Editorial

Repulsive

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Of the many horrors one can find in the Commission on Audit’s Special Audit Report No. 2012-03, which COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan released to the public last Friday, Table 26 on page 58 offers a particularly repulsive example.

It lists the five legislators and one legislator’s relative who served as incorporators of nongovernment organizations which subsequently received fund transfers from the legislators’ own pork barrel allocations. Some P188.6 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) monies allocated to the six lawmakers were channeled directly into NGOs they or a relative built in the first place.

Forget about keeping appearances. Between 2007 and 2009, the period covered by the COA’s special audit, then Sen. Edgardo Angara allowed the release of P14.4 million to Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan Inc., an organization he was himself an incorporator, stockholder and board director of. His appalling lack of  delicadeza  looks positively naive, however, when contrasted with the naked greed of Rep. Matias Defensor Jr. of Quezon City; he prioritized the release of a total of P99.5 million from his pork barrel allocation to a foundation he was incorporator, stockholder and trustee of. The name of the foundation? The Matias Defensor Sr. Foundation Inc.

The others listed in Table 26—Amado Bagatsing of Manila, Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan, Anthony Miranda of Isabela and Jeannie Sandoval, the sister-in-law of Federico Sandoval II of Malabon/Navotas—also channeled millions of pesos from their pork barrel funds into their own or their relative’s foundations. Sy-Alvarado had the lowest amount listed, “just” P12.9 million, but the funds went to the Jose Sy-Alvarado Foundation Inc., an NGO named after her father-in-law and of which she was the president on record.

Shameless, just utterly shameless.

Tan said she wept when she read the report; indeed, a close read can be overwhelming. The product of a two-year-audit (June 2010 to September 2012) and a year-long reporting process (September 2012 to August 2013, including some three months for the implementing government agencies and legislators involved to respond to the findings), the report is the political equivalent of a sex video scandal—the graphic record of repeated acts of violation, but with the Filipino people as the victim.

The businesswoman at the center of the so-called

P10-billion pork barrel scam exposed by the Inquirer is implicated in the COA report too; 10 of the 82 NGOs the COA identified as dubious (either “unknown or unlocated at their given addresses, or have given nonexistent addresses, or [with] addresses traced [to] a mere shanty or high-end residential units without any NGO signages and of which, some turned out to be the residences of their owner/officer”—to quote from the report’s Executive Summary) are linked to Janet Lim-Napoles. All told, the 10 NGOs received over P2 billion in pork barrel funds between 2007 and 2009.

The “Inquirer validates our findings,” Tan said last Friday, referring to the Napoles stories. But the other way around is also true: The COA report validates the Inquirer stories as well as the newspaper’s editorial position.

We have always understood the eyewitness testimony against Napoles (from whistle-blowers who used to work in the businesswoman’s inner circle) and the documentation on the fake NGOs or fake projects as proof that the pork barrel system was being gamed. The elaborate fakery was designed to move pork barrel funds into lawmakers’ pockets, with operators taking a generous share of the money. Unlike other, older forms of corruption, where at least the proposed bridge or road or school building or basketball court would actually be built, with the usual commissions going to those who made the project happen, the pork barrel scam glimpsed in the Inquirer stories seems to have been designed to do this without all that. To forget, in other words, about keeping appearances.

The COA report shows us that the scam Napoles was alleged by the whistle-blowers to have masterminded actually fits the general pattern of fund abuse: rules were not followed, recipients were chosen on mere endorsement, projects were nonexistent, receipts were fabricated, releases were unliquidated. In other words, and to borrow a phrase from the information technology industry: The irregularities in the use of the pork barrel are not a bug; they are a standard feature.

Time to finally abolish the pork barrel system.

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of INQUIRER.net. We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • cogito728sum

    Syndicated criminal elements always come in in any human activity where millions and millions of money are involved. As soon as they’re in, they subsequently control its operations. This is true in the drug trades, gambling syndicates, and even in human trafficking across international boundaries. And this is to be expected. What is not to be expected however, is the involvement of a country’s legislators and other officials, directly or indirectly, in the plunder of their country’s treasury. And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what exactly became of some of our honourable congressmen and senators. They deserve a special section in the Guinness Book of World Records no less. Merci!

    N. B. Let’s see if this gets moderated this time!

  • dukaponte

    Gusto ko magkaroon ng Senate inquiry dito sa isyung ito. Gusto ko makita si Sen Enrile, Estrada, Bong Revilla, Bongbong Marcos, paano nila sasabihin ang depensa nila. Tutulo ba ang laway nila at lalaki ang mata nila sa kwento kung paano nakuha ang PDAF na iyan at sabay tatawa ng malakas sa kanilang opisina? O sasabihin nila I am sorry at sabay tulo ng luha? Sa senate inquiry na iyan, kahit papano mababawasan ang nararamdaman ko sa ginawa nilang panghahalay sa ating bayan.

  • mykmiguel

    comment in this article and join the protest in Luneta in Aug 26!!! act now!!

  • a_pelkmans

    In economics, we have a theory called,’ the theory of the second-best’. That means that a system that is put in place because the first-best solution is not available, will not necessarily lead to a welfare improvement. I’ve read the debates on the mess of the pork barrel funds in the Philippines, and it is classic second-best theory at work. Lani Mercado said ‘ano ang ipapamigay namin na pera kung wala ng ang pork barrel? Ano ang ibibigay namin sa mga nanghihingi ng pang-libing?”. In the first-best world, the poor can avail of sufficient security benefits so that their most basic health, educational, housing needs will be met. Perhaps there should even be a special fund for funerals for the very poor. But because we deem our government agencies to be inefficient (well, that’s the assumption, right?), instead of channeling the funds to DSWD, we course them to politicians in the form of pork barrel funds. So resources/cash is not even the problem,… the problem is that we do not trust our government institutions to function properly; instead we put our trust on our politicians. If you go through the arguments of why we have PDAF in the first place, they all boil down to the fact that we seem to be unable to institute first-best solutions, such as professionalizing the DPWH, increasing its transparency and capability to identify infrastructure needs of even the most remote areas of the archipelago. So we end up with a system where each congress(wo)man finances the road/bridge/multi-purpose centers of their own district. People run to them for funeral, hospital, school bills, and they dispense their pork barrel funds in the same way feudal lords dispense favors to their peasants. The abolition of the PDAF is not enough. We need to work towards building sustainable first-best solutions, especially those that address the needs of the most marginalized in our society.

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