AS THINGS stand, it looks like the ruling coalition led by the Liberal Party (LP) of President Benigno S. Aquino III has more members implicated in the pork-barrel scandal than parties belonging to the opposition.
Of the 114 legislators who were allegedly involved in anomalous pork projects in 2007 to 2009, 38 now belong to the administration coalition.
About 33 of the 114 belong to the opposition parties while the rest are either already dead or have unknown political affiliations.
But while the LP-led coalition has more members linked to the pork-barrel scandal than the opposition, they got much less in terms of rebates from the bogus non-government organizations that had served as pork-fund funnels of Janet Lim Napoles, the so-called pork barrel scam queen.
Based on documents from the legislature as well as several state agencies and the files of pork scam whistleblower Benhur Luy, 38 LP coalition legislators received a combined sum of P138.7 million in rebates from the Napoles NGOs. This comes up to just 14 percent of what the 33 legislators from the opposition received, which was a total of P988.2 million.
In part, this may be because the LP lawmakers had allocated much less to the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR), a major source of pork and other public funds that the Napoles NGOs had secured for their bogus projects.
NABCOR got from the LP camp a total of P416.5 million in pork monies, and from the opposition camp, P640.2 million.
With each election in this country, though, comes a shift in the Philippines’s political landscape. As such, classifying the political leanings of the legislators who may or may not have benefited from pork-barrel projects is tricky.
In fact, of the 114 names revealed in both the records of the whistleblowers and government agencies, only seven lawmakers had been originally allied with LP.
Many of the others had supported the Lakas political party of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Upon Aquino’s assumption to office in 2010, however, at least six of these pro-Arroyo lawmakers became LP converts. More members of the Lakas-led administration coalition under Arroyo that later became the opposition under Aquino – 25 in all – shifted alliance in 2013.
Original LP and not
Two of the seven LP stalwarts whose names have come up in connection with the pork-barrel mess are now dead. Former Manila’s 1st District Rep. Ernesto A. Nieva died before his term expired in 2010. Former Bataan 1st District Rep. Antonino P. Roman, meanwhile, died in January 2014. Roman had joined the LP in 2004, and was appointed head of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office in 2010.
Another “original” LP member is Iloilo City’s 5th District Rep. Niel C. Tupas Jr., an LP stalwart who sits as the party’s deputy secretary general at its national political council. Currently serving his third term in Congress, Tupas chairs the House Committee on Justice. But the public is most familiar with him as the chief public prosecutor during the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Other original LP members who used to be in Congress include Northern Samar Gov. Paul R. Daza, Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso V. Umali Jr., ex-Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino B. Biazon, and Maria Evita R. Arago.
Daza was a one-term representative of the first district of Samar; he had replaced his father, Raul (a staunch LP leader who now sits as the party’s legal counsel), in that seat in 2007. Umali is the LP’s treasurer. He was Oriental Mindoro’s second district representative from 2001 to 2010.
Biazon, for his part, is a close ally of Aquino. He was a three-term representative of Muntinlupa City from 2001 to 2010. Aquino appointed him in 2011 as commissioner of the Bureau of Customs after his failed Senate bid in 2010. He resigned in 2013 after he was implicated in a malversation complaint stemming from the pork-barrel scandal.
Then there is Arago, who served as Laguna’s third district representative from 2007 to 2013. She lost her bid for a third term in the 2013 elections. She has always run under the LP ticket.
From party-list fold
Two of the lawmakers on the list are now known Aquino allies but were actually party-list representatives when they were in Congress: Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director-General Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva, who was with the Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) and Florencio Gabriel G. Noel of An-Waray.
In 2010, six of the 114 legislators caught in the pork-barrel scandal converted to LP, including incumbents Iligan City Rep. Vicente F. Belmonte Jr. and Davao City’s 3rd District Rep. Isidro T. Ungab.
Belmonte was a member of the United Opposition in the 2007 polls but converted to LP in 2010. Ungab used to be with the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-LABAN) before he joined LP. Ungab has headed one of the two most powerful House committees as a member of the ruling LP party: Committee on Appropriations (2013-present) and Committee on Ways and Means (2012-2013).
The list of LP converts in 2010 also includes Trinidad, Bohol Mayor Roberto C. Cajes, Bohol Gov. Edgardo M. Chatto, Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle G. Climaco-Salazar, and Toledo City Vice Mayor Antonio P. Yapha Jr.
Cajes and Chatto served in Congress from 2001 to 2010 as representative of Bohol’s second and first districts, respectively. Both also had been associated with the opposition Lakas party before they became LP members following the 2010 elections.
Climaco-Salazar, meantime, was with the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP) before she switched alliance in 2010. Yapha used to be with the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and Philippine Democratic Socialist Party (PDSP).
More, more allies
In 2013, more Arroyo supporters jumped ship and joined Aquino’s LP. Some political parties even chose to become part of the LP-led coalition for the elections held May that year: Eduardo ‘Danding’ M. Cojuangco’s NPC, former Senator Edgardo J. Angara’s LDP, former Senator Manuel B. Villar Jr.’s Nacionalista Party (NP), and the Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party. The National Unity Party (NUP), a breakaway from Arroyo’s Lakas party, also coalesced with the LP.
The 25 new LP converts and allies in 2013 were:
- House Deputy Speaker and Isabela’s 4th District Rep. Giorgidi B. Aggabao, who had been affiliated with the NPC since 2001;
- Kalinga Rep. Manuel S. Agyao, who ran under the Lakas Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (Lakas-KAMPI) in 2010;
- Angara, whose son Juan Edgardo replaced him in Senate and ran under Aquino’s Team Pnoy senatorial slate;
- Rachel J. Arenas, who currently sits as a member of the Board of Governors of the Philippine Red Cross, and is reportedly being eyed for the LP senatorial slate in 2016;
- Davao del Sur 2nd District Rep. Franklin P. Bautista, who had been with the NPC and Lakas party;
- Former La Union 2nd District Rep. Thomas L. Dumpit Jr., who had shifted alliance several times – from the LDP to the Lakas party to NUP;
- Danao City, Cebu Vice Mayor Ramon H. Durano VI, who had earlier shifted alliance from the Lakas party to the NPC and, in 2013, his family’s BAKUD Party allied with the LP;
- Brothers Robert Raymund and Conrado III Estrella, who were reportedly allied with Arroyo during her term but have recently declared support for the current administration;
- Former Camarines Sur Rep. Arnulfo P. Fuentebella, who has been a member of the NPC;
- Former Immigration Commissioner Marcelino C. Libanan, who shifted alliance from the Lakas party to President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino (LAMMP), to NPC, then came back to the Lakas party, and is reportedly now seen in the company of LP’s presidential nominee, Manuel ‘Mar’ A. Roxas II;
- Carol Jayne B. Lopez, of You Against Corruption and Poverty (YACAP) Party-List, who has been quoted in media as saying that she would support the candidacy of Roxas;
- Sagay City, Negros Occidental Mayor Alfredo D. Marañon III, who ran under the NPC and United Negros Alliance (UNEGA) in 2004, and then allied with Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI) in the next two elections;
- Batangas 4th District Rep. Mark Llandro L. Mendoza, who is NPC’s secretary general;
- Aklan Gov. Florencio T. Miraflores, who was first affiliated with the LDP and the Lakas party before shifting to LP;
- Northern Samar 2nd District Rep. Emil L. Ong, who had been with the Lakas party before he switched alliance to the NUP in 2013;
- San Jose del Monte City Rep. Arturo B. Robes, who used to be with the Lakas party;
- Cagayan de Oro City’s 2nd District Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez, who was affiliated with Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) party, and in 2013 joined and led the newly formed Centrist Democratic Party, which supported the candidacies of LP senatorial bets;
- Camiguin Gov. Jurdin Jesus M. Romualdo, who had been with the NPC since 2001 and whose son incumbent Camiguin Rep. Xavier Jesus M. Romualdo was recently reported expressing support for Roxas;
- Former Laguna 4th District Rep. Edgar S. San Luis, who used to be with the NPC in 2010;
- San Rafael, Bulacan Mayor Lorna C. Silverio, who was with the Lakas party but later joined the NUP in 2013;
- Bulacan 1st District Rep. Ma. Victoria R. Sy-Alvarado, who was also with the Lakas party before joining the NUP in 2013;
- Nueva Ecija Aurelio M. Umali, who shifted alliance from the LDP to the Lakas party to LP;
- Former Camarines 1st District Rep. Renato J. Unico Jr., who used to be with the Lakas party but switched alliance to NUP in 2013; and
- Cagayan de Oro City 1st District Rep. Rolando A. Uy, who was an independent candidate and later joined LP in 2013.
At other side of the fence, things seem much less dizzying, at least when it comes to political affiliations. Indeed, it’s either they had stayed with Arroyo’s Lakas party or continued to be allied with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay in 2010 and 2013. In the May 2010 elections, however, Binay and his fellow non-LP candidates had called themselves UNO, or the United Nationalist Opposition, and not UNA.
Two of the 33 opposition bloc members implicated in the pork-barrel scam are Lakas stalwarts. Senator Ramon ‘Bong’ B. Revilla Jr., who has been under detention since 2014 on plunder and graft charges, is considered as the party’s standard-bearer for the 2016 presidential elections. La Union 1st District Rep. Victor Francisco C. Ortega, meanwhile, has been with the party since 1995.
Still with opposition
Six have remained in the opposition even though their parties, NP and NPC, had allied with the LP-led coalition in the May 2013 elections. They include:
- Isabela 1st District Rep. Rodolfo T. Albano III, an NPC member;
- Zamboanga Sibugay 1st District Rep. Belma A. Cabilao, a known ally of the Jalosjos clan;
- Alaminos City, Pangasinan Mayor Arthur F. Celeste, an NPC member;
- Lanao del Norte 2nd District Rep. Abdullah D. Dimaporo, who was reportedly supported by Lakas-CMD head and Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez;
- La Union Gov. Manuel C. Ortega, NPC’s provincial chair; and
- Masbate Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, NPC’s provincial standard-bearer.
Four are affiliated with Binay’s UNA. These include Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose ‘Jinggoy’ Ejercito Estrada (both now under detention like Revilla) who are members of Joseph Estrada’s PMP. Senator Gregorio B. Honasan II ran under the UNA senatorial slate in 2013. Honasan recently expressed support for Binay’s presidential bid in 2016. Manila’s 5th District Rep. Amado S. Bagatsing is the leader of the Kabalikat ng Bayan sa Kaunlaran (KABAKA) party, which allied with UNA in 2013.
Twenty-one of the 33 opposition members are not incumbent officials. They were, however, last affiliated with at least one of these four: Lakas party, NPC, 1-Cebu, or UNA. NPC used to be Arroyo’s congressional ally.
Among the 21 is former Davao del Sur 1st District Rep. Marc Douglas C. Cagas IV, who spoke on behalf of the minority bloc and was a staunch critic of the Aquino administration during his term in Congress. Former Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Rodrigo G. Plaza is a close political ally of Binay. (Last May, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV had suggested that a company linked to Plaza and his wife Shirley Marie were among those who received multimillion-peso loans from the PAG-IBIG Fund because of the Plazas’ connections with Binay. Pag-Ibig President and Chief Executive Officer Darlene Berberabe said, however, that she had not let her agency become “an instrument of abuse.”)
Political color unclear
There are 32 names in the list of 114 lawmakers entangled in the pork mess whose affiliation PCIJ could not determine. Six are currently in government service, while the rest are not incumbent officials.
These incumbent officials include Senator Vicente C. Sotto III, a senior NPC member who was quoted in recent reports saying that NPC, which had allied with Aquino in 2013, has not yet decided who to support in the 2016 presidential elections.
Albay 2nd District Rep. Al Francis C. Bichara has been with the NP since 2010. But his alliance remains uncertain because he is known not to be on good political terms with recent LP convert and outgoing Albay Governor Joey Salceda. Salceda had announced earlier that he would be running for Congress in 2016.
The political alliance of Ilocos Norte Gov. Maria Imelda R. Marcos remains uncertain, too, because her brother, Senator Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., is said to be eyeing the presidency in the May 2016 elections.
Finally, the records reveal nine more deceased legislators on the list, aside from the two from LP. Seven were last affiliated with the Lakas party while the remaining two were with NPC.
— With additional research by Earl G. Parreño, PCIJ, August 2015