guilty until proven innocent

bonglanijinggoylito

CHINO HILLS, CA – When we launched Kasibulan, the Grassroots Program of the Philippine Football Federation, we were able to win the support of PAGCOR (a GOCC) with P20 million in financial support. The funds were released in 2 tranches of P10 million each. The release of the second tranche was subject to the full liquidation of the first tranche. Despite our preparations and focus on documentation, the release of the second tranche was delayed due to the logistical challenge of collating receipts and other similar items from 33 provinces all over the country. Eventually everything was accounted for, down to the last centavo.

I wonder how the DBM authorizes the release of susbsequent tranches of the PDAF funds to our legislators. Are these subject to the same stringent procedures that we were made to comply with? Hearing what I’ve been hearing, I’m not quite sure.

Like our experience – each and every legislator should be made to account for each and every centavo of his or her PDAF. Being supposed representatives of the people upon whom trust is reposed, they are subject to a higher standard.

Morally, they should be judged as guilty of misuse of public funds until proven innocent by a full and transparent accounting of the moneys entrusted to them.

The Commission on Audit (COA) should not stop at their first audit report on the (mis)use of the PDAF which covered the period just before the current administration took over. It will be a herculean effort but this is something that needs to be done. It would surprise me if any of our legislators complied with all the administrative requirements covering the release of government funds. As per my experience it is a pretty comprehensive and exhaustive process which I presume has been conveniently ignored by our lawmakers whether willingly or unwittingly. At the very least, the rule on the release of funds without full liquidation of previous releases appears to have been “overlooked”.

When going through this investigative process, the COA, DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman need to have a systematic plan. As it is, an honest to goodness investigation will take at least a couple of years to be completed. This assumes of course that these agencies are given the necessary resources to carry out this task given the enormity of what needs to be done. I am predisposed to think that many of the possible findings would result in a relatively small set of grounds for prosecution or administrative action. The administrative action that will need to be taken should be relatively easy to dispose of given that violations of purely ministerial rules and regulations (e.g. timely liquidations) should be clear. The difficulty will be in cases that would be passed off to the DOJ for prosecution before the Ombudsman.

This will not be easy. If pursued vigorously and systematically, this will take at least to the end of the term of the current administration. Who knows what will happen after that. In the meantime, legislation will likely slow down as our lawmakers hide and engage in other actions to either comply with what they should have complied with in the first place or find ways to rationalize why they should be exempt for all these.

While the Office of the Ombudsman is theoretically an independent body immune from political considerations, Justice Carpio-Morales will face annual impeachment cases against her meant to distract and harass her Office from discharging its proper duty. Then, sometime during the next administration, her term of office will end. Then, the earnestness by which these cases are pursued will be up in the air again.

Of course, I am getting ahead of myself. As alluded to earlier, seeking accountability from those we have reposed with trust will be an uphill battle. This thing is huge. The possibility that the majority of our legislators have been remiss in one way or another in handling their PDAF is a strong possibility. Somebody will try to propound ways to expediently resolve this fiasco which will leave no one totally happy. In the end, an expedient solution may be the only way we are able to put this behind us. A solution that calls to account the most egregious villains but not all of them.

Throughout all this, the only antidote to political backroom dealings will be continued vigilance on the part of the general populace. It will be tiring and many who were in the #MillionPeopleMarch just for the heck of it will fade away. But for those who want to see this through, continued vigilance will be the only way to exact our pound of flesh from those who have taken us for fools for so long.

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