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Incubator for sleaze

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The “dark money” column (Inquirer, 2/2/13) uncorked a slew of furious reader reactions against legislators who hefted Concurrent Resolution No. 10 to block audits of their tax-money splurges. The solons, at the same time, demanded transparency from others. “Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits,” Mark Twain wrote.

Cobbled by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, CR 10 twisted budget items, like “maintenance and other operating expenses” into a  personal kitty for “dark money.” An on-my-word-of-honor certification by a legislator, it did away with irksome Commission on Audit reviews.

Thus, last Christmas, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile gift-wrapped in MOOE checks P1.6 million for each of 18 “friendly” senators. In the House of Representatives, members badgered CR 10 into ATMs. The members keyed in the right combo and taxpayers’ pesos cascaded forth. “Wrongs aren’t wrong if done by nice people like ourselves”?

Brickbats from readers insist that the nub of corruption is to exempt oneself from a community’s rules. Sleaze metastasizes into hypocrisy when legislators urge others to hew by the standards they scoff at. You “strap heavy loads on a man’s shoulders,” the Master ticked off the Pharisees, “but you never lift a finger to ease the burden.”

“Liquidating billions of taxpayers’ money by mere ‘certification’ is daylight robbery,” Wakats e-mailed. “Worse, ‘distinguished senatongs’ have put to shame, in their probes, many heads of agencies for corrupt practices they themselves are guilty of.” Remember former AFP chief of staff Angelo Reyes who committed suicide? Sen. Jinggoy Estrada ridiculed Reyes at public hearings for receiving pabaon from the Armed Forces of the Philippines upon the latter’s retirement. Yet, Jinggoy feeds from the CR 10 trough. COA should have audited  Congress without fail.

“‘No need for Congress to do away with CR 10,’ the Inquirer of  Feb. 3 quoted Lacson as saying,” Dr. Carolina Camara from Cagayan de Oro writes. Anyway, COA’s Grace Pulido Tan trashed CR 10 by starting a long-overdue audit. Lacson is  drafting a Senate circular that will detail “new guidelines on the liquidation of expenses, based on COA’s guidance.”

“Who appointed Lacson to interpret for COA?” asks Camara. Legislators are capable of reading COA guidelines. Is this just Lacson’s desire to keep his CR 10 progeny in the incubator?  Will CR 10 be resuscitated when we’re all looking the other way? Lacson even preempts Tan and insists: Audit will be “prospective” and examine only 2013 books. That would blindfold taxpayers to previous plunder. No way Jose.

“We have two kinds of morality side by side,” philosopher  Bertrand Russell once noted: “One which we preach but do not practice and another which we practice but seldom preach.”  Lacson fits that  bill.

“No senator stepped forward to say they’re willing to return public funds they’ve received as Christmas gifts from Enrile,” notes Buninay. The Senate won’t recover until all gifts are returned, because public funds must revert to the national treasury. Adds Hellom, “Only then, can they start talking of integrity.” Don’t hold your breath, comments Kolambogan. “They’re displaying traditional ‘honor among thieves.’ If anyone returns, that would repudiate Santa Claus.”

It’s hard to drive a dog from a butcher’s counter, e-mailed Kapayapaan_1900. We must remove morally bankrupt people from Congress and discontinue electing people who reinforce their families and cohorts in power. Otherwise, this no-holds-barred moneymaking machine called “pork barrel” will continue to entice people into joining this exclusive club.

The public was not even aware that a bastard of this legalized scheme called MOOE existed until one of them whistled “foul” due to unequal distribution of (loot). It’s simple? Who will kill the goose that lays the golden egg?

Why is the stink over CR 10 mostly confined to print or cybermedia, asks Kayanatwo. Radio or TV talk shows need to do  more investigative reporting and let the 93 million-plus Juan de La Cruzes know about today’s pressing issues like political dynasties, economic gaps, etc.

CR 10 is a case in point. The common tao,  living outside the National Capital Region is not fully aware about officials conniving with each other on how to loot the national treasury legally. Do the electronic media view the “masa” as “bobo,” and therefore deserve dumb teleseryes, hollow and sensationalized news and showbiz happenings?

“Bum weed” (Inquirer, 1/29/13)  questioned Commission on Elections Resolution No. 9615. This provides for mandatory right of reply (RoR) “Candidates aggrieved by press reports can demand to have their side published in the same prominence or in the same time slot as the first statement.”

The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Cebu Citizens’ Press Council, among others, slammed the stitching of RoR provisions into the rules for the May 13 elections. If need be, they’ll challenge this rule before the Supreme Court.

Constitutional scholar Joaquin Bernas noted that prevailing jurisprudence, notably the 1974 US Supreme Court’s decision in Miami Herald vs Tornillo, struck down RoR as unconstitutional.

“ROR can also mean Retort of Rulers,” writes AllaMo. “Still, it causes one to retch.” Indeed, “this is the classic case of having one’s cake and eating it too,” adds Buninay. Misbehaving politicians get into the news through their own fault. Resolution 9615 compels free media space to explain away the besmirching news. In effect, RoR amounts to media shooting their foot every time they take on unsavory characters.

(Email: juan_mercado77@yahoo.com)


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