May the storm reform politics
Just as supertyphoon Yolanda pummeled the country, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee subjected Janet Lim-Napoles, said to be at the center of the P10 billion congressional pork barrel scam, to a fruitless interrogation.
Even under the cajoling and browbeating of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Napoles remained, in the solon’s own words, “beyond evasive” in refusing to admit she had anything to do with the fracas for which she and several government officials are facing plunder suits.
Napoles kept invoking her right not to incriminate herself or simply parroted the now infamous line, “Hindi ko po alam (I do not know),” each time senators asked her to expose their colleagues and others who stand accused of enriching themselves with lump sum appropriations called Priority Development Assistance Fund.
The pork barrel scandal is germane in this moment of national calamity because we definitely would have been better prepared for times like these had money that remains unaccounted for been in good hands and wisely spent.
Heck, there would have been fewer casualties had the structures like gymnasiums or schools where people took shelter amid the storm been made of costlier, sturdier materials and with deliberate workmanship, not of substandard materials and with utter mindlessness.
Indeed, how much more would have been at the disposal of local governments to ensure disaster-resilience if only our higher officials refused to steal with all their might?
Every peso lost to graft and corruption is money looted from families that are vulnerable to nature’s wrath.
The pork barrel scandal that revealed how officials in various departments conspire to enrich themselves with public money is also relevant in this time of disaster because we cannot deny that the sharks will circle around the international aid that is flowing in.
The value of the donations from US including the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the Vatican to relief and rehabilitation in the aftermath of Yolanda already exceeded P1 billion (note: that amount pales in comparison to the amount lost to congressional racketeering) and must be closely watched.
Many officials who cashed in on Marcos money from Swiss banks in the fertilizer scam of the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when she was president are still around.
They had no heart for the victims of martial law.
They will have no heart for the survivors of supertyphoon Yolanda.
Or maybe they will.
Maybe Napoles will (and eventually sing).
Maybe senators and congressmen and others who stole will look at pictures and footage of those who perished, of the traumatized and come to remorse.
Maybe they will see in the want that the survivors now suffer the consequence of their selfishness, and then make restitution as they should.
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