Sunday, September 1, 2013

For every centavo they stole

As expected, soon after her surrender, Janet Lim-Napoles got on a wheelchair, and her doctors confirmed that she's suffering from diabetes and needs to be jailed under much better conditions - air-conditioning is a must, so is a refrigerator where she needs to store her medication. That's how it's been since the time of Arroyo's arrest - you see these accused hopping from one media interview or another without any apparent sign of discomfort at all and when the time is right, they suddenly fall ill.

So don't tell us, Mr. President and Mr. Secretary of DILG, that Napoles is not being treated differently from common criminals. If she has to be treated differently, then that treatment would be justified only if it's worse. How many other inmates in Muntinlupa or any of the city jails all over the country are suffering from diabetes or any other debilitating disease? And how many of them can go to the court and say, "I need an air-conditioner in my cell and a refrigerator and if it's not too much to ask, can I be transferred to a much comfortable facility like the Veterans Memorial Hospital or at least Fort Sto. Domingo."

Besides, she and her cohorts in government, after all, did something much worse than what a murderer of one or two committed. In fact, she and her cohorts in government, I believe, did something much worse than what the Ampatuans did. Napoles' misdeeds caused millions of Filipinos to not be able to put food on the table, provide proper health care and education for their children, or any hope at all that they can rise above poverty and live their lives with dignity. Napoles and her cohorts in government spat on the graves of Rizal, Bonifacio and all the other who dedicated their lives for this country and doomed this Bayang Magiliw to generations more of poverty and despair.

For every centavo stolen from the nation's coffers, is a centavo that will not go farm to market roads that can help uplift the lives of our farmers; that's one less centavo so that 80 pupils will not have to be crammed into one tiny classroom in most of our public schools; one less centavo so that we don't need to privatize our public hospitals that would make it even harder for most of us to afford even the most basic health care services; one less centavo so that the government can provide millions of Filipinos with housing so they would not have to suffer the indignity of being referred to as squatters and periodically chased away by armed men and bulldozers.

But we're not talking in centavos here, we're talking about 10 billion pesos. That's only so far what the Commission on Audit knows of. That's only Janet Lim-Napoles, and there's more than one of her kind in our country. If you were to investigate and do research on those two Environmental Recycling System machines in Irisan, you will most certainly discover that they can be had for much less than the 120 million that the city government of Baguio paid for. Now multiply that with every questionable road construction project done all over the country, or every needless concrete structure erected in Baguio's public parks such as the commercial and parking facility at the Botanical Garden and the concreting of much of Rose Garden at Burnham Park. Let's not forget the despicable and very insulting concrete pine tree that once stood at the top of Session Road.

Amusing, but not entirely surprisingly, that both our Mayor, on his second term in his second string of terms, and our newly elected Congressman, despite all the evil that's been uncovered related to the pork barrel, continue to defend it.

While I'm all for the abolition of the pork barrel, I believe that a system should be in place where government money can be spread to every congressional district in the country. Otherwise, Manila imperialism will rear its ugly head. As it is now, the whole country is paying for the comfortable commute of MRT passengers in Metro Manila by way of government subsidies. The pork barrel system is flawed for it gives the power to decide where it goes to one person. Perhaps our congressman, with the support of our mayor, can instead bat for a much higher Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). While it serves the purpose of spreading the money all voer the country, at least there would be a city council to oversee the way it's spent, or in the case of provinces, a provincial board. This would not totally eradicate corruption, but it would certainly make it harder for the Napoleses of this country to get their hands on it.

But, as long as our leaders see their positions as that of power instead of responsibility and a public trust, as long as contractors agree to the SOP of having a huge portion of the budget for a project go to the pocket of those in power, as long as members of the so-called fourth estate, the media, continue to spread the their lies and receive their envelopes from these politicians in return, as long as most of us continue to receive our own envelopes in exchange for our votes, this country is definitely going nowhere else but further down. See, those corrupt members of our society, those who empower the corrupt, those who benefit from the corrupt system, they may not have stolen as much as Janet, but make no mistake - they too are Napoleses.

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