Pork barrel scam scandalizes the nation

By Perry Diaz

Janet Lim Napoles (Photo credit: PDI)

Janet Lim Napoles (Photo credit: PDI)

All it took was one whistleblower to expose what a lot of people knew but were afraid to talk about because of the magnitude of the scam involving “ghost projects.”  This scam has been going on for 10 years, costing the government P10 billion, and involving 28 senators and congressmen.  Indeed, it is so big that there is only one way to describe it – it’s the mother of all scams!

But this could only be the tip of the iceberg.  It could have been running for decades under different operators and involving hundreds of senators and congressmen. 

But make no mistake; nobody is insinuating that every member of Congress was involved in the scam.  There are members of Congress who are using their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel solely for the benefit of their constituents.   

Benhur Luy and Merlina Sunas (Photo credit: PDI)

Benhur Luy and Merlina Sunas (Photo credit: PDI)

Recently, it’s reported in the news that a certain Merlina Pablo Sunas had submitted an affidavit to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) linking five senators and 23 congressmen to a scam ran by a certain Janet Lim Napoles of JLN Group of Companies.  The lawmakers allegedly released their pork barrel funds to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs).  In return, these NGOs would kick back a percentage of the funds to the lawmakers and keep the rest of the money.

Sunas was a trusted employee of Napoles whom Napoles appointed as president of one of Napoles’ bogus NGOs — the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. (POPDFI).   

The five senators who were linked to the scam are the following:

Ramon Revilla, Jr. – P 1.017 billion
Juan Ponce Enrile – P 641.65 million
Jinggoy Estrada – P 585 million
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. – P 100 million
Gregorio Honasan – P 15 million

Modus operandi

(Photo credit: PDI)

(Photo credit: PDI)

The exposure of the scam was an offshoot of a certain Benhur Luy’s alleged kidnapping by Napoles, his employer.  The NBI was tipped of the alleged kidnapping and NBI agents rescued Luy last March 22.  Consequently, kidnapping charges were filed against Napoles.  However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) dismissed the charges for lack of probable cause. 

Luy then executed an affidavit accusing Napoles of setting up five bogus NGOs that Napoles used to pull off the scam, which included the fertilizer fund scam, Malampaya scam, and the pork barrel scam.  The NGOs were supposed to use the funds to procure or provide supplies and services; however, no deliveries were ever made.  To cover these “ghost projects,” the implementing agencies submitted fake “liquidation papers” to show that the supplies or services were delivered or performed.  After kickbacks were made to the ones authorizing the release of the funds to the NGOs, the funds eventually made their way to Napoles’ personal bank accounts.

The question is: Would the DOJ succeed in prosecuting Napoles?  Evidently, Napoles is a very powerful and influential businesswoman who knows what money can buy.  But first, the DOJ has to find her and her brother, Reynald Lim, who was also implicated in the scam.  As of today, the siblings are nowhere to be found.  Makes one wonder who are protecting them?

Abolish the pork

Once again, pork barrel is at the forefront of national debate.  As a result of the scandal, Sen. Frank Drilon proposed limiting the use of PDAF.  However, Sen. Chiz Escudero had been advocating for abolition of the pork barrel system for many years. 

Sen. Chiz Escudero

Sen. Chiz Escudero

In my article, “Power of the ‘Pork’” (February 3, 2010), I wrote: “In 2009, Sen. Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero introduced Resolution No. 900 ‘urging the Senate committee on Finance to cause the immediate review and accordingly propose the repeal or amendment of Presidential Decree No. 1177 and Book VI of Executive Order No. 292, specifically all provisions pertinent to budget preparation, disposition and management, with the end in view of reverting to Congress the power of the purse as prescribed by the Constitution.’

“A few weeks ago, Escudero — a proponent of the abolition of the pork barrel system — said that Gloria ‘has been exercising her power to impound pork not because of any lofty purpose but to give out or withhold political favor to help her allies and to strangle her political opponents.’ ”

P-Noy doubles pork barrel

President Benigno Aquino III

President Benigno Aquino III

But instead of abolishing the pork barrel system, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III, who succeeded Gloria in June 2010, doubled the pork barrel allocations for the legislators.  On top of each of the 278 congressmen’s P70-million “pork barrel,” they were given an extra P75 million each to be used for infrastructure projects in their districts.  The extra pork barrel for each congressman consisted of P50 million from the budget of the Department of Public Work and Highways (DPWH) and another P25 million from the Road User’s Tax.

The decision to provide additional pork barrel to the congressmen was seemingly made to placate a number of them who threatened to block the passage of the national budget on grounds of “unequal budgetary allocations,” due mainly to former president and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s humongous DPWH  “pork barrel.”

Mother of all pork

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

In my article, “Pigging out on Barrels of Pork (October 27, 2010), I wrote: “But the biggest recipient of pork barrel in Congress is no other than Gloria who for some mysterious reason is going to get a P2.2-billion lump sum pork barrel from the DPWH budget.  This is in addition to her P70-million PDAF pork, the P50-million extra infrastructure pork, another P28 million on top of that, and the P25-million windfall from the Road User’s Tax.

“The ‘mystery’ was solved when Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello revealed that Gloria used her influence when she was president to make sure that her district would get a lot of projects funded by ‘multilateral lending agencies’ from Japan and South Korea ‘What we discovered is while she was president, she [Arroyo] had contracted with foreign aid agencies to be able to funnel over the next few years billions of pesos into the 2nd district of Pampanga. Sinabi ni [Public Works Secretary Rogelio] Singson kahapon, he’s helpless kasi his hands are tied, kasi these were committed by foreign aid agencies like the Japan International Cooperation Agency and the Korea Development and Cooperation Fund,’ Bello said.”

Reforming the system

With the exposé that implicated 28 lawmakers in the pork barrel scam, there is a need for instituting reforms on how pork barrel is doled out.  The magnitude of the pork barrel scam has set back P-Noy’s reform agenda and scandalized the nation.

Mr. President, pork barrel germinates corruption.  You abolish pork barrel and corruption withers.  And if you want to leave a lasting legacy for the Filipino people, abolition of pork barrel would be the hallmark of your presidency.  Then and only then can you say that you’ve achieved your campaign promise, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” Indeed, for as long as there is corruption, there is poverty, Mr. President. 


38 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Pons says:

    Never fails. Even Gringo, the anti-AFP corruption champion, has been implicated in the “Ghost Projects” scam. What a shame. Nakakahiya! Talagang nagiging ‘Kapal-muks’ ang mga politicians when it comes to scamming the people and the government out of millions of Pesos!

  2. pat talens says:

    The power of the Devil is beyond bounds as well illustrated in this huge corruption scandal. Even the once undebatably patriotic and once-military-warrior Gregory Honasan (a once role-model in patriotism and clean government) has very much succumbed to greed and corruption so embedded in all walks of life and politics in the Philippines. Hope for PNoy to succeed in his presidency as he plays a dwarf amid multitude of corrupt giants.

  3. Becker says:

    There is one problem in the true good person in the Congress or in the higher ups in the government. Everyone wants to be good but somehow the scam bags are the one that get things done through their influences either through cash or favors. So if you want to make things happen in the government you must be prepared to shell out some cash or some favors. This is the big dilema for everyone. The more people know you are a squealer or someonw who will talk to the media the less people will cooperate with you. So the main solution is for a new kind of approach and a big reorganization that will edify the right values and the right kind of attitude. But it must start from the top and slowly go down the ladder of organizations. The hands that do things are better than the lips that speak only of good things. The President must come up with more results. People who are proven to be corrupt must stay in jail. The nation must see the real PNoy of more good results so the common people see the real improvement in the Philippine economy. Prayers are good but must be accompanied by real hard work to achieve good results for the common good of the nation.

  4. almario de jesus says:

    Senators and Congressman maintains a big staff and it is a wonder why they do not monitor how their pork barrel allocation is being used by the project benificiary. There should be a progress or audit report submitted to the senator or congressman concerned unless they knew the real score.

  5. Lenlen Cy says:

    Yes, I agree with you Mr. Perry, this is the only way that P-noy put his word of prmised if he will put this word into favorable action to Filipino people “walang mahirap, walang mahirap, if he will abolish the pork barrel.

  6. Guy M. Guerrero says:

    What a country! Politicians and criminals forever intertwined.

  7. Don Azarias says:


    It’s getting more and more urgent to abolish the Philippine Senate. It’s nothing but a useless political institution that breeds corruption.

    Is it any wonder that most of those who were elected senators became multi-millionaires?


    • perry says:

      Hi Don,

      The Senate is a do-nothing body. We should go back to a unicameral Congress. Better yet, a parliament.


      • apollodr says:

        The system is not the problem. It is the politicians elected by the people. Change the system, the corrupt Politian will find a way. We need to educate and change the mindset of the people to elect honest leaders. It will be difficult and will take time but not at all impossible.

  8. victorina alipit says:

    Shame, shame, shame. Deny, deny, deny. If the alleged politicians are really that “Honorable”, they should stop denying; instead they should come clean and to the least, lead an investigation into the scam. But as it is said in the Pilipins, who would “pukpok” his own head with a rock?

  9. Philip says:

    This scandal is the bellwhether that will highlight PNoy’s presidency. Here is his chance to prove his mettle that his slogans “daang matuwid” and “walang mahirap kung walang corrupt” are not merely empty words. This grandmother of all scams will test his resolve, leadership and, most of all, his manhood.

  10. Pete says:

    PORK BARREL is known as wallet for most lawmakers in the the Philippines! This is no news. CORUPTION will continue as usual, what can I say!!!

  11. perry says:

    I agree that we should do away with the pork barrel. The Philippines will be a progressive country if we use that money for projects that will benefit the nation and help the poor.. Kudos to the whistleblower for exposing the culprits. The government under Pinoy will then be corruption free if this is what the Filipinos and Pinoy wants. We can then really move on and this means better lives for the Filipinos.

    Erasmo Castaneda
    (Sent by email)

  12. perry says:

    Yes, you are right, hundreds of senators and congressmen. The bad thing is the admin is only limiting the fall out to few senators and congressmen. This is clearly politics.

    Emil Aguinaldo
    (Sent by email)

  13. perry says:


    Let us just hope that this scam stops these pork barrel enterprise which is a great temptation ! Even honest legislators with all the money thrown around would be led astray !

    Ben Oteyza
    (Sent by email)

  14. al villacorte says:

    i have a better idea: abolish congress.

  15. Roman de Guzman says:

    I think there was a collusion when pork barrel was passed into law. There is nothing hard changing the system, like the corporation does. A politician would submit what he needs for project in his constituent in the beginning of the year. After the project is finished, an auditor must check the funded project.
    They (politicians) have been accustomed to the pork barrel system because they can get as much as 20% for kick backs.
    What a country we have.. full of corrupt and liars leading the country.

  16. perry says:

    Thanks Perry,

    Glad to hear that there are members of Congress using the PDAF for the benefit of their constituents.

    Hope the NBI findings will produce results, and convictions in the near future.


    Jaime Calero
    (Sent by email)

  17. perry says:

    This so called “Mother of All Scams” is just the daughter of “Mother Superior” of Graft and Corruption. That mother superior is none other than the Philippine Justice System. Philippine Justice is a rip-off system over the common and ordinary people because it is a monopoly of powerful public officials beginning with the President, the Senators, Congressmen, Governors, and Mayors who can dictate justice to their favor whatever they want over judges and prosecutors. All their so-called investigations and indictment are nothing more than a show.

    We need to adopt the Jury System of Justice so that the people will be the ones who will decide in justice to send grafters to jail. The proposed Jury Law can be read at: http://www.mediafire.com/view/u9xdn3phbjx5zod/

    Marlowe Carmelo
    (Sent by email)

  18. Mac Flores, Jr. says:

    If the Commission on Audit (COA) made a report on this scam but withheld by the Executive branch for public knowledge, then why reveal it only now?

    Is timing more important than early knowledge?

    If yes, why is timing more important? Guess for a good answer if one considers significant events that transpired recently and the events of immediate coming days.

    What a political governance in the PHL!

    If COA has ZERO knowledge of the scam, then its relevancy in safeguarding the Control System of the governance is inutile.

    One may even think that COA representatives are in collusion with the scam as well.

    Kapag walang masusing investigation at resulta, including those involved in the past (despite retired now) transparency and Daang Matuwid is as clear as mud, in my opinion.

  19. Pete says:

    The Philippine government can have all the whistle blowers exposing all the corruptions going on but nothing is gonna happen!!! CORRUPTION in this god forsaken country remains. IT IS THE COLTURE !!’ It is there to stay until the end of time!!

  20. Ramon T. Sablon says:

    I agree for the abolition of the Pork Barrel (PDAF). They call this PRIORITY and it is really true because the solons prioritized their own pockets. My question is, ” If the PDAF is abolished, would these members of the solons still continue to serve?”

    • albertO says:

      If millions petition them to retire/resign they will resign w/out honor. Get the money back from their offshore accounts and return it to the people.

  21. Ramon T. Sablon says:

    I agree for the abolition of the Pork Barrel (PDAF). If we prioritize on this, I think, we will know who among the solons are true and honest in their service. My question is, ” Who among them will continue to run in the next election in there is NO PDAF?

  22. This system of disbursing government barrel funds is fundamentally flawed, and we know it. But then as a people we continue with iits use without proper safeguards. With today’s technology, it is no longer impossible to keep an eye on every piece of disbursement of these funds at the local levels. We should really blame ourselves for allowing this to continue without counterchecks. “Walang makukurakot kung walang pera” pero bigay lang tayo nang bigay without the necessary counterchecks and balance. “Trust but verify” one American President would tell us to establish as a policy during his term. Are we Filipinos really stupid people? Well, we inherited this pork barrel system from American democracy, but the Americans who also use it even today have their own control mechanisms in place that get implemented, we have nothing? That one thing which is very important is, the Americans did not teach us internal control, so we have turned thieves and corrupt in our depravity. If I could have it my way, I will make all these politicians Auditors of their own pork barrel fund allocations, not disbursers. We will have the office of the solicitor general or another government unit the disburser of the funds at the national level after approval from GAO or the Commission on Audit. The politicians will be required to submit accountability reports, fully documented with objective and verifiable disbursements substantiations, ie receipts for every expense. Just like an expense report in business. I am not kidding you with this that you should call me stupid. I just want to stop the politicians from stealing. Tell me what you will do.

    • albertO says:

      I agree with you.

    • Pablo Magat says:

      I agree with you 100%. The problem with our mother country is that many are illeterate that they don’t have their own mindset to make decision for themselves. But of course when money are involves on election times, that dictates a lot for them. They careless what happened later on with the government operation.

  23. Bobby Bagos says:

    I guess the people who dubbed our country one of the most corrupt country in the world are right after all. These people must know something that millions of Filipinos does’nt care to know or at least does’nt want to admit that it’s true. Corruption in the government is not going to stop unless the Filipino people themselves gets involve. It’s time for the people to vote with their conscience instead of their pockets. Trading the future of our country for a handful of worthless goodies being pass around by these rotten politicians are not worth it but the people do it anyway.

  24. Samuel Yap says:

    I do not know the rationale behind giving pork barrel funds to legislators. Legislators are supposed to legislate, not meddle in the actual spending of funds according to the approved national budget, which belongs to the Executive Department. Why are we allowing the legislative branch to intrude into the functions of the executive branch? This is unconstitutional and breeds corruption. I therefore favor the total abolition of the pork barrel. This will decrease corruption to a very significant degree.

  25. albertO says:

    Abolish the senate, the pork barrel and just have a unicameral congress.

  26. Briggs Venus says:

    To abolish or not the pork barrel may consider as good decision.But the the best way or measure that should be implemented by the government if in case the pork barrel will not be abolished,that once proven someone did corruption,the penalty is death or cut both two arms…This arrangement will sure all these senators and congressman will avoid corruption…Putulan ng kamay ang mga magnanakaw sa pera ng taong bayan..

    • Bobby Bagos says:

      Don’t you people get it? Even if the government decide to do away with this “pork barrel” crap, these politicians will always find a way to fatten their bank accounts. These people are not bothered by any accusation or allegations of any wrongdoing, why should they, how many government officials that we know of are actually sitting in prison at this moment for doing the same exact thing?

  27. Abolishing pork barrel funds they way it is will require a legislation, the very same people benefitting from it as illicit beneficiaries will need to pass and approve that legislation. So, here we have a clear PHL stalemate. Very sad,

  28. Fernando Habito says:

    “Abolish the Pork Barrel”…Amen..! to all who wanted it..!With the senators and congressmen who will pass and approve the legislation will it works.? This time we have to try another approach through “people’s power”..!

  29. rey says:

    iyang si janet ay intsik. kung imbes pork barrel. barrel of a gun o cannon and binili malayo ang mararating ng bilyones na nakurakot lang. ito ay napunta sa mainland china kasi sila ang gumagastos ng lahat sa pinas para gawing kapital tulad ng sa illegal drugs ng hongkong triad at dalhin sa tsina ang kita, legal o illegal man.

    tapos tayong mga pinoy ang kawawa. so stop this. the chinese are just siphoning all mega bucks from filipino money source like this pork barrel.

  30. Rodelio Chua says:

    Kaming mga OFWs ay nagpapakahirap magtrabaho dito sa labas ng bansa para lang may maipapadala sa aming pamilya sa Pilipinas. Sinisikap naming maging masipag na empleyado para maipakita sa ibang lahi na iba tayong magtrabaho. Kung gaano tayo kasikat sa ibang bansa, ganun din kabaho ang ating mga politiko. Kung ang ating mga senador and congressmen ay ganun ka corrupt, paano na kaya yung mga tao na maliit ang pwesto at mga nagtatrabaho sa Gobyerno. Kung meron talaga silang dangal gaya nung sinabi nila, they should resign while waiting for the decision.

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