(Continued from last Monday, July 5)
BRIBERY IS A CRIME and a form of corruption that presidents, including the incumbent, P-Noy, routinely promise to stop and punish. Yet every year, when the president presents his administration?s proposed budget to Congress, he/she commits bribery. That is by including in the budget proposal appropriations for the congressional pork barrel disguised in innocent-sounding names like Priority Development Assistance Fund or Countrywide Development Fund.
Congress is prohibited from adding appropriations not in the original budget proposal of the executive department. It can only subtract from or transfer funds in the original budget. So that if there is no allocation in the budget proposal for pork barrel funds, there will be no pork, no theft of the people?s money, no corruption. That is not hard to do, is it?
But why is it that all presidents include in their budget proposals every year allocations for pork? Because it is their way of bribing legislators to do the president?s wishes?vote for pet bills, elect certain legislators to be Senate president or speaker, vote down impeachment complaints, etc. etc. Cooperate and your pork barrel gets released pronto; don?t cooperate and you get nothing.
By doing so, presidents, of all people, commit bribery. They become conspirators in corruption. Not only conspirators but the original sinners in the pork barrel thefts by including allocations for pork in their budget proposals. This is in addition to the shopping bags full of cash that a previous president was caught handing to congressmen summoned to Malacañang.
?Pagbabago? (change) is the promise of P-Noy and the theme of his inaugural speech. Will there be a change in his budget proposal to be submitted to Congress this month? Will there be no allocations for pork, or will it be ?business as usual? and ?tuloy ang ligaya?? I fear it will be the latter, considering that both P-Noy and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad are former congressmen who most likely benefited from the pork barrel system.
In fact, this is what attracts most politicians to run for Congress. Imelda Marcos, elected as representative of Ilocos Norte, has already made it known that she would collect her pork, although she qualified it by saying that she would use it ?wisely.? Neophyte Rep. Manny Pacquiao, a multimillionaire, already has plans on what to do with his pork. A party-list representative, as soon as he set foot in the House of Representatives, was heard to ask a staff member: ?How do we get our pork? I need it.?
To be fair, a few senators have spurned their pork allocations, and some congressmen, particularly those from militant party-list groups, have been denied by GMA?s Malacañang their pork.
Which brings me to these questions: Should party-list representatives get pork allocations? Where will they use them? They don?t have territorial districts that need infrastructure projects. Are pork barrel funds audited by the Commission on Audit?
Speaking of audits, do you know that the in-house auditors of most government agencies are sometimes co-conspirators in the theft of the people?s money. The auditors are the watchdogs of government spending, the guardians of the people?s money who are supposed to see to it that the money is spent properly. But they are co-opted into the immoral activities by being given shares in the bonanza.
For example, when giving themselves new cars at taxpayers? expense, board members of government agencies or councilors of local government units also give cars to their auditors. That way, the auditors pass the expenditures in audit. Some auditors even teach the officials how to justify their expenses. The watchdogs have become lapdogs.
And why give vehicles, at the people?s expense, to board members and councilors who attend sessions only once a week and who already have one or more of their own vehicles.
I remember when senators gave themselves brand-new cars and there was a public uproar against it. Then Senate President Jovito Salonga told them to return the vehicles.
This penchant of public officials to give themselves unwarranted benefits is not confined to members of Congress. It is spreading to other branches of government. Councilors of Quezon City already have their own pork barrel allocations in the millions of pesos. I am sure other councilors and provincial board members also have their own pork and, if not, will soon follow Quezon City and have their own. Why, even barangay officials have their own pork. So you can imagine how much of the people?s money is leaking to private pockets.
The question is, where do they spend their pork barrel funds? Quezon City is already full of concrete roads. In fact, streets in perfectly good condition, like Edsa and España, are periodically torn up so that contractors can cement them over again. Why on earth do they do that, wasting the people?s money? Answer: To give the private contractors contracts for projects. Otherwise they would have no money to share with the congressmen and councilors. And because the pork is there waiting to be spent.
So we see so many concrete arches at the entrances of barangays with the names of the congressmen and barangay captains etched in stone as if they were the Ten Commandments. So we see so many waiting sheds with the names of councilors painted on them in big bold letters.
Yet we see no improvement in the living conditions in squatter colonies. On the contrary, squatters are increasing in Quezon City. What are the congressmen, councilors and barangay officials doing with their pork? Why not use them to provide homes, or at least sanitary toilets, for the squatters? Or why not organize livelihood projects for them?