own either a school or an assessment center with TESDA accreditation.

“The officers of TESDA with have schools or assessment centers, that’s how they earn,” said the second insider. The source added that scholars or schools that want to get such accreditation, in fact, do not have to pay any fees, “but centers are paid by TESDA on a per-head basis times the amount of assessment fee. So, depende ‘yun kung ano trade nila (it depends on what their trade is).”

Both sources also say that on the TESDA board sit at least two owners of schools located in Cavite, Batangas, and Metro Manila, that have been doing good business with TESDA.

“Corruption in the assessment (of scholars) happens,” the second source said, “when private schools pay back the PO, since they were allowed to participate in the assessment. Lahat ng nag-serve as TESDA representative from PO will receive from the assessment centers, JO (job order) included.” The “minimum amount” in such transactions,” said the source, “is 40K pataas (forty thousand pesos up).”

That such sums run into so many digits is not surprising since huge amounts of pork monies have poured into TESDA. In 2012, lawmakers had practically smothered the agency with their PDAF.

Of the 72 legislators who allocated a total of more than P300 million to TESDA in 2012, 68 were party-list and district representatives who channeled P284-million of their PDAF through TESDA. Four senators gave P17.5 million more. — PCIJ, August 2015

THEY ARE supposed to be top-rate technical vocational institutions (TVIs), which is why they bagged millions of pesos from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Or actually, from the pork-barrel funds of some legislators that had been loaded up in TESDA’s agency budget.

But the Commission on Audit (COA), in its report on TESDA for 2013, had found them “non-compliant” with TESDA’s training rules, and their project implementation, marked with “discrepancies.” Generally, for a lot more money per seminar, they trained fewer students across shorter training periods, COA said.

The e-Fund releases portal of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) show that at least 19 legislators had allocated between P12.5 million and P90.95 million of their pork shares from 2010 to 2013 to the 11 TVIs named in COA’s report.

Read Part 6 of our series on “Pork a la Gloria, Pork a la PNoy”:

* 11 TVIs at TESDA: Sister firms, linked to pols, not SEC-registered

At least two of the 11 TVIs – Ilaw ng Bayan and I-Connect Solutions Tek Bok Inc. – were even described by state auditors as having not one of the livelihood programs that “could be associated with any of the programs per training regulations or competency-based curricula.”

Two others have evident political connections.

The first,, Ilaw ng Bayan, which has Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte as an incorporator (as well as its president, according to its Facebook page), has two SEC registration records. It first registered in 1993 but that is now listed to have been revoked. It registered again in 2015 for this purpose: “to establish an educational scholarship/dormitory shelter, and/or other assistance for deserving disadvantageous students.”

Also referred to in its documents as the Quezon City Skills and Livelihood Training Center, Ilaw ng Bayan’s course offerings include “bartending, hilot, food and beverages, barista, housekeeping,” according to its Facebook page.

The second I-Connect Solutions Tek Bok Inc. listed the residential address of its board members Mark Rainier T. Luz (board chairman), Danilo Lingad, and Carla Bumagat as its office address, too. But that same address belongs to two more entities: Margin Multi-Ventures and Construction Corporation, a private company, and the Party-list group 1-ABAA (1-Ako Babaeng Astig Aasenso), which ran but lost in the 2010 elections. 1-ABAA became controversial in 2010 when it proposed a law putting a 10-year cap on the validity of a marriage contract.

Margie Tajon was at that time named as the 1-ABAA president. A certain Margie Tajon Luz also appears as the president and board chair of another TESDA TVI, Gabaymasa Foundation. Inc. In December 2014, the Ombudsman filed graft and malversation charges against Luz and Gabaymasa for their involvement in the so-called “fertilizer fund scam.”

Three others, which altogether received nearly half the total pork that the 19 legislators coursed through TESDA in 2013, are sister companies. Asian Spirit Career Foundation, Inc., Asian Touch International Training Institute, Inc., and Phil-Best Entrepreneurs were incorporated by same persons.

In an effort to understand why, despite these COA findings, these TVIs remain in the good graces of some legislators, PCIJ checked out the files of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), mined DBM’s databases on PDAF releases, and visited with some of them at their offices. – PCIJ, August 2015

TWO PICTURES in stark contrast have been drawn about one agency: the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

The first, a none-too-flattering one, by the Commission on Audit (COA), which speaks of “deficiencies” by the dozen in the agency’s implementation of its massive training and scholarship programs.

The second, glowing and pretty, by President Benigno S. Aquino III, who has heaped generous praise on TESDA on many occasions, citing it as an exemplar of performance in the executive branch, in terms of the volume of scholars that it has trained in recent years.

Among other things, COA says that there have been many “deficiencies” in TESDA’s scholarship programs funded with pork monies and awarded to private training institutes, including missed number of target beneficiaries, overpricing of supplies and training courses, contracts awarded without bidding, improper selection of beneficiaries, seminar attendance sheets of doubtful integrity, and the holding of different seminars on the same day and time for the same dubious beneficiaries, but at different locations.

Read: Part 5 of our series on “Pork a la Gloria, Pork a la PNoy”:

* TESDA’s billions: Goody story turns sorry with pork

COA’s 2013 annual agency report on TESDA said such deficiencies were particularly present in its implementation of two major programs that had been expanded using lumpsum monies that had been loaded up in TESDA’s budget that year: Training for Work Scholarship Program (TWSP) and Cash-for-Training Project (C4TP).

The report also revealed what the state auditors said was “non-compliance” in the implementation of TWSP by TESDA’s partner Technical Vocational Institutions (TVIs) or partner training entities from the private sector.

For 2012 and 2013, data from COA and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that TESDA received a total of P427.09 million in PDAF from legislators, including 19 who gave their pork monies to projects implemented by at least 11 apparently favored TVIs.

TWSP had been funded under TESDA’s regular budget in previous years. In 2012, TWSP was expanded, while C4TP was started as “a program funded from DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) designed to focus on the potential contributions of disadvantaged youth to nation building by engaging them in gainful employment by providing relevant, high quality and efficient technical education and skills development by TESDA.”

In 2012, TESDA received additional monies from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of legislators. It also got Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) funds that year, one sum being its own DAP allocation, and another representing a big portion of the DAP assigned to the DSWD.

But it was when TESDA had expanded too fast and its budget had grown too fat that COA found major discrepancies in project implementation. This was even as COA cited that TESDA had reported good to outstanding results on its “key performance indicators” – i.e., number of scholars trained, graduated, assessed, and employed, and number of seminars conducted – in 2013.

In the end, the picture that emerges is that while TESDA has been striving to surpass the targets of its regular programs, its more generously funded training tracks have gotten caught in a web of conflicting interests – politics, commerce, and corruption – involving some TVIs favored by a number of legislators, and favored further by some TESDA officers at the central, regional, and provincial offices.

It’s an image that TESDA Director General Emmanuel Joel Villanueva obviously doesn’t cherish. Speaking with PCIJ by phone recently, he said that his problem with COA is it does not update its prior year’s reports to reflect agency action on its findings in subsequent months.

“Ang ano ko lang sa COA, every time they come out with report, they do not lift a finger to update the report and say naayos na. Hindi raw nila policy ‘yun.. (My concern with COA is, every time they come out with a report, they do not a lift a finger to update the report and say that the problem has been addressed. They say it’s not their policy),” Villanueva said

He also said that despite COA’s adverse findings on TESDA in COA’s report for 2013, “since I took over, at no time has COA issued a notice of disallowance or notice of suspension on me or TESDA.” Villanueva became TESDA chief in July 2010.

COA found at least 11 TVIs non-compliant or with deficiencies in implementing TWSP: Asian Touch International Institute Inc.; Asian Spirit Career Foundation, Inc.; Meridian International College of Business, Arts and Technology; Phil-Best Entrepreneurs; Ilaw ng Bayan Foundation, Inc.; Informatics Computer Institute Valenzuela; I-Connect Solutions Tek Bok Inc.; Matuwid na Landas Foundation, Inc.; Serbisyong Pagmamahal Foundation, Inc.; Mechatronics Technologies, Inc.; and BSC Technological Institute, Inc.

PCIJ research on these TVIs reveals that two of them had already ceased operations in 2014, after cornering multimillion-peso contracts from TESDA. Two others have clear political connections, while at least two more also appear to have links with a Napoles-like network of dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs). One TVI meanwhile was incorporated in the same year that it snagged multimillion-peso projects with TESDA. Three others are sister-firms that share the same set of directors and owners.

Altogether, according to COA and DBM reports, there were at least 19 legislators who enabled these TVIs to secure contracts with TESDA: Representatives Mar-Len Abigail Binay, Monique Yazmin Lagdameo, Ma. Rachel Arenas, Oscar G. Malapitan, Romero Federico S. Quimbo, William Irwin C. Tieng, Cinchona C. Cruz-Gonzales, Sigfrido R. Tinga, Sherwin N. Tugna, Antonio C. Alvarez, Victorino Dennis M. Socrates, Arnel M. Cerafica, Cesar V. Sarmiento, Tobias Reynald M. Tiangco, and Winston Castelo. – PCIJ, August 2015

AT THE height of the media hoopla over the pork-barrel scam two years ago, Dennis Cunanan had a perennially furrowed brow that matched a grim countenance. But the Dennis Cunanan who sat down with PCIJ recently looked relaxed – which is not exactly what one would expect from someone facing multiple graft cases at the Sandiganbayan.

The cases stemmed from Cunanan’s stint at the Technology Resource Center (TRC), a government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) attached to the Department of Science and Technology (DoST).

In 2013, TRC had been among five state firms singled out for possible abolition by the Governance Commission for Government Owned and Controlled Corporations (GCG), in large part because of their role as implementing agencies of allegedly anomalous pork-barrel projects.

In the last quarter of 2013, President Benigno Aquino III, approved the abolition of Zamboanga del Norte College Rubber Estate Corporation (ZREC), the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR), and the Philippine Forest Corporation (PFC). Left standing, however, are the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) and the firm once headed by Cunanan, TRC.

Yet while TRC lives, it does so in zombieland.

TRC, insiders told PCIJ, “is still open but on the way to closing shop.” A DOST Technical Working Group, they say, has set up “parameters on the manner of closing operations.”

Read, Part 4 of our report on “Pork a la Gloria, Pork a la PNoy’:

* TRC in zombieland still, two years after pork scam

Until February this year, however, TRC has continued to offer livelihood training seminars, for fees of P1,815 (decorating balloons) to P4,269 (commercial bread-making) per person, including one held in Gerona, Tarlac on how to bake muffins and cookies.

On its Facebook page that links out to the DOST website, TRC this year has also offered training seminars on jewelry appraisal and pawnshop operation; accounting and record-keeping for small businesses, setting up a hardware/construction supply store, travel agency, bakery, silkscreen printing, retail store, beauty parlor, and other small business operations; and making Chinese dimsum, herbal soap and detergents, trendy balloons, processed meat, and doing tilapia culture, among others.

As the DOST’s corporate arm, TRC supports research and technology by providing investments in innovations and rolling out or marketing the products of these studies. But state auditors say that somewhere along the way TRC became a conduit for the flow of pork monies to fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

The Commission on Audit’s (COA) Special Audit Report on the disbursement of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or simply pork barrel, form 2007 to 2009 abounds with serious allegations against TRC.

According to COA, P2.44 billion worth of pork monies was transferred to TRC during the period, and that in turn, TRC transferred nearly the entire amount, P2.432 billion to bogus NGOs linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, the supposed pork barrel scam queen.

The projects, the COA report said, were endorsed by a total of 143 senators and congressmen, notably:

* Seven senators — Edgardo Angara, Jose ‘Jinggoy’ Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Gregorio ‘Gringo’ Honasan, Lito Lapid, Ralph Recto, Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla. Of the seven, Revilla allotted the biggest amount of PDAF to TRC: P127.5 million.

* 136 members of the House of Representatives, including then Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. Philip Pichay, who allotted P209.4 million of his PDAF to TRC.
From 2007 to 2009, said the COA report, TRC transferred the P2.432-billion pork funds it received to 39 NGOs.

Of these NGOs, eight had been organized by Napoles.

In total, the Napoles-linked NGOs got P478.64 million from TRC.

But COA said that the biggest payout from TRC to a single NGO went to Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc.: P476.41 million. – PCIJ, August 2015

FIGHTING corruption has been one of the top priorities of President Benigno S. Aquino III. Or so he claims. He bannered the slogan “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” during the 2010 presidential campaign.

He promised to be the “most-determined fighter of corruption” in his Social Contract with the Filipino People, the Aquino administration’s platform until 2016.

He also made good governance a cornerstone in the current Philippine Development Plan, promising to curb corruption by intensifying government efforts at detection and prevention as well as resolving pending corruption cases with dispatch.

Read, Part 3 of our series on ‘Pork a la Gloria, Pork a la PNoy’:

* Lean harvest for ‘Daang Matuwid’- 24 solons in DOJ pork complaints, free pass for 94 more in COA list?

* What they told PCIJ

* What they told COA

Yet barely a year before Aquino’s term ends, the Aquino administration seems to be falling far, far behind in fulfilling such pledges. Indeed, one of the starkest examples of its weak response to corruption is its action – or lack thereof – on the controversial cases involving pork-barrel monies.

In fact, rather than being proactive in pursuing those involved in the pork-barrel scam that included government agencies, lawmakers, and bogus nongovernment organizations, the Aquino administration appears to have been springing into action only after dogged media coverage on the controversy.

And when it does act, those it hales into court are mostly small fry – career civil servants from the middle level down. Interestingly, too, most of the big-fish exceptions belong to the political opposition.

Speed, volume, focus, fairness – a campaign blind to political color or friendship – these seem to be in short supply when it comes to Aquino’s anti-corruption drive. Not surprisingly, it is hard to find enough reason to assert that the present administration has conducted a truly, fully vigorous war against corruption.

For instance:

* The PDAF scam story broke in the Philippine Daily Inquirer involving eight NGOs connected with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles in July 2013, and the Commission on Audit (COA) released its special audit report on the abuse and misuse of pork from 2007 to 2009 in August 2013.

A month later, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed its first plunder and graft complaint against three opposition senators and five former legislators, and two months later, its second complaint against seven more former legislators.

But it was only on Aug. 7, 2015, or 24 months later, when DOJ filed its third complaint against a senator and eight other incumbent and former legislators. Curiously, all three complaints were founded on practically the same sets of documentary evidence and testimonies of whistleblowers.

* In its three complaints, the DOJ has named more than 100 respondents, including only 24 legislators mostly from the political opposition – four senators and 20 former and incumbent members of the House of Representatives. The Ombudsman has filed charges against three senators and five former congressmen in the Sandiganbayan, indicted a few more, but has yet to finish its case build-up against the rest of the lawmakers named in the three DOJ complaints.

The 24 legislators in the DOJ list make up just a fifth of the 118 legislators that COA said implemented “highly irregular” PDAF projects in tandem with questionable NGOs from 2007 to 2009.

This, in the five-year life of “Daang Matuwid” is by no measure an abundant harvest and, according to both critics and allies of the administration, an apparent case of “selective investigation” or “selective justice” on the part of the DOJ and the administration. To this day though, the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office continues to gather documentary and testimonial evidence against the other legislators named in the COA report.

• The COA report offered more than enough documentary and testimonial evidence on the modus operandi of legislators, implementing agencies, contractors, and NGOs, and how they corrupt the flow of public funds. Too, it proposed a menu of corrective measures and reforms that could have been instituted in agencies that have been used as pork funds conduits. The President had abolished pork barrel under the PDAF system, but in its stead allowed the continued flow of monies to bankroll projects endorsed by legislators, in the budgets of executive agencies.

• In a series, more COA annual audit reports followed for the years 2012 and 2013, this time on the same patterns of pork abuse and misuse under the Aquino administration. As with the first report, hardly word, comment, action, or promise of reform was heard from the President about what the government could do better to curb corruption.

To be sure, the problem is corruption is a problem bigger in scope and breadth than mere saber rattling against it could solve.

For one, Napoles is just one of the so-called “service providers” who have supposedly been colluding with lawmakers and officials of various state agencies to pocket funds meant for development projects. Lawyers, prosecutors, and civil servants in the agencies tainted with the corruption in pork say there are six to nine more Napoles-like “service providers.” Thus, the three batches of PDAF complaints that focused only on Napoles NGOs would hardly scratch the surface of this multi-billion-peso scam.

For another, PDAF was just one of the multiple lump-sum funds that have been raided, and continue to be raided, by Napoles and Napoles-like service providers and their fake NGOs. Audit reports documenting the abuse and misuse of these funds have not received appropriate action from the President or his Cabinet secretaries.

For a third, filing suit against a few big fish and a multitude of small fry may not at all trigger the right results and behavior among civil servants. Those in the lower ranks are bearing the heaviest punishment for corruption, even as their bosses and the politicians who authored the misdeeds have managed to fly out of the country, hide in opulent surroundings, and escape prosecution. – PCIJ, August 2015