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As I See It

Is Aquino sincere in his anti-corruption drive?

/ 11:23 PM August 01, 2013

Is P-Noy sincere about stopping corruption in the government, as he claims? I don’t think so. Because if he is, he would not have any appropriation for the Priority Development Assistance Fund, the polite name for the hated pork barrel, in the national budget he submitted to Congress. If he is, all he had to do to wipe out a big part of corruption in the Philippines was to tell his budget secretary: “No more PDAF in the budget.” It’s as easy as that.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, in a strong statement, has called for the abolition of the pork barrel, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a resolution to phase it out in three years, Senate President Franklin Drilon has agreed that this is a good idea and that he favors the abolition of the pork, and a number of congressmen are filing a bill to scrap it.

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But all that will not be necessary if the President of our nation (and not only of the government or of the Liberal Party) will do what is right and moral by walking the straight path, his own “daang  matuwid,” to stop corruption. Abolish the pork barrel, and two-thirds of the battle against corruption is won.

Just one phone call by P-Noy to Butch Abad is enough: “Butch, no more PDAF,  ha. The people are already angry.” It’s as simple as that. No more pork, no more corruption. No need for any congressional action.

In the first place, the members of Congress will never abolish the pork barrel if it is left to them. Why would they abolish the slush fund that is making them rich and fat? Sure, a number of senators and congressmen have made known that they favor its abolition, but they are only a minority. They can be outvoted by the majority.

Many politicians run for Congress and invest millions of pesos in their candidacies because of the pork barrel, not to serve the public, although that is what they say in their campaign speeches. “Gusto  lang  naming  makatulong  sa  kababayan (We only want to help our countrymen),” they claim when you ask them why they are running for election. They want to help, true, but only themselves, their relatives, and their friends. And they want to help themselves to the people’s money.

Politicians invest billions of pesos to win in elections because of the pork barrel. They hope to recover their investments from their pork. That is why political dynasties are thriving. They fatten on the pork. I’d estimate that almost all congressmen have their eyes on the pork. And that includes the party-list congressmen, the supposedly upright representatives of the underrepresented and the marginalized. One party-list congressman was heard to ask, after being proclaimed winner: How much is my pork barrel? Party-list congressmen originally had no pork allocations, having no clear territory and constituents (Where will they spend their pork barrel?). But they lobbied for and got it.

And that is why taxpayers are furious. It is their money that is being squandered in the pork barrel. Even those who don’t pay taxes—although almost everybody does, because even the poor pay taxes tacked on to the basic needs they buy to survive—are angry. Funds that should go to them in the form of housing, health support, food, and an efficient transport system are being stolen by public officials and their cohorts.

As Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said, P200 billion in PDAF funds could have easily built 10 million homes for the poor, one million classrooms, and facilities like CT scans and dialysis and MRI equipment to provide the poor a better chance of survival when they are rushed to public hospitals.

If the pork barrel is not abolished, some sectors are threatening a tax revolt. When that happens, P-Noy’s administration will lose not only the pork funds but much, much more.

Politicians can be expected to defend their pork. They are already doing that. They have hired public relations firms to deodorize the pork so we can expect media propaganda in favor of it.

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But the recent scams involving the use of pork barrel funds by bogus nongovernment organizations (the latest is the alleged P90-million scam in the Department of Agriculture, home of the P100-million fertilizer scam) show the embedded evils in the system. No amount of strict rules can stop the thievery. As long as the money is there, crooks will be able to devise ways on how to steal it.

To repeat what I said earlier, there is no need for Congress to take the laborious way to abolish the pork barrel. The debates will only waste the lawmakers’ precious time, which can be used to enact other important bills, like the freedom of information bill.

The fastest and easiest way is for Malacañang and the budget department to remove the appropriations for the PDAF. That will be the end of the evil pork barrel. Members of Congress will not be able to put it back because under the Constitution, Congress can only decrease or remove appropriations, but never increase or add appropriations to the budget submitted to it by the President.

The alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam shows very clearly its dark side. Even P-Noy can see that it corrupts people, not only lawmakers but also contractors, other civil servants and even private businessmen. So why doesn’t he abolish it to boost his anticorruption campaign?

But why don’t presidents abolish the pork barrel even if it is easy to do? Because it is what they use to bribe legislators into doing what they want the latter to do. Legislators who cooperate get their pork promptly; the uncooperative ones don’t. And as we have seen, lawmakers will sell their own mothers rather than forego their pork.

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TAGS: Aquino Sona, As I See It, Benigno Aquino III, corruption, neal h. cruz, opinion, pork barrel, SONA 2013
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