MANILA, Philippines- Barely 9 days before he delivers his second State of the Nation Address (SONA), a group critical of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III today asked the 50-year old bachelor president how long his administration would take to charge and imprison his predecessor- former President and now Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
President Aquino last week promised the Filipino public that final chapter of his anti-corruption, a campaign oath during the May 2010 elections will soon happen with the filing of charges and imprisonment of former President Arroyo.
But critics were not convinced. “How long it would take Mr. Aquino to have Mrs. Arroyo charged and jailed for first rate crimes of corruption and for crimes emanating from mass murder of political activists? The filing of criminal cases against Arroyo can be done in a week upon his assumption of the presidency in June 30 last year.
But Mr. Aquino did not do his job,” lamented Fernando Hicap, national chairperson of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) in a press statement.
Hicap said the evidence implicating Arroyo on various crimes involving the plunder of taxpayers’ money specifically on the P 728-million fertilizer fund scam and now the P 325-million PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) fund are strongly supported by voluminous documents, testimonies and paper trails enough to convict the former President and other officials during her tenure.
“It seems to us Mr. Aquino and the current occupants in Malacanang are not inclined to charge and jail GMA in the name of political accommodation and political compromises. It appears to us that sooner or later, Aquino and clique will repeat what Arroyo did in her nine years in office,” the Pamalakaya leader said.
Pamalakaya further said: “All these tirades against Arroyo and company were all just for public consumption to convince the Filipino people that Aquino is sincere in getting rid of corruption committed by the Arroyo officialdom. But the group said Aquino is not keen to make Arroyo pay for her crimes.”
The group had these lamentations aired to media as Hicap together with other fisherfolk leaders—Pamalakaya vice chairperson for Luzon Salvador France and Pamalakaya-Timog Katagalugan chair Pedro Gonzalez filed a letter of appeal to the Department of Justice (DoJ) in Manila this morning and asked Secretary Leila de Lima to investigate the case 97 ice-making machines bought during the last 8 months of the Arroyo administration.
The Pamalakaya leaders argued the missing 97 out of the 98 ice-making machines was a case of ghost delivery involving the P 455-million overpriced ice making machines several months before the May 2010 elections.
Aside from being one of the complainants in the P 728-million fertilizer fund scam, Pamalakaya also filed its own plunder case against former President Arroyo and former agriculture secretary Arthur Yap in connection with the P 455-million ice making machines scam.
Meanwhile, Pamalakaya urged lawmakers on Wednesday to “vigilantly scrutinize” the P 25-B irrigation budget that National Irrigation Authority (NIA) would ask Congress come budget deliberation in 2012.
The group said the ambitious fund request to irrigate 145,000 hectares of rice farmlands in the country may result to an avalanche of high crimes of corruption that can surpass the celebrated graft and corruption cases hurled against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and many of her former Cabinet officials.
The NIA an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA) has P 12.79 B for this year to repair old existing irrigation systems and build new ones to cater to additional 55,000 hectares of new irrigated farm lands.
“NIA is one of the top money makers as far as corruption undertaking in the government is concerned. Small irrigators have been complaining that the budget for NIA irrigation projects usually went to corruption, with 25 percent, 40 percent and 60 percent of the budget going to the pockets of corrupt government officials and their contact syndicates,” the group said.
Pamalakaya recalled that in 2008, the Bataan provincial government complained to NIA over the construction of Tangilad Dam supposedly to irrigate 860 hectares of land and to benefit 698 farmers in the municipalities of Samal and Orani. The project was started in 1998, but in 2008, the local government unit found out that the same project remained useless.
“The project cost the national government P 286,224,000 and it supposed to be constructed by Villamar Construction and Development Corporation. But in 2008, the project was declared a white elephant, but NIA kept mum on the findings on an irrigation project that failed to deliver even a glass of water to supposed beneficiaries,” it noted.
“P 25-B is P 25-B. And P 10-B of that in the form of commissions will lose to all time plunderers and raiders of taxpayers’ money under gangland of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III. This will usher a new era of substandard irrigation systems or even ghost irrigation projects under the Aquino dispensation,” the Pamalakaya said.
Pamalakaya said NIA set another P 20-B budget for 2013 for rehabilitation of old irrigation systems to service an additional 92,000 hectares of farm lands.