“Though silence is not necessarily an admission, it is not a denial, either.” MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO
By Alex P. Vidal
Lawyer Ernie Dayot said former Iloilo first district Rep. Oscar “Oca” Garin Sr. did the right thing when he recently confessed that most solons in the present and past congresses may have misused their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” allocations.
Lawmakers who maliciously partook the infamous budget insertions needed extra funds to finance their poor constituents who regularly formed a queue in their district offices, said Garin. These needs include funeral, school, and hospital expenses.
If we believe Garin, no one walked a saint in congress and no legislator would admit that he is Mr. Clean.
“At least he has the guts to admit something that his peers would never admit,” quipped the 80-year-old Dayot who now resides in Brgy. Nanga, Guimbal.
Garin’s confession was a big favor for himself because no one would accuse him now of being hypocrite. It’s better than keeping his mouth shut while the whole country is up in arms against the abuse of pork barrel funds, added Dayot, who writes a regular column in the Visayan Tribune.
After serving for three terms, Garin passed the district’s congressional baton to her daughter-in-law, Janette, who also served for three terms during the Arroyo administration.
Janette, an advocate of Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, is now undersecretary of Department of Health. She was replaced in congress by her husband, Oscar “Richard” Jr., who has been mum about the PDAF brouhaha.
The Commission on Audit (COA), which uncovered an estimated loss of P10-billion from PDAF misused by some senators and congressmen through bogus NGOs run by Janet Napoles, is expected to submit a comprehensive audit report that covers 10 years of PDAF releases stretching in the past administrations.
If Garin was among those who didn’t spend their “pork barrel” funds for intended beneficiaries (except for school, funeral, and hospital expenses of his “poor” constituents in Guimbal, Igbaras, Oton, Miag-ao, San Joaquin, Tubungan and Tigbauan) in the past congresses, he, too, could be liable for graft under the law — if the COA report discovers his culpability.
Will his admission of “dishonesty” save him from the guillotine? Will that make him a lesser evil? We doubt. The mob is in lynching mood in the “pork barrel” tumult, and those who will set the guilty party free will equally feel the wrath of angry citizens.
COA has asked fake NGOs and lawmakers who abused their “pork barrel” allocations to refund the government without prejudice to the plunder cases the Department of Justice (DOJ) had filed against some of them.
We all know that the COA demand is like wishing for the stars. No erring lawmaker is dumb to shell out a gargantuan amount from his own savings just to mollify the COA.
Garin, et al are not stupid to sacrifice their own “hard-earned” money to refund the government. After all, a refund is not a modus vivendi or guarantee that those who pocketed the taxpayers’ money will be spared from prosecution.
Garin’s statement, if executed in a formal affidavit, may be used by the Office of the Ombudsman as a weighing scale to determine the degree of crime committed by the respondents against the government. It may also help strengthen the cases against the accused. Based on his confession, Garin is not just an eye witness. He is part of the main cast.
When “pork barrel” was first introduced in the budget during the time of the late President Cory Aquino, it was known then as Countrywide Development Fund (CDF). Then PDAF, and now Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP).
We are only talking about the rape of PDAF before DAP was unearthed belatedly. CDF could be the mother of all “pork barrel” scams.