What we have learned from the pork barrel scandal
What have we learned so far from the pork barrel scam, the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program), and the plunder of the Malampaya fund? That the government is very liberal in releasing funds and does not make sure where the money will go; that the Department of Budget and Management distributes millions of pesos as if it were distributing centavos; that the original sin was committed by the budget secretaries, past and present, who treat the people’s money as if it were their own to scatter here and there like so much chicken feed; that it is easy to concoct names for bogus nongovernment organizations and have these accredited by government agencies, and easy as well to invent names for lump-sum appropriations like the DAP, as easy as it is to draw up names for bogus party-list organizations and have these accredited by the Commission on Elections; and that government agencies are given budgets bigger than their needs.
How else explain the huge amount of savings that the DBM accumulated from the savings of different government agencies and turned into Budget Secretary Florencio Abad’s own pork barrel, the DAP?
It is shocking to learn that while the administration pleads “insufficient funds” for its failure to serve the people well, there are billions of pesos in savings with which the DBM “bribes” favored lawmakers in P50-million tranches. The DAP alone has P72 billion. The total lump-sum appropriations of the national government—which are, in reality, also pork barrel allocations—are estimated at almost P1 trillion (yes, trillion).
Abad claims that the DAP is meant to increase the “absorptive capacity” of the government to boost the economy. Translated, it means the government is not spending the people’s money fast enough, so it is being distributed to lawmakers—notorious as big spenders—for them to spend any way they like or, as many suspect, put in their bank accounts. How can that expand the economy?
To think that there are thousands of classrooms needed by students, hundreds of thousands of homes needed by the homeless, many kilometers of roads needed by people in the rural areas but cannot be built because of “lack of funds,” millions of Filipinos who are out of work because there are not enough factories to employ them, and millions of young people who cannot go to college because they have no money for tuition.
Imagine, P72 billion a year! How many homes for the homeless can that build? Much of the squatter colonies can be eradicated, thus removing a blight on our land. The owners of the lots freed from squatters will be able to develop their properties, thus increasing the value of these assets, and local government units will be able to collect more real estate taxes.
Imagine if that P72 billion is used to build factories that will create jobs. The people will then have money with which to buy the products that the factories will produce, more factories and jobs will be generated, and the economy will really expand.
Imagine if that P72 billion is used to build farm-to-market roads and irrigation systems. The farmers will be able to produce more and prosper, and will thus have more money to spend for the goods produced by the factories. The economy will really grow.
Imagine if that P72 billion is used to build medium-rise housing for the homeless. Construction has a multiplier effect on other industries such as cement, steel, and hardware manufacturing. It also creates plenty of jobs, thus putting money in the hands of the poor. Their increased buying power will help expand the economy.
On the other hand, how will that money help the economy if distributed to lawmakers?
And if there is so much money in savings, why does the government keep increasing taxes, thus reducing the people’s buying power? Why does Malacañang keep pressuring the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs to collect more and more taxes when it cannot spend all that money? Poor Kim Henares and Ruffy Biazon, the finance department keeps increasing their collection targets—targets so unrealistic that the two commissioners, no matter how hard they try, cannot meet them.
Taxes for cigarettes and liquor were increased drastically to raise the government’s tax collection. But instead of collecting more, it is collecting less because cigarettes are being smuggled in and smokers buy them because they are cheaper. And smuggled cigarettes have undercut the income of Philippine cigarette manufacturers, and so they pay less income tax.
At the same time, the administration is violating the Constitution. Is saving unconstitutional? President Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda has asked.
No, it is not, but spending it without congressional authority is.
Malacañang says the administrative code allows the President to realign allocations. Yes, but only to projects already in the national budget and lacking in funds. Not even the President, much less his budget secretary, can legally use savings to “bribe” lawmakers.
Legal experts say the DAP is illegal because it was not created by Congress. Abad is not Congress even if he controls billions of pesos daily. Only Congress can appropriate funds.
The DAP is worse than the evil PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund). It is being stolen by lawmakers and their cohorts, but at least the PDAF is authorized by Congress. The DAP is not. It was something that Abad pulled out of his hat as an excuse for the P50 million that he gave to each senator and P15 million to each congressman.
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