HARDLY noticed in the welter of stories on more current events was the report last Friday that the Senate Blue Ribbon report on the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the congressional pork barrel fund, had ended up in the Senate archives.
It was never submitted to the Senate as a whole and was, therefore, never approved or acted upon. It was sent to the Legislative Bills and Index an hour after the sine die adjournment of the Senate of the 16th Congress on June 6 and was, therefore, simply archived, with no value except for future reference.
The PDAF issue exploded on the national scene with a big bang in 2013. It started, innocently enough with an employee of Janet Lim Napoles – Benhur Luy – claiming he had been illegally detained but managed to escape. He proceeded to expose a scam involving the misuse of pork barrel funds through fake non-government organizations (NGOs).
Hundreds of millions of pesos in PDAF funds in the national budget, it was charged, went to NGOs for projects that turned to be non-existent. So many senators and congressmen linked to the scam were investigated, but only three opposition senators got to be charged by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan and detained, giving rise to the charge of selective justice by the administration against its political enemies.
In the course of the Senate Blue Ribbon inquiry on the PDAF, the existence of another fund – the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) – was inadvertently discovered. This was described by the opposition as Malacañang’s own pork barrel as it released government funds for projects and other undertakings of Malacañang without going through Congress. Both PDAF and DAP were subsequently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
Aside from the Sandiganbayan cases of the three opposition senators, cases against other legislators are in various stages of investigation by the Ombudsman following leads uncovered during the Senate Blue Ribbon inquiry.
But the Senate Blue Ribbon report itself is now just part of the Senate archives, of no legal value – an unfortunate ending to such a huge event in the Senate that impacted on the national government administration and even on the recent presidential election.