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As I See It

Let SC decide; lawmakers should stick to lawmaking

/ 09:37 PM October 10, 2013

Malacañang speaks with a forked tongue. It says the graft-ridden PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) has been abolished by President Aquino. Not totally true.

The name PDAF has been abolished, true, but the pork barrel is alive and well. P-Noy himself spoke with a forked tongue when he announced “it is time to abolish the PDAF” to calm the anger of the people against the hated pork barrel.

What he abolished was only the name. The pork barrel is still hidden in nooks and crannies in the national budget. The PDAF budget was distributed to different executive agencies but it is reserved for senators and congressmen. It is just a variation of congressional insertions. Lawmakers will still identify projects to be funded by those insertions.

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Congressional insertions are items inserted into the national budget during budget hearings. A congressman, more often than not a member of the appropriations committee, will tell the Cabinet member being grilled: “We won’t make it hard for you. We will pass your budget but I will insert an appropriation for a project in your budget. That item is mine only. I will identify for what and to whom that appropriation will be used.”

The Cabinet member, not wanting to go through the wringer, will agree. And another form of pork barrel is born.

What the people—P-Noy’s boss—want is for all forms of pork barrel—PDAF, DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program), congressional insertions, the lump-sum funds of the President—to be outlawed permanently.

If the Supreme Court rules the pork barrel as unconstitutional, then all forms of pork barrel, including the President’s, will be outlawed. That is why Mr. Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said, in reaction to  Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s remark that the pork barrel is “riddled with unconstitutionalities,” that the PDAF has been abolished. It was to head off a decision by the high court declaring the pork barrel unconstitutional.

Without such a decision, the pork barrel, like Dracula, will rise again. The politicians are back to their old tricks. The pork barrel has undergone several name changes to hide it from the people who know that the taxes they are paying are being stolen by the very people they elected to represent them. But the pork barrel itself remains, into which lawmakers dip their filthy hands.

On the DAP, Lacierda said: “So what’s wrong with asking for [the lawmakers’] advice [on possible projects]? What is wrong is when a person abuses or steals the people’s money. That’s where the outrage should be focused on. If you’re a senator or congressman, it doesn’t mean you’re going to steal it….”

But, Mr. Secretary, that’s exactly what they did with the other pork barrel, the PDAF: They stole it. And that’s what they will do with the DAP. Why were the senators given P50 million to P100 million each and the congressmen P15 million each? It is for them to spend as they wish. They may use some of it for projects, but the rest they will steal.

Sen. Chiz Escudero, who chairs the Senate committee on finance, said he preferred that Congress abolish the PDAF rather than have the Supreme Court declare it unconstitutional. Escudero’s reason is obvious. If it is Congress that abolishes it, it can revive it in the future. If the high court declares it unconstitutional, then it will be dead, permanently.

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Like Dracula, the pork barrel refuses to die because it is a rich source of kickback for lawmakers. In fact, many politicians run for Congress because of the pork barrel. And that includes party-list representatives. They have no territories under their jurisdictions, but they still demand their pork barrel. Where did they spend all that money—P70 million for each representative? For scholarships and medical assistance, they claim. Party-list representatives are in a more advantageous position than their trapo colleagues. The latter have distinct districts that expect projects from their representatives. Party-list representatives have none.

Some people thought party-list representatives would be a different breed of politicians from the trapo. They thought wrong. Some party-list politicians are just as grasping, greedy, and opportunistic as their trapo colleagues. In fact, some of them are the same trapo defeated in their districts and resurrected as party-list representatives.

Politicians are fighting a rearguard action in the battle against the pork barrel. The battle is now in the Supreme Court. They do not want the high court to declare it unconstitutional. That is Malacañang’s unspoken wish. That is also the intent of Senator Escudero’s statement.

The Supreme Court should not allow itself be fooled by this rearguard action. It is the only hope of the people to be saved from the thieves they, ironically, elected to public office.

Let us remember the provisions of the Constitution. Lawmakers are supposed to make laws, not to usurp the function of the executive branch. We have the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Education, the Department of Health, etc., to do the projects that lawmakers insist on doing.

Lawmakers should stick to lawmaking.

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TAGS: column, Legislation, malacanang, neal h. cruz, PDAF, politics, pork barrel scam
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