Quantcast

Viewpoint

‘Dark money’

By

Are Senate pledges to come clean on the multibillion-peso “maintenance and other operating expenses” scam mere “CYA”?

“Cover your ass” is jargon for tactics to shield oneself from penalties for shady dealings. Will “CYA” smother Concurrent Resolution No. 10? CR10 has so far blocked audits of MOOE and other funds, so taxes wouldn’t morph into “dark money.”

Senators adopted CR10 on Aug. 24, 2011. “The moment you show cash, everyone speaks the same language.” The House scrambled to catch up on Feb. 1, 2012. Since then, CR10 has barred state auditors from even asking how much Congress lavishes on itself. Questions on how money is doled, by free-spending legislators, became verboten.

“The two most beautiful words in the English language are ‘check enclosed,’” columnist Dorothy Parker once wrote. Gift-wrapped for Christmas, the P1.6-million checks, doled to 18 friendly senators, were lambing, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile explained.

That was chicken feed, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano snapped. From 2008 to 2013, the Senate’s MOOE bolted from P759 million to P1.57 billion. An overdue audit may fill in the blanks about House splurges.

However, “stop” is not in the vocabulary of greed. The Senate barreled on to exempt members from submitting receipts, vouchers, etc. A legislator’s certification will do, thank you, CR10 provides.

Senators scribble a “special power of attorney” or SPA, and bingo! Hard-earned taxpayer pesos flood in for salaries and allowances even for untallied staff. Does a senator or congressman have 10 employees? Maybe 40? Ghosts? Who knows?

“A greedy father will have thieves for children,” a Serbian proverb warns. So, the Commission on Audit tried to get legislators to account for funds “realigned” to the MOOE kitty. Is that a more antiseptic word for “smuggled”? To thumb their noses at accounting for the shekels, legislators hefted CR10. “Money is not everything. But it’s right up there—with oxygen.”

Before doctors shushed her for inviting a heart attack by interview-outbursts, Sen. Miriam Santiago flayed the P250,000 pittance that she, plus other “critical” senators—Antonio Trillanes, Cayetano brother and sister—got.

Why ladle additional MOOE in December when “all official transactions of the Senate are completed by then?” Santiago fumed. “So that on Christmas you can give yourselves and your colleagues savings to keep them quiet?  Does ‘public purposes’ mean … you give a senator a cash gift of [P1.6] million? That senator will lie and produce a paper saying the money was for public purpose but actually pocketed it… This ‘racket’ is practiced in the Senate…”

Enrile’s P1.6-million “Christmas gifts,” the resignation of his chief of staff, who dubbed critics “hypocrites,” and COA badgering swirled into public fury. They’re forcing Congress to agree to an overdue hard look at CR10.

“The Senate needs an enema to purge the toxins,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said. “The Senate can still recover from this controversy… But it needs to act promptly. Follow my example,” he prodded colleagues. “My office staff has been ordered to open all our books.”

Did the man say “all”? That includes his authorship of CR10. The resolution was “not in our consciousness” when it was passed, Lacson mumbled. The adoption of his “brainchild” slipped through “unnoticed amid many others that the Senate approved.”

Really? Just like absent-minded senators when Sen. Tito Sotto snuck in his rider on libel into the cybercrime bill?  Lacson does not suffer from Alzheimer’s vacuums. He is nobody’s fool. So, was this selective amnesia on a major “innovation” like CR10? Merely “CYA”?

Lacson, who has spurned pork barrel allocations, said he wouldn’t mind if his handiwork were shredded. Is this a ruthless Saul turned into an evangelizing Paul? Nonsense, snap Lacson’s critics, who quote the Ilocano proverb, “Ti uwak uray agdigos, nangisit latta (Although it bathes, the crow remains black).”

COA Chair Grace Pulido Tan, meanwhile, has informed the Senate that her agency is starting a “no-holds-barred audit,” in line with its constitutional mandate. Tan has asked that auditors be given access to all relevant documents in a letter to the chair of accounts—by happenstance, Lacson.

Senators opted to beat the COA to the draw. In a caucus, they agreed to scrap “certification.” Senators must now file receipts, vouchers, etc. No irony intended, the senators authorized Lacson to make public the agreement to shred CR10.

Enrile informed Speaker Feliciano Belmonte of the Senate decision to bail out. Lacson added: “It’s the House’s call if they will waive [the resolution] or rescind it. But for us, no ifs and buts. The Senate will comply.”

As the COA begins to sift “dark money” records, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III filed Senate Resolution No. 930. This seeks to curb an epidemic of 35 congressional “oversight committees” that chew up another P400 million yearly.

The committees sprawl from biofuels, labor, disaster risk reduction, to special purpose vehicles. Merge their duties with that of appropriate legislative committees, Pimentel sensibly proposed.

“I’m a poor man with money—which is not the same thing,” says a character in a novel by Nobel Laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez. In Congress, many are paupers of the spirit who gorge on our taxes. They swear by Napoleon Bonaparte’s axiom, “Money has no fatherland,” and have turned both chambers, meant for statesmen, into a den of thieves.

If Tan’s audit succeeds, she’ll enter history as one of the COA’s giants. She will also ensure our grandchildren are spared “dark money.”

* * *

E-mail: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


More from this Column:

Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=46081

Tags: Juan L. Mercado , MOOE , opinion , Senate , Viewpoint



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
Advertisement

News

  • Bus kills pedestrian before falling into Olongapo City ravine – report
  • Bernice Lee arrested by NBI team
  • Group: Bataan cop killed to stop him from exposing colleagues linked to drug ring
  • Chemical Engineer licensure examination
  • Troubled history fuels Japan-China tension
  • Sports

  • NLEX fights off Derulo Accelero to remain unbeaten
  • Mayweather diehard Bieber eats pride, poses with Pacquiao for photo op
  • Power Pinays rip Singapore to enter quarters in Asian volley tilt
  • PBA D-League: Waves edge skidding Superchargers
  • Ilad’s last-second basket lifts Gems over Bakers
  • Lifestyle

  • Miss America: Don’t suspend teen over prom invite
  • Transitions and resurrection in the performing arts
  • ‘Archaeology tour’ of Cebu’s heritage of faith
  • Historic Fort Bonifacio tunnel converted into a septic tank
  • ‘Imports’ from London, and play of the year
  • Entertainment

  • Arrest warrants out vs. Deniece Cornejo, Cedric Lee, et al over serious illegal detention
  • Lindsay Lohan says she had a miscarriage
  • Discovery network cancels Everest jump
  • ‘Captain America’ stays strong atop US box office
  • Easter musings
  • Business

  • Century Pacific Food sets IPO price at P13.75 per share
  • Oil prices down in quiet Asian trade
  • Asian shares mixed in holiday-thinned trade
  • BDO seen keen on bidding for Cocobank
  • Bataan freeport investment pledges up 1,302%
  • Technology

  • PH has slowest internet in Southeast Asia
  • Nintendo’s trailblazing Game Boy marks 25th anniversary
  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Opinion

  • Gigi’s home
  • Palace stonewalls on MRT inquiry
  • Couple of things too
  • There is plenty of water behind Wawa Dam
  • Triduum thoughts of a young boy
  • Global Nation

  • Balikatan could spoil peace talks, says militant group
  • DFA officers hold workshop on aiding human traffic victims
  • Canada in communication with PH on toxic wastes
  • Filipinos in Middle East urged not to panic amid MERS-CoV scare
  • Obama on mission to quiet Asia skeptics
  • Marketplace