Napoles’ mentor?

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So, the now-insanely famous Janet Lim Napoles is about to testify in the Senate about how, basically, she got rich by converting money intended for government projects into cash to line her and her favored lawmakers’ pockets.

Well, the head of that Senate these days was two decades ahead of Napoles in the game—even if he won’t even admit his friendship with “Ma’am Jenny.”

Apparently, the illegal practice of the large-scale diversion of government funds intended for supposedly salutary projects wasn’t invented by Napoles. If a highly reliable source is to be believed, one early instance of Napoles’ scheme went into operation more than 20 years ago, under the administration of another Aquino.

When, in a surprise move, President Corazon Aquino decided to support the bid of Fidel V. Ramos to succeed her in Malacañang Palace in the 1992 elections, she didn’t only stab House Speaker Ramon Mitra in the back. Cory and her pro-Ramos loyalists also discovered that they had to find a lot of money double-quick to fund FVR’s presidential campaign, according to one former top official of the Aquino I government.

Mitra had earlier won the ruling Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino convention, which was held to select the administration candidate for the first post-Cory presidential elections. But Mrs. Aquino didn’t want the bearded Mitra, her late husband’s bosom buddy, to replace her, preferring instead to go against the entire LDP’s decision by backing her loyal subordinate from the military, “Steady Eddie.”

Ramos, despite his ambitions, didn’t have any money to fund his own campaign, either. So, Mrs. Aquino turned to her executive secretary, Franklin Drilon, and Presidential Management Staff chief Leonora “Lenny” de Jesus to get the job of raising an initial P200 million to fund FVR’s bid for the highest post in the land, said the former Cory official.

Drilon and De Jesus hit upon a plan that would, whether or not Napoles knew it, would become the template for the conversion of funding for “soft” government projects into cash. Funding for fictitious seminars, training programs and conventions, among other hard-to-trace expenditures, was quickly released, with a corresponding paper trail of government money spent using Cory’s large—and largely unaudited —discretionary funds, or presidential pork, established.

The source of this information said Cory knew about the Drilon-De Jesus fund-raising effort and tacitly gave her approval for it. In fact, officials who attempted to caution Mrs. Aquino about the widespread conversion of soft project funding into campaign funds after discovering the bogus documents used to legitimize the operation were ignored by the President.

And that is how Cory and her administration jump-started the Ramos campaign, using the same methods that would later be perfected, allegedly, by Napoles. Who knows – perhaps Drilon even mentored Napoles, his close friend, when she was just beginning to learn her unusual—and unusually profitable—trade.

* * *

You’ve heard about traders attempting to profit from food shortages and local officials seizing relief goods to make political capital in the quake-hit areas. The nation’s highest official is as opportunistic as any of these lowlifes, apparently.

Like a vulture that seeks to benefit from death, the Aquino administration has announced that it plans to use the much-reviled pork barrel fund it created—now known as the Disbursement Acceleration Program—to pay for the relief and rehabilitation effort in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake in the Central Visayas region. This ghoulish proposal came from President Noynoy Aquino himself, who said that current funds set aside by government for calamities may not be enough to completely come to the aid of the stricken people of Cebu and Bohol.

What is it about DAP that Aquino cannot keep his hands off it? And why would he use the opportunity of the earthquake relief effort to once again justify the use of the questionable fund he created, despite widespread public clamor against all pork allocations?

Aquino’s people cannot even answer questions about where the P130 billion or so in missing payments to the so-called Malampaya fund, and yet he’s already looking to tap into DAP to lend it an air of respectability and legitimacy in these times of suffering. What Malacañang lowlife dreamed up the too-obvious propaganda effort to use the devastation in the Visayas to gyp people into thinking, as Aquino has repeatedly said, that pork and all other discretionary funds are good?

The least Aquino can do is to use whatever funding his administration has for calamity spending at present —around P1 billion, according to him —right now before tapping into DAP and other pork funds. If he persists in using his pork, he will only come off as insensitive—like when he left for South Korea when his people were crying for government aid in the earthquake-hit areas.

No, Mr. President. You still can’t justify using DAP and other pork funds for even the most altruistic purposes, especially since the Supreme Court still hasn’t ruled on their legality and with the threat of a people’s initiative to pass a law banning pork over your balding head.

In case you haven’t noticed, you just come off looking like a pork-addicted, opportunistic ghoul. Really.