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There’s the Rub

Claim-making

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The UP Faculty for the Abolition of the Pork Barrel System and the Presidential Pork Barrel Fund gives it another face. If things like the pork barrel scam didn’t happen, they say, the death of Kristel Tejada wouldn’t have happened.

Tejada of course was the 16-year-old Behavioral Science student of UP Manila who drank cleaning liquid after being unable to raise the money for her tuition. She had gotten a P6,337 loan earlier, but unable to pay it, she couldn’t get a new loan to keep her in school. Brooding over this for weeks, she finally got finality in this wise. The tragedy shocked not just the UP community but the entire country.

The connection may be a little tenuous, but it is not outlandish. It dramatizes the point that if scarce and exceedingly precious resources are not lost to corruption, then plentiful but even more exceedingly precious lives would not be lost to ignorance, or more tragically, death. I put the amount of the loan to the last peso instead of rounding it off to show the stark contrast between the enormous sums that are lost to us but are too unreal to comprehend, and the seemingly paltry sums that the poor, who are most of us, have to deal with every day but that are matters of life and death. As Tejada shows, often deathly literally.

Every last peso counts. Every last peso spells the difference between learning and ignorance, between hope and despair, between survival and perdition.

Without corruption, Tejada might still be alive today. The pork barrel is one such source of corruption, says the UP Faculty. “It is ‘sablay,’” they say, making a pun on the sash worn during graduation and other formal occasions to signify loftiness, which is also called “sablay.” “Instead of honor and excellence, [it] ends up promoting dishonor and mediocrity.”

I agree with them, having made the same call weeks ago. I’m glad they’ve added presidential pork along with it. It’s all of a piece with the congressional one. You cannot institutionalize presidential pork, particularly of the staggering amounts it’s become over the years, on the basis of an exception. Or on the ground that we have a current president that’s honest and zealous about pushing corruption to the sea. What if the next one is not? Indeed, what if the next one is made more of the stuff of Gloria Arroyo than of P-Noy? You institutionalize something, it applies to everyone. Presidential pork is as much political cholesterol as the congressional one. We want healthy governance, let’s abolish it.

But I also think that alongside this, we need to do something else, something more basic. Something that underpins this, that circumscribes this, that assures this call can have the slightest crack at prospering.

That is to mount a campaign to make the citizens realize public money is their money.

It is to make the taxpayers see that taxes are their money. It is to make the citizens grasp that what is being divided in the General Appropriations Act, also called the national budget, is their money. It is to make the people wrap their heads or hearts around the thought that when the president and his secretaries assign sums to building roads and schoolhouses and clinics, and when the senators and congressmen approve it, they are not doing so out of choice or the goodness of their hearts, they are doing so out of obligation.

It is their duty, and it is our right.

That is not as given as it seems. We do have occasional statements by secretaries and lawmakers that taxes are our money, that the public treasury is our treasury. And we do have occasional declarations by mayors and governors that this or that project is where our taxes go.

None of this is internalized. None of this takes root in head or heart. None of this takes on the force of a demand, or dapat lang. Its subtext is that your public official is doing this for you because he is good, or not so bad he will take all the money and run. And all this is assuming that what he tells you is true, the sums he has assigned to farm implements have not in fact gone to Napoles-type NGOs.

In theory, the budget hearings, which we are having even as we speak, are meant to fine-tune national priorities, or how best government can serve the people. In practice they look every inch like a division of spoils, frenzied horse-trading between the executive and legislative and what goes to whom, with occasional threats of rejections and/or vetoes. In theory, the process is circumscribed by debate on what’s best for the people. In practice, the process is circumscribed by agreements on what is best for them.

Before we can stop pork barrel and corruption in general, we first have to internalize, or feel to the roots of our being, that what was taken from Tejada was her money. And taking money from her was stealing—stealing from her. We all pay taxes whether we file them or not. We do so every time we buy Lucky Me or 555 or Emperador courtesy of VAT and sin taxes. Yet the coerciveness and aggression with which the Bureau of Internal Revenue demands government’s pound of flesh is not matched by an equal coerciveness and aggression with which we may demand our pound of flesh. Taxes are our money. They are not the money of secretaries or senators and congressmen or judges.

I don’t know why the NGOs, if not the current government itself, shouldn’t be putting up posters and ads and slogans all over the place making that message as pervasive and ubiquitous as Marcos’ “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan.” After all, it’s not just the senators and congressmen and mayors who appear to have been ripped off by Napoles, the NGOs have too. They have been made synonymous with fake. It’s time they reclaimed their name.

It’s time we claimed our due.


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Short URL: http://opinion.inquirer.net/?p=59189

Tags: Janet Napoles , nation , news , pork barrel scam

  • Descarte5E

    “Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap”
    “Kung walang kurap, mas malaki sana ang napunta sa Education budget, di sana magpakamatay si Kristel”
    “Kung walang kurap, di basta-basta mapapalubog ni Maring ang Luzon”

    Maintindihan ko pa ang baha sa Russia na napakalayo sa dagat. Pero ang Pilipinas? Napapaligiran at napakalapit ng dagat, hindi basta basta makaagos ang tubig sa ilog palabas sa dagat.

    Mrikina river water level is fifteen meters (15) above sea level, that’s a lot of head for water to flow by gravity from the river to the sea. But why? Because of garbage that clogged the water ways and slow down the flow of water, the illegal settlers that must be protected and therefore the need to control the velocity of river water flowing into the sea otherwise their houses will be swept away by the rushing river water.

    Kahit grade 1 maiintindihan yan.

    • AlzheimersC

      E bakit yong Cavite at Northern Luzon e binaha rin ng lampas tao? Ilang payatas at smokey mountain kaya ang humarang sa tubig palabas ng South China sea or iyong umaagos papuntang Manila bay? :)

      • Descarte5E

        Lalong lalabas ang baho ng corruption kapag binungkal natin pati yan. Illegal logging, real property development not complying with zoning ordinances, etc., ok na yan, hahaba ang comment kapag inisa isa natin. “Kung walang kurap, walang illegal logging”…

  • OleSapra aka ARGUS

    SABLAY

    ANA: “Si Jesus Christ eh sa sabsaban ng mga hayup iniluwal ni Virgin Mary, ‘di ba? Kahapon kasi eh sumablay tayo, kasi, ayaw ng Disqus na maidikit ang pangalan ni Janet Lim-Napoles na siyang operator ng sabsaban (manger) ng mga legislatongs. Rejected ang ating post! Juice na mahabagin talaga.”

    LISA: “Bakit, masama ba ang word na sabsaban o labangan? D’yan kasi sumasabsab o lumalamon ang mga baboy habang nagbabalyahan. Sige, magpunta ka sa pigery at obserbahan mo ang sinasabi ko, sigee!!!”

    CION: “Naaasiwa lamang marahil ang Disqus na madamay sa pangungulimbat ng mga NGOs ni Janet ng PDAF na regular at todong ibinubuhos hanggang mamuwalan sa pagsabsab ang mga baboy nitong alaga sa kanilang sabsaban na kung tawagin eh mga HONORABLES!!! Onli enda Pilipins!!!”

  • AlzheimersC

    Plunder ito, so dapat MAKULONG na sina Bong Revilla, Enrile et al without bail upon the recommendation of our justice system through the evidences submitted by the NBI, di ba?

    Huwag naman sanang mauwi ang lahat ng imbestigasyon bilang politically motivated LANG ang “palabas” na ito na KINAGAT naman ng maraming ungas dito…

  • TGM_ERICK

    T^he congress is so scrutinizing in approving the budget of an agency.It t seems to be iyon pala may usapan na under the table. Nag iinarte lang. EX. It gives a small budget or slice of the pork to PAGASA, where procurement is limited. Paano walng masyadong makikickback.

  • 82hbf01

    I WISH TO REITERATE HERE . . AGAIN . . FOR THE SECOND TIME. .ONCE MORE. . THE SUGGESTION . . THAT THE 60% OF THE PORK BARREL THAT IS JUST BEING POCKETED BY THE POLITICIANS (WHO ARE BECOMING SUPER-RICH WITHOUT BEING SUPER BUSINESSMEN OR INDUSTRIALIST. . THUS NOT CONTRIBUTING TO THE PROGRESS OF THE NATION). . BE USED (1) TO SOLVE THE SUPER-TRAFFIC IN METRO MANILA. . BY CONSTRUCTING INFRASTRUCTURES. . SECOND AND THIRD FLOORS OF THE MAIN STREETS HERE IN MM. . AND SOME ROADS IN THE SKY. . TO DECREASE THE CAR-TO-ROAD RATIO. . .HINDI NATIN MA-SOSOLVE ITO BY ‘UTO-UTOS’ LANG SA MGA MOTORISTA. .WE NEED MONEY TO DO SOLVE THIS. . PORK BARREL IS THE KEY. .(2) TO SOLVE THE FLOOD IN MM USING ROBERT MARIN’S INVENTION OF LOWERING THE LEVEL OF MANILA BAY WATER WHERE ALL THE FLOODS WILL GO. . .BY HIS INFRASTRUCTURE WALL INSTALLED AT THE OPENING OF MANILA BAY. . THUS PROTECTING MANILA FROM THE ON-GOING INCREASE IN THE RISING OF THE SEA-LEVELS CAUSDED BY THE ON-GOING MELTING OF THE ICECAPS. (3) TO SOLVE THE WATER POLLUTION PROBLEMS USING HARRY FREIRES’ INVENTION OF CONSTRUCTING “THE GREAT WALL OF PASIG RIVER” 2-METERS ON EACH SIDE (24-KILOMETER LONG) SEPARATING THE CLEAN WATER AT THE CENTER (THE SPRINGS OF SIERRA MADRE MOUNTAIN RANGE) . . GOING TO MANILA BAY . . AND THE DIRTY SEPTIC WATER ON SIDE CONVERTING THEM TO POTABLE WATER, FUEL TO REPLACE THE DWINDLING CRUDE OIL, AND TO ELECTRICITY.. .MANILA BAY WILL ALSO BE CLEANED BY THIS WAY AS WELL AS THE LAGUNA LAKE. . . AND LET THE PHILIPPINES BE THE CENTER OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION GLOBALLY. . .THE KEY IS THE UTILIZATION OF PORK BARREL, , ,WE HAVE NO MORE TIME. .

    • cogitate10

      agree.

  • pilipino_ako6

    The pork barrel per se is not bad. It was intended to help our country’s development. Sadly, the politicians have made it its milking cow. Almost anything that involves politicians creates grafters. If there is any reform to be adapted for the PDAF, it should be to keep the politicians far far away from it.

  • TwiggyRamirez

    …I believe President NoyNoy has lost his way to “Tuwid na Daan”. Let us all unite this August 26, 2013 to remind him and guide our beloved president back to the right path. Abolish the PDAF! Pass the FOI bill! and jail napoles, all the senators, congressmen, and their accomplices!

  • AlzheimersC

    Actually ang pinakasource ng corruption e iyong TAX na obligado nating bayaran, directly man or indirectly.

    Kahit ilagay mo iyong tax money sa “barrel , bayong, or drum”, tao pa rin ang gagastos nito kahit sabihin pang ibigay sa mga implementing gov’t agencies ang paggastos.

    Halimbawa iyong DPWH, kung kurap ang engineer or ang LGUs na nangangailangan ng proyekto(o kahit bogus na proyekto) magagawa pa rin nilang MAILABAS ang pondo ng ating bayan na diretso nilang paghahati-hatian, di ba?

    tsk tsk tsk…ang pinakakailangan talaga natin e deterrent, hindi abolition…at saka paano magagawang i-monitor ng taumbayan ang mga engineer ng DPWH lalo na’t hindi naman natin sila KILALA ng “personal” dahil hindi naman natin sila ibinoto?

    Kung sawa na kayo sa corruption at wala na kayong tiwala sa gobyerno…hindi pork barrel ang dapat i-abolish kundi mismong ang gobyerno ng mga corrupt….

    • josh_alexei

      I agree with your idea that the Pork Barrel allocation is not to blame, but the individual politician and conspirators who got away for Fraud, tax evasion, extortion, and all things Criminal. As I had posted quite a Few times, there are no Pork barrel system anywhere in Canada but right now, there is a Province wide Criminal Probe in Quebec for Corruption Related offences and 106 very prominent individuals were already Rounded up by the Quebec Provincial Police anti Corruption Squad…And the amount of money involved are staggering. One Dr. Porter was Charged of laundering (to Panama) $22 millions of KICKBACK from rigging the Contract of construction of McGill University Hospital budgeted at $1.3 billions. Dozens of City and municipal executives were charged for receiving Secret commission in exchange for “cooking“ public works contracts bidding and it is still ongoing.

  • josh_alexei

    One very good measure to help prevent diversion of Public fund in the future is a very comprehensive ACCESS to INFORMATION Act…That instead of posting a sign in a construction site that this project is brought to you by mayor so and so, it will instead give the Contract number, the phone number to access the details…and the company doing the construction and its subcontractors. The Media and the other parties of interest can readily check the Propriety of the project. Now if check out the projects under this scheme as taxpayers, then you have some idea where your taxes going to.

  • cogitate10

    yeah of course pork can be good.. IF the ones entrusted of it are trustworthy, but then they’re not, so eliminate pork. its unhealthy. they even do it without compunction.

    so i suggest that PDAF budget be put to education and health sector.
    yeah thats better.



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