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PHL Legislators Implicated in the Napoles PDAF Scam Face Definite Jail Time...Maybe

THE MANY FACES OF JANET LIM-NAPOLES

n the United States former four-star General and until recently Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was forced to resign as head of the VA by the ongoing healthcare scandal that has enveloped that agency. While one can safely assume that Shinseki was not involved in the actually transgressions being investigated, the fact that he headed the agency meant he had command responsibility over its entire staff. And their wrongful acts, whether he knew about them or not, cost him his job. That is the way things work in properly functioning democracies. In the Philippines however, things tend to get a little unusual.

Case in point: the scandal involving senators and congressmen involved in the Janet Lim-Napoles Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam. PDAF as described in Wikipedia "is a discretionary fund in the Philippines available to members of Congress. Originally established as the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) in 1990, it is designed to allow legislators to fund small-scale infrastructure or community projects which fell outside the scope of the national infrastructure program, which was often restricted to large infrastructure items." These are funds, usually in the millions of pesos, given to legislators on a yearly basis to use as they see fit (with certain guidelines) for the benefit of their constituents.

So now the word "fiduciary" comes into play. Again, Wikipedia defines it as "A legal or ethical relationship of trust between two or more parties. Typically, a fiduciary prudently takes care of money for another person." Thus whether stated or not, when the Filipino people, through their government, hand over to a senator or congressman millions of pesos as their PDAF allotment for the year, those legislators incur a fiduciary obligation to protect those funds, account for every last centavo of it, and put it to the best use possible for their constituents.

For example, when a senator or congressman decides to allot portion of his or her PDAF fund to a Non-governmental Organization (NGO), that legislator has a fiduciary obligation to make sure that the NGO he or she is funding is a legitimate going concern, and operating as stated. That senator or congressman must also make sure that the funds he or she is giving to the NGO will be used exactly as intended. The fact that legislators have other pressing matters to attend to is not an excuse to be careless or casual with their PDAF disbursements. Everything down to the last centavo must be spent wisely and be properly accounted for.

So when senators and congressmen who now find themselves on the infamous Napoles list proclaim their innocence, Filipinos need to start asking them pointed questions.

For example: if they claim that they their signatures were forged and they were thus unaware that millions of pesos from their PDAF account had been misallocated; then people should ask if these legislators ever balanced their PDAF accounts. Anyone with a checkbook knows how to do this. So when discrepancies are discovered, those discrepancies can be immediately investigated. The question then becomes, have any of these senators and congressmen in the Napoles list ever initiated an investigation regarding discrepancies they discovered in their PDAF accounts? If no investigations were initiated, then the public can only assume one of two things: a) legislators never found any discrepancies in their PDAF account; or b) legislators never bothered to balance their PDAF account and thus have no idea how much should or shouldn't be in it.

Either way legislators face serious jail-time. If legislators found no discrepancies then, they can be seen as co-conspirators of Napoles and her fake NGOs, keeping silent because of the hefty kickbacks they receive from her. If the legislators argue that they were unaware the NGOs were fake, then they can in turn be held criminally negligent for not doing their due diligence when selecting an NGO to fund.

If on the other hand legislators claim they never balanced their PDAF account and thus have no idea how much should be in it, then they can again be held criminally negligent for shirking their fiduciary responsibility to properly care for the people's money entrusted to them.

No matter how you look at it, jail time seems a certainty for those senators and congressmen implicated in the Napoles PDAF Scam. But just when one begins conjuring up visions of those politicos behind bars, reality hits them in the face when they realize they're talking about the Philippines after all—a magical place were anything and everything is possible. Remember the old Lovin' Spoonful song titled "Do You Believe in Magic?" If you do, then welcome to the Philippines, this country is just right for you. So no one should be surprised if like Harry Houdini those senators and congressmen manage to slip through all the chains and locks to avoid what should be certain incarceration, and end up more powerful than ever...and laughing all the way to the bank. This is the Philippines after all. Magic and miracles are an everyday occurrence here. Published 06/3/2014


RECENT EDITORIALS

Napoles PDAF/NGO Scandal: What is Ten or Fifteen Billion Pesos Really Worth?

For those who have been following the Janet Lim-Napoles PDAF/NGO* scandal these past months, it is easy to get caught up in all the rhetoric—the words and phrases repeated day after day. Words like "ten billion" or "fifteen billion" have turned into something akin to "gray" background noise.  Words devoid of any real meaning or significance. So let us try to put back some meaning into those trite and often-repeated phrases in order to better understand some of the far-reaching ramifications of Napoles' actions. Published 06/30/2014


How could they not have known that the Napoles NGOs were fake?

With Senator Bong Revilla already in police custody in Camp Crame and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile set to join him any day now, people need to start asking tough questions going forward. The privilege speeches of the senators along with the histrionics that accompanied them are thankfully now over so we can all address this issue more objectively. Published 06/21/2014
The Self-Perpetuating Elite of the Philippines

In an essay published in the July 1968 issue of the American magazine Foreign Affairs, a novice Philippine senator described his country as “a land in which a few are spectacularly rich while the masses remain abjectly poor. . . . a land consecrated to democracy but run by an entrenched plutocracy… a people whose ambitions run high, but whose fulfillment is low and mainly restricted to the self-perpetuating elite…a land of privilege and rank – a republic dedicated to equality but mired in an archaic system of caste.” Published 06/14/2014
PHL Legislators Implicated in the Napoles PDAF Scam Face Definite Jail Time...Maybe

In the United States former four-star General and until recently Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki was forced to resign as head of the VA by the ongoing healthcare scandal that has enveloped that agency. While one can safely assume that Shinseki was not involved in the actually transgressions being investigated, the fact that he headed the agency meant he had command responsibility over its entire staff. And their wrongful acts, whether he knew about them or not, cost him his job. That is the way things work in properly functioning democracies. In the Philippines however, things tend to get a little unusual. Published 06/03/2014
Why All the Fuss? We Knew They were Corrupt Anyway!

So finally the cat is out of the bag, so to speak. But we Pinoys should not be surprised at all. We all know how corrupt our country is. Even before former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was accused of electoral sabotage and the misuse of public funds in 2011; even before Joseph “Erap” Estrada—an earlier president was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan in 2007; even before Ferdinand Marcos, a president-turned-dictator, was booted out of the country along with his family and cronies twenty-eight years ago; we Pinoys knew they were corrupt. Published 05/17/2014
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After essentially showing the American Military the door in the early '90s, Filipinos have of late come to the realization that they need their "Uncle Sam" more than they thought they did. And back then the United States was also more than happy to oblige as their Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission had been closing down hundreds of military installations all across the USA. Published 04/29/2014
We Treasure Our Sierra Madre

In the1948 John Houston movie, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, three destitute Americans working as gold prospectors mining the Sierra Madre mountains in Mexico are confronted by bandits posing as mounted police (“Federales”). When they are asked to produce their badges, the chief bandit's response is classic: “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!” Published 04/20/2014


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