The fact that there are many whistleblowers and that the entire case the Department of Justice is mounting against several Philippine senators accused of plundering their pork barrel funds rests on these whistleblowers highlights the profound dysfunction of the country’s criminal investigation and criminal justice system. How many whistleblowers are needed to support the case? The reason this question is very important is because coming at the heels of every whistleblower that turns up is a Senate “inquiry” that costs the taxpayers millions of pesos.
Under the guise of its “Blue Ribbon Committee” mandate, Philippine legislators routinely dip their fingers in the latest criminal investigation sensations. But a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is a body whose activities can only be justified if they can be shown to have been undertaken for the purpose of aiding legislation.
As far as the problem of pork barrel thievery in the Philippines, there are only these principles that are relevant to legislation:
(1) Philippine Congress is tasked primarily with keeping the state’s body of laws up-to-date. As such, the idea of its members engaged in activities that directly involve the disbursement of public funds for public and social works is inconsistent with this goal.
(2) The officers of the Executive branch of government are solely accountable for the disbursement of public funds to fund public and social works. The line of accountability of all its officials (from a Barangay Tanod to a mayor, to a governor, up to the Cabinet secretaries, etc.) can ultimately be traced up to the country’s chief executive — the President.
(3) There is an abundance of means to allocate and channel funds in a manner that puts these outside the framework of accounting controls that could be subject to audit.
For legislators who are serious about plugging gaps in the law that pork barrel crooks routinely exploit, the legislative agenda that should be built around the above principles is straightforward: (a) clarify the delineation of responsibility between legislators and executives, (b) identify reasons behind the inadequacy of services delivered via Executive Branch channels that prop up public perceptions that pork barrel is “needed”, and (c) re-evaluate and plug gaps in control measures currently in effect surrounding the activities of the Department of Budget Management (DBM).
Keeping to that strategic direction alone is already enough to keep a few senators and House representatives busy enough, but not enough to justify keeping up all these tele-intriga “probes”.
From this perspective, we will find that the celebrity treatment given to Ruby Tuason and Benhur Luy and his crew all constitutes a colossal waste of time and simply highlights the Philippines’ renowned reputation as a society made up of star-struck ignoramuses.
As my colleague Ilda mentioned in her recent article…
The recent Senate hearing is already proof that members of congress are just trying to distract the Filipino public from the real issues plaguing the nation. They are also trying to justify their existence in public office. They should be doing something more important than asking silly questions and leave the “investigation” of the alleged crimes to the law enforcement agencies. These Senate hearings never lead to a conviction of any of the corrupt public servants in question in the first place. I don’t recall any of these hearings ever resulting in aiding Congress with their legislations.
Most notably lost in all this is the accountability of President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III himself who has it in his power to eliminate pork once and for all. Instead he continues to dither on the matter, has found creative ways to continue justifying its existence, and has used the vast influence of his lackeys in Philippine media to disseminate his consistently flawed logic on many matters.
The public also seems to be cosying to the idea that whistleblowers should be allowed to go scott free when entering into tell-all deals with law enforcement agencies. That should not be the case. Like what was portrayed in the movie The Wolf of Wall Street crooks who make deals with the Prosecution do so in exchange for reduced sentences — not full get-out-of-jail passes.
Because Filipinos have such short attention spans, they have yet to notice that Luy, Tuason, et al are now strutting around under the limelight like celebrity “heroes” the way that other famous whistleblower Jun Lozada did in the mid-00s. At least Luy, et al went around in a flak jacket surrounded by cops. Lozada, at the time, chose to surround himself with nuns. Either way, Filipinos lapped all that up with glee.
There is only once principle at stake here, and it is that:
Criminals should all be taken to task for their wrongdoings and face punishment.
Whistleblowing is no excuse for immunity against that simple principle.
It cannot be emphasized enough that all the extraneous activities that distract from this simple tenet — including Senate “probes” that lead nowhere — should be stopped. The road between crime and prison should be a straight one — just like what President BS Aquino promised it would be under his watch.
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