Miriam blasts 'psychopaths' in Congress

Posted at 03/28/2014 3:09 PM

MANILA - Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago on Friday branded as "psychopaths" selfish lawmakers who steal pork barrel funds and leave ordinary Filipinos wallow in poverty and hunger.

In a statement, Santiago differentiated between a natural evil such as super typhoon Yolanda, and moral evil such as the 10-billion-peso pork barrel scandal.

She said politicians who pocket their own Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) are motivated by selfish interest and are guilty of a "failure in moral imagination."

"There are many psychopaths in Congress, but they are unable to imagine the sufferings that they cause on millions of Filipinos who are poor," she said.

At least 38 people including three senators - Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile - are facing plunder, bribery and malversation charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly benefiting from the P10 billion scam.

Santiago said the ongoing Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation revealed that lawmakers pressure the heads of implementing agencies to give the service or supply contracts to the legislator's chosen supplier or contractor.

Whistle-blowers have said lawmakers got as much as 50 percent in kickbacks for funds allocated to non-government organizations (NGOs) of alleged pork scam architect Janet Lim Napoles.

The senator said she is filing a resolution for the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to expand its investigation into the culpability of officials of implementing agencies in the scam.

She said the heads of implementing agencies such as the Technology Research Center (TRC), National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR), and Muslim Youth Foundation are "equally guilty" with the lawmakers in committing the crime of plunder or malversation.

"These officers should be required to explain the criteria that they applied, in choosing the corrupt NGOs that became the ultimate beneficiaries of the pork barrel. The implementing agency should never have allowed the corrupt politicians to exert pressure in favor of NGOs," she said.

NGO WATCHDOG

Santiago raised several questions about the flow of funds to NGOs: she said NGOs should source their funds, not from the pork barrel, but from international donors, international financing institutions, corporate donors, etc.

She also said there appears to be no government agency that monitors the flow of public funds to hundreds of NGOs, whether legitimate or illegitimate.

"They could be political NGOs, quasi-NGOs (QUANGOs), NGOs run by socialites, or NGOs run by wives of business tycoons," she said.

The senator also noted that while implementing agencies choose the corrupt NGOs, these agencies are not even created by Congress. Many are subsidiary corporations of existing departments or government-owned corporations and were created by mere administrative orders or created through the Securities and Exchange Commission, she said.

She quoted former budget secretary Benjamin Diokno, who has said that the proliferation of implementing agencies is highly anomalous "because some of them received more funds than the legitimately created agencies of government."

Santiago also questioned why the requirement for liquidation of public funds in government agencies was reduced to 70% prior to the release of more funds. She said Budget Secretary Butch Abad should explain the 70% requirement for liquidation.

"Who inserted this corrupt provision? Was it the Senate finance committee, or was it the bicameral conference committee on the budget? In any event, this provision was 'administratively' vetoed by President Aquino, leaving its implementation unclear," she said.

The senator said that as a member of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, she will help to establish the criminal liability of the past and present executive officials of implementing agencies.

"We have to act. First, we need to establish the criminal liability of their past and present executives. Then we should recover the misappropriated funds. And then we should throw into jail the liable public officials. After we have accomplished these measures, it follows that the guilty implementing agencies involved in the pork barrel scandal should be abolished or reformed," she said.