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As I See It
Abolish the pork barrel and save tax money

By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:02:00 01/14/2008

Filed Under: Graft & Corruption, Government

MANILA, Philippines - There is one sure way to balance the budget, curb graft and corruption and give the people tax relief: Limit the position of congressman to genuine Muslims. Why? Because Muslims abhor pork?they consider it dirty?but the present congressmen, most of whom are Christians, love pork very much. Every year, when they deliberate on the national budget, the first thing they do is increase their pork barrel, the fund from which they ?steal? the tax money intended for projects and services for the people.

Congressmen know that what they are doing is wrong so they try to hide the pork in various appropriations. And they exhibit extraordinary talent in inventing innocent-sounding names to hide that pork?names such as Priority Development Assistance Fund and Countryside Development Fund. What these ?development funds? actually do is develop the pockets of the congressmen.

But that?s only the tip of the iceberg. There is also hidden pork in the budgets of various departments, the favorites being the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Education and Department of Health. How?

Congressmen insert in their budgets for projects?for example, the construction of roads and schools, and the purchase of books and medical supplies?a provision that says the congressman of the district will have to identify the project and even choose the contractor and supplier. In return, the latter kicks back as much as half of the contract price to the congressman. With only half of the project cost going to him, the contractor is forced to cheat to eke a profit. This results in substandard roads, medicines and books. Thus, the citizens are cheated out of the hard-earned tax money extorted from them.

The secretaries of public works, education, and health become mere figureheads. They do not have complete control of their budgets; they have to share them with the congressmen.

Thus, congressmen become de facto department secretaries who actually have the last say on projects in their districts, usurping the functions of the executive officials. But the duty of congressmen (and senators) is to enact laws, not to be executive officials. So why do they do something that the Constitution does not authorize them to do? Because of that very tempting prize: the pork barrel.

It is this pork that prompts politicians to run for Congress. Without it, very few would bother. The thieves and scoundrels would get nothing out of being congressmen, thus leaving only those who really want to serve. Wouldn?t that be nice?

So let?s abolish the pork barrel and get rid of the thieves in Congress.

Former Senate President Franklin Drilon has revealed that the House has more than doubled its pork barrel allocation of P12.4 billion by inserting another P13.5 billion in the budget of the DPWH. Malacaang has said it would veto the national budget if that insertion is not removed.

Will the President actually do it, considering how much she pampers the congressmen? I doubt it. But GMA?s fellow Kapampangans have a phrase for it: ?Subukan pamo (Let?s see).? So, subukan pamo.

* * *

Something is rotten in the province of Marinduque. In five months, five provincial administrators have been appointed and have resigned. Each lasted only an average of one month. The second administrator, Greg Padernal, lasted only one week. The sixth, scheduled to assume his position two days from now, bears a good pedigree: lawyer Lord Allan Quinto Velasco, eldest son of Supreme Court Justice Presbitero Velasco. But it seems the family does not want the young Velasco to be provincial administrator of Marinduque?s Gov. Jose Antonio Carreon. They are afraid Lord Allan Velasco would be the next ?sacrificial lamb? of Carreon. And they are also afraid that would tarnish the reputation of his father, who many believe may become chief justice.

Why, what?s wrong with Governor Carreon? Plenty, many of which are public knowledge in Marinduque although still unknown to the rest of the nation. They may become the subject of investigations by the Ombudsman in the coming weeks and months.

1. Near the coast of Mogpog, Marinduque, there were two sunken World War II Japanese warships. Local townsfolk want the place to be developed into a wreck diving site to boost local tourism since it lies in very shallow waters. An ordinance was recently passed declaring it a tourist site.

However, records show that Governor Carreon has authorized private salvage groups to take the two ships apart for scrap metal. Other provincial officials now question how these operations can be authorized without a permit from the Department of Environment and National Resources. Under the law, the DENR must issue permits for shipwreck recovery in Philippine territorial waters. Furthermore, there is no documented procedure in the selection of the salvage company, no authorization by the provincial board for the governor to enter into such contract, no copy of the contract, no bidding, no evidence that the province, municipality and barangay will share in the proceeds of the salvage operation.

2. Carreon wants to buy P110 million worth of road maintenance equipment and he is asking the provincial board for authority to borrow from the Land Bank of the Philippines. Marinduque is a very poor 4th-class province with an annual income of only P20 million. This meager income is not even enough to pay the salaries of its employees and the many consultants the governor has hired but the governor wants to buy new crushing and asphalt plants that preliminary estimates claim are double to quadruple the ongoing market price.

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Instead of tariff cut, lift 12% VAT on oil ? 01/10/08
FVR?s apologia on death of Contemplacion ? 01/07/08
Ramos? excuses for inability to save Contemplacion ? 01/03/08
Stop the manufacturers to stop the mayhem ? 12/31/07
Send Jalosjos back to Muntinlupa ? 12/28/07
Requiem for Adrian Cristobal and Peping del Rosario ? 12/26/07



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