A scam involving fake and fictitious NGOs will affect even credible and authentic NGOs.
 
The Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is looking into another alleged “pork barrel scam,” reportedly involving senators and House representatives.
 
This alleged scam, if proven to be true, will definitely be another embarrassing “national scandal” for the country.
 
The NBI linked five senators and 28 representatives in a criminal scheme that has defrauded the Philippine government and its taxpayers of up to P10 billion for the past 10 years.  A well-organized and connected syndicate is reported to have funneled and siphoned funds into scores of “ghost projects” and non-existing NGOs.
  
I wonder how law-abiding Filipinos and taxpayers felt after they read and learned about this reported scam.
  
It is disgusting indeed, particularly at this time, when President Benigno C. Aquino III’s call for Filipinos to trek the “tuwid na daan” has raked benefits to the country’s economy and international reputation. 
 
The Philippines’ standing internationally has definitely improved, as the international business community has expressed its trust and support to the Aquino government, including the reforms and the anti-graft and corruption crusade that President Aquino has been leading.   
 
But it will be a different story if it turns out that nationally and locally elected legislators are involved in a so-called pork barrel scam.  Something is dishonorable and wrong if the fraud and scam allegations are proven to be true.  
 
If the NBI has really uncovered a big scam, then what is in the news may also be just a tip of the iceberg.
 
A scam of this proportion is not just one of those fishing-expedition type investigations that the NBI routinely gets its face on.
 
For the NBI to say that the pork barrel of several lawmakers were funneled to fictitious non-government organizations through a private clearinghouse, they must have in their possession a solid paper trail or credible documentary source of evidence in their hands.
 
The integrity of the much-improved political system in the Philippines is at stake.  The integrity of the individual lawmakers is also at issue. Who is clean?  Who is not?
 
But if the allegations turn out to be true, what will hurt more is the damage that this will cause to nonprofitsand the NGO community of the entire country.  
 
The Philippine NGO movement has thrived since the EDSA People Power Revolt of 1986.  
 
NGOs in the Philippines have earned and enjoyed tremendous trust from both local and international funders, and the NGO institutions that have been established in the Philippines are considered to be trustworthy, robust, and bankable--- to the point that many countries want to emulate the working models that have thrived in the Philippines.
 
A scam involving fake and fictitious NGOs will affect even credible and authentic NGOs.
 
Funding agencies, both local and foreign, will be more cautious and probing in their dealings with Philippine NGOs.  
 
A backlash that will hurt and sacrifice the integrity of Philippine NGOs will also hurt the Filipino people the most.  
 
Why?  Many NGOs function as the “lifelines” of many under-served communities in the Philippines, particularly in areas and localities where the government does not function effectively. 
 
Because of the serious consequences that this alleged scam can cause the country and its people, President Aquino should not tolerate a whitewash.
 
In the Filipino parlance “kung puputok itong iskandalo ng pork barrel, dapat ay may maputukan at matamaan.”  
 
“Tamaan na ang dapat tamaan,” as we conveniently say in Pilipino.
 
There should be no scapegoating and scapegoats.
 
This is another opportunity for President Aquino to show by example to the Filipino people that there are no sacred cows and untouchables when it comes to the fight against graft and corruption.  On this issue, the president should stand solidly behind his campaign promise “Walang mahirap kung walang kurap.”
 
President Aquino has definitely won some meaningful battles against graft and corruption.  But only after corrupt practices in government are completely eliminated or significantly reduced at the highest levels can the Filipino people truly claim that their democracy has indeed won the fight against graft and corruption.
 
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California.  His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases.  Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.  You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.
 

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