Dark Money

by Juan L. Mercado

Are Senate pledges  to come clean on the multi-billion peso “maintenance and other operating expenses”  scam  mere  “CYA”? 

“Cover your ass” is jargon for tactics to shield oneself from penalties for shady dealings  Will “CYA” smother “Concurrent Resolution No 10? This blocked so far, audits of  MOOE and other funds,  so taxes wouldn’t  morph into  “dark money”.
Senators adopted  CR10  on Aug. 24, 2011. “The moment you show cash, everyone speaks the same language”.  The House scrambled to  catch up on Feb. 1, 2012.  Since then,  CR10 barred  state auditors from  even  asking  how much Congress lavishes on  itself.  Questions on how  money is doled, by free-spending legislators, became  verboten.

“The two most beautiful words in the English language are: ‘Check   Enclosed”, columnist  Dorothy Parker once wrote. Gift wrapped for Christmas, the P1.6 million checks, doled to 18 friendly senators were  lambing, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile  explained.
That  was  chicken feed, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano snapped.  From 2008 to 2013, the chamber’s MOOE bolted  from P759 million to P1.57 billion.  An overdue audit may fill in the blanks about Lower House splurges.

However, “stop”  is not  in the vocabulary of  greed.  The Senate  barreled on to exempt members from submitting receipts, vouchers, etc.   A legislator’s certification will do, thank you,  CR10 provides.

Senators scribble a “special power of attorney” or SPA and  — Bingo!  Hard-earned  taxpayer  pesos flood  in for salaries and allowances even for untallied staff.  Does a senator or congressman have 10 employees?  Maybe  40?  Ghosts?   Who knows.

“A greedy father will  have thieves for children”, a Serbian proverb warns.  So, COA  tried to get legislators to account for funds “realigned” to the MOOE kitty. Is that a more  antiseptic word for ‘smuggled’?.  To thumb their noses at accounting for the shekels, legislators hefted  CR10. “Money is not everything.   But it’s right up there — with oxygen”

Before doctors shushed her for inviting a heart attack by interview-outbursts, Senator Miriam Santiago flayed the P250,000 pittances that she, plus “critical” senators Antonio Trillanes, Cayetano brother and sister, got.
Why ladle additional MOOE in December when  “all official transactions of the Senate are completed by then?”, Santiago fuimed.  “So that on Christmas you can give yourselves and your colleagues savings to keep them quiet?  Does ‘public purposes’ mean ou give a senator a cash gift of (P1.6)  million? That senator will lie and produce a paper saying the money was for public purpose but actually pocketed it … This ‘racket’ is practiced in the Senate…”
Enrile’s  P1.6 million “Christmas gifts”, resignation by his chief of staff, who dubbed critics “hypocrites” and COA  badgering swirled into public fury. They’re forcing Congress to agree to an overdue hard look at CR10.
“The Senate needs an enama to purge the toxins,” Senator Panfilo Lacson said. “The Senate can still recover from this controversy. But it needs to act promptly. Follow my example, he prodded colleagues. My office staff has been ordered to open all our books.”
Did  the man  say “all”?  That includes his authorship  of CR10?  The resolution was “was not in our consciousness” when it was passed, Lacson mumbled.  Adoption of his “brainchild” slipped thru “unnoticed amid  many others that the Senate  approved”.
Really?  Just like absent minded senators when Sen. Tito Sotto snucked his rider on libel into the cyberspace bill?   Lacson does not suffer from Alzheimer’s vacuums.  He is nobody’s fool.  So, was this selective amnesia, on a major “innovation” like CR10, merely “CYA”?.

Lacson, who spurned pork barrel allocations, said he wouldn’t mind if his handiwork were shredded.  Is this a ruthless  Saul turned into an evangelizing Paul?  Nonsense, snap Lacon’s critics who quote the Ilocano proverb: Ti uwak waray digos, nagsiti latta.  ”Although it bathes, the crow remains black”.
Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan, meanwhile, informed the Senate that COA is starting a  “no-holds-barred audit”, in line with it’s constitutional mandate.  Tan asked auditors be given access to all relevant documents in a letter to the chairman of accounts – by happenstance, Lacson.
Senators opted to beat COA to the draw. In a caucus, they agreed to scrap “certification”. Senators must now file receipts, vouchers, etc. No irony intended, the senators authorized Lacson to make public the agreement  to shred  CR10.

Enrile informed Speaker Feliciano Belmonte of the Senate decision to bail out, Lacson added.

“It’s the Lower House call if they will waive [ the resolution ] or rescind it. But for  us, no ifs and buts. The Senate will comply.

“As COA begins to sift “dark money” records, Senator Aquilino Pimentel  filed Senate Resolution 930. This seeks  to curb an epidemic of  35 congressional  “oversight committees” that chew up another  P400 million yearly.
The committees sprawl from biofuels, labor, disaster risk reduction to special purpose vehicles. Merge their duties with that of appropriate legislative committees, Pimentel sensibly proposed.
“I’m a poor man with money — which is not  same thing,” says a character in  a  Nobel Laureate  Garcia Maquez  novel.  In Congress, many are paupers of the spirit who gorge on our taxes. They swear by Napoleon Bonaparte’s  axiom:  “Money has no fatherland” and turned both houses, meant for statesmen, into a den of thieves.

If Tan’s audit succeeds, she’ll  enter history as one of COA’s giants. She will also ensure our grandchildren are spared  “dark money”.


You may also like

Leave a Comment