Editorial

March forward

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No ifs, ands, or buts about it: The people’s march today, with Rizal Park in Manila as only one of several focal points across the country, is fueled by a driving sense of outrage. Disgusted by living proof of systemic corruption in the congressional pork barrel, hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets to demand an end to the pork barrel system.

The outrage remains, though somewhat muted by President Aquino’s unexpected declaration last Friday that it was, in fact, time to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF.

How should we make sense of the President’s initiative? To answer that question, we need to remind ourselves how we got to this pass in the first place.

First: The corruption at the heart of the congressional pork barrel system found a face, a symbol, in the person of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. The allegations against her, detailed primarily in a series of affidavits executed by former employees or former members of her inner circle, describe a scam designed cynically to game the system: Legislators who could not directly pocket their pork barrel allocations coursed the funds through Napoles’ alleged network of fake nongovernment organizations and fake projects. The money then came back to the lawmakers, with a generous share reserved for the network operator. The PDAF, in short, had become a giant money laundering operation in reverse: It was used to turn good money into bad.

Second: The Commission on Audit’s special audit report for 2007 to 2009 found that the scheme Napoles was alleged to have perpetrated was not an isolated case, but an instance, a symbol, of the massive abuse of the pork barrel system. The COA identified at least 10 NGOs associated with Napoles that were involved in PDAF projects worth a total of over P2 billion; but the agency also named over 70 other NGOs with questionable transactions, with a combined value of twice the alleged Napoles haul in that same three-year period. The same types of fakery were used: the manufacture of entities, the forgery of signatures, the fabrication of receipts, among many others. The COA report found dirty linen—some of it aired very much in public, almost hidden in plain sight—that proved that very many lawmakers were involved in the pork barrel’s money laundering operation.

Kahindik-hindik. The allegations against Napoles and the findings of the COA were—to use COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan’s choice adjective—horrifying. What made them worse were the inadvertent disclosures about the ostentatious consumption of some of Napoles’ family members; these deepened popular disgust over a pork barrel system that (in the eyes of many) went only to fund such lavish lifestyles.

The reforms announced by the President, then, are welcome to the extent they address the findings of both the special COA report and the many stories about Napoles. Beginning with next year’s budget, the use of NGOs as conduits of government funds will be discontinued. The so-called “soft” projects, such as fertilizers or false teeth, will not be allowed anymore. The usual recourse to quickie public works projects, such as re-asphalting, will no longer be available. There are still other reforms that will be put in place, designed to make legislative participation in government-funded projects as clean and efficient as possible.

But should lawmakers be involved in these projects in the first place? President Aquino has identified the wide latitude of discretion given to legislators in “prioritizing” pork barrel allocations as the source of corruption. Under his new scheme, the latitude may have narrowed down—but it is still there. Why not remove it altogether?

Congress has a vital role to play in the crafting of the budget; some lawmakers may be so adept at parliamentary protocols they can manage to find funding for pet projects inserted into the General Appropriations Act. But in our chosen political system, it is the executive that spends the money, with Congress acting as a check and balance. What the Napoles stories and the COA report tell us is that, when it comes to the pork barrel, our lawmakers do not exercise their check-and-balance function; rather, they feel themselves entitled to their yearly pound of fiscal flesh.

All wrong. We hope the President would take the next necessary step, and abolish not merely the PDAF, but the pork barrel itself.

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  • brunogiordano

    “….the latitude may have narrowed down—but it is still there. Why not remove it altogether?”

    Iyan ang NAIS NAMIN!!!!

    REMOVE!!!

    SCRAP!!!!!

    ABOLISH!!!!!!!

    ……………TANGALIN ang PORK!!!!!!!!

  • brunogiordano

    “What the Napoles stories and the COA report tell us is that, when it comes to the pork barrel, our lawmakers do not exercise their check-and-balance function; ….”

    TAMA!!!!!

    Ang kanilang ginawa ay mag COLLUSION sa pang DARAMBONG ng KABAN ng BAYAN.

    KAHINDIK HINDIK!!!! Na KAWALANGKAHIYAAN!!!!!

  • Ay Taran…

    siguruhing maraming pupunta ngayon sa luneta kundi pagtatawanan lang kayo ng mga buwaya.

  • TinimbangNgunitKulang

    I can almost hear the people singing this song from Les Miserables this coming Monday!

    Do you hear the people sing?
    Singing a song of angry men?
    It is the music of a people
    Who will not be slaves again!
    When the beating of your heart
    Echoes the beating of the drums
    There is a life about to start
    When tomorrow comes!

    Will you join in our crusade?
    Who will be strong and stand with me?
    Beyond the barricade
    Is there a world you long to see?
    Then join in the fight
    That will give you the right to be free!

    Do you hear the people sing?
    Singing a song of angry men?
    It is the music of a people
    Who will not be slaves again!
    When the beating of your heart
    Echoes the beating of the drums
    There is a life about to start
    When tomorrow comes!

    Will you give all you can give
    So that our banner may advance
    Some will fall and some will live
    Will you stand up and take your chance?
    The blood of the martyrs
    Will water the meadows of France!

    Do you hear the people sing?
    Singing a song of angry men?
    It is the music of a people
    Who will not be slaves again!
    When the beating of your heart
    Echoes the beating of the drums
    There is a life about to start
    When tomorrow comes!

  • angtanga

    If the president will not do it because of the cabal in their ranks, then there is no recourse but the way of the people, who is the aggrieved ones in the first place.

  • Guest

    Before we march any father, it is important that we learn who the link is between the Napoles and Noynoy. The link between Napoles and Noynoy is Paquito Jojo Ochoa. The link between Ochoa and Napoles is Ochoa’s buddy Brian Raymund Yamsuan. Yamsuan is also the husband of PDI reporter Cathy Yamsuan.

    Now we can follow the money.

    Here’s the link:

    66.85.130.13:8080/headlines/2013/08/26/1135201/palace-consultant-linked-janet-f-ired

  • TANYA22

    Abolish totally the Pork Barrel and the congress
    should concentrate to formulate laws that would enhance the economic flight of
    the country. Rather than giving them the funds its better for them that they
    will do reports the situation of his districts & directly auditing the government
    projects on his district. No more PDAF but rather report directly the anomalous
    of any Government Bodies to the concerned department. I think on this way the
    corruptions will be lessens though connivance is still susceptible.

  • franciscoyapanalagbate

    Ang nabubuhay sa pork ay sapok, sori po, ay sa pork din MAMAMATAY! Sa ibat-ibang kaparaanan MAGBABAYAD DIN ANG MAY UTANG! Sori po sa mga miyembro ng pamilya ng mga pirata sa katihan, di po ba ninyo alam na ang inyong kinakain ay galing sa NAKAW? Ano na po ang inyong gagawin? Patuloy niyo po bang ngangasabin ang galing sa masama? Nakakatulog pa po ba kayo sa gabi? Di po ba kayo natatakot sa maaaaring mangyari sa inyo? Halimbawa po ay bangungutin kayo dahil sa sobrang lamon na galing sa pork? Mabuti pa ang tunay na baboy laging nakatungo dahil nahihiya sila na sila ay baboy. Pero ang mga baboy sa kongreso ay taas-nuo, at boung kayabangan pang namamayagpag sa kanilang kawalang-kaluluwa. Patawarin kayo ng Poong Maykaapal. God bless the Philippines.

  • franciscoyapanalagbate

    Ang ina ng political patronage was Cory Aquino. Sa ngayon ang ama ng political patronage is Mr. B. S. Aquino. Like mother like son. Bayan ano pa ang hinihintay natin? Hanggang saan ang pagtitiis natin? Harap-harapan na ang pangga-garapal sa atin ni G. B.S. Aquino. Lumabas na po ang ang kanyang tunay na kulay. Lahi talaga.
    Mahirap talaga ang mabuhay sa kasinungalingan. The die is cast. Things are now starting to be written in the wall. For those who cannot read between the lines are doomed. Kung may simula ay may katapusan. Kung ano ang itinanim ay siya ring aanihin. Kapag puno na ang salop ay kinakalos. Ibasura na ang pork barrel. Parusahan ang mga sangkot sa nakawan ng mga pirata sa katihan. No mercy for all those who are involved. Time to purge. God bless the Philippines.

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