Bribe or incentive? Why does this question even matter? For many weeks now, Filipinos have been left to sift through mounds of information pouring out of traditional media and the Net to make sense of what’s going on as more “revelations”, “confessions”, and “testimonials” emerge about who got how much. Indeed, whether it is a “bribe” or an “incentive” both words used to qualify the wholesale dole out of largesse in the form of pork barrel funds were meant to motivate.
Motivate what exactly?
One thing’s for sure, very few if any of the senators and House representatives who had attracted the spotlight in the last several months have been able to cite specific benefits arising from their spending of their pork barrel allocations. And even for those who are able to, it seems that sort of information tends not to resonate with the public. Perhaps it is because the results of all that spending routinely fail to impress — the odd waiting shed or pedestrian overpass, an unfinished or thinly-paved stretch of road, various quaint charity or community building “projects”. When you have a billion-odd pesos of pork spread thinly across hundreds of politicians and low-level bureaucrats, all you get are these inconsequential structures and activities that, taken together, cost a sum of money net of whatever these politicos pocket. As to what value they collectively add to Philippine society, it is doubtful that they deliver returns that exceed that cost.
As Senator Jinggoy Estrada himself asserted: “It is not up to the senators to determine whether an NGO is bogus or not…”, proving that where the money goes and whether or not it actually delivers benefit is not exactly something high up in the list of things pork-guzzling politicians lose sleep over.
And that is why people have turned to the outcome of the 2012 impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Why did a “trial” that was launched by a sloppily-written complaint railroaded through Congress by a “furious” President and propped up for half a year using flawed and illegally-obtained “evidence” still manage to result in a conviction? The answers seem to be emerging now: There was, in 2012, some sort of motivation that allowed a political feat not too different from the way salmons manage to swim upstream a torrential river to mate. Call it a “bribe” or “incentive”. It doesn’t matter. The motivation was substantial.
Allegations that senator-judges willing to hang Corona were each given 50 million pesos while chief verdict vote shepherd Senator Franklin Drilon got 100 million are now turning the heat up from under the Senate. Which senator will squeal next? In a recent article Manila Times chairman Dante Ang let us in on a bit of what he and columnist Rigoberto Tiglao knew about the backstage discussions going on at the time…
Two independent sources have confirmed that DILG Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, some days before the actual voting, called Revilla and asked him for a meeting.
Roxas and Revilla drove to Bahay Pangarap. To Revilla’s amazement, Roxas left all his security aides, took the wheel of a bulletproof SUV and asked that he also leave his bodyguards behind. He complied. But as he was about to board the SUV, Roxas asked him to sit in the back of the car. He did.
When they reached Bahay Pangarap that same afternoon, they were greeted by the President and DBM Secretary Abad. After a brief handshake, the President said, “Tulungan mo na ko sa isyu na ito (referring to the Corona impeachment trial). Bong replied: “Gagawin ko po, Mr. President, kung ano ang tama.”
During the same meeting, the P50million additional PDAF was taken up. It was not clear who brought up the P50-million “reward.” Revilla had reportedly admitted accepting the P50-million additional PDAF.
And perhaps, for some, it is never too late to right the wrong and come clean…
Some of them are now feeling remorseful. Their consciences are bothering them no end. Because of that, they are now unburdening themselves in private. They have begun to talk of the preceding events that ultimately led to the conviction of Corona.
Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, for instance, was so moved by the Estrada privilege speech that he was entertaining the idea of following suit. Up to this writing, he is still weighing his options and the consequences. So far, he is still trying to summon his courage to come out in the open.
But don’t hold your breath. As we have seen earlier, as far back as 1996, pork barrel thievery had already become a high-profile topic. And even during the Corona trial or, for that matter, just about any activity that involves Congress, pork barrel millions have always been at stake. And yet, the question remains:
Where are the results?
Unfortunately for Filipinos, there is nothing more powerful than pork to motivate Filipino politicians to abolish pork.
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