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Sign up for people’s bill against pork

/ 02:30 AM August 27, 2014

What pork?—a Malacañang mouthpiece asked reporters on the eve of a massive protest rally against the pork barrel. It is like a pickpocket caught with his hand in somebody else’s pocket, asking “Who, me?” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, creator of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, said he could “categorically” declare that the pork barrel no longer existed in the proposed budget for next year. False. It is still there—and much bigger.

It seems Malacañang wants to make its own dictionary. First, the President asked Congress to redefine “savings.” It was alleged “savings” that Abad hijacked from projects and agencies to comprise the outlawed DAP that was used by the administration as another disguised pork barrel. Now, Malacañang says: “Define pork.”

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Like the original pork, the meat from pigs, which is bad for the health because it is loaded with hidden fat and cholesterol, the pork barrel is bad for the health of the whole nation because it is loaded with graft and corruption.

The pork barrel is any lump-sum appropriation in the budget that can be used to bribe members of Congress. To hide it, it has been disguised with various names such as Countrywide Development Fund, Priority Development Assistance Fund and other names. Its latest reincarnation is the DAP outlawed by the high tribunal. But like Dracula, it refuses to die. It keeps coming back in various disguises. Its latest disguise is the name Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP) which, like DAP, is obviously another concoction of Secretary Abad.

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Contrary to his claim that there is no more pork in the budget, the hidden pork in the proposed 2015 budget is much, much bigger: P500 billion, no less. Wow!

In addition, there are appropriations for projects that “still have to be determined”. What is that? That is like giving the President or the budget secretary a blank check. Even Cabinet members are being given lump-sum appropriations.

Abad claims that all the lump-sum appropriations in the old budgets have been rolled into one—the GPBP. But why? President Aquino has said that he has ordered “line item budgeting,” meaning all appropriations for all projects and agencies must be clearly itemized. Abad not only disobeyed that but has made it worse. He increased the pork barrel to P500 billion!

Except for the Calamity Fund—because nobody can predict the number of calamities and their severity that can hit the country during the year—there is no justification for any other lump-sum appropriation.

Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee, wants to disaggregate lump-sum appropriations so they would be “less prone to patronage and corruption.” Senate President Franklin Drilon agrees. The people, especially the citizens who gathered at the Rizal Park last Monday to rally against all forms of pork, agree.

To emphasize, any lump-sum appropriation is a form of pork barrel. It is the root of graft and corruption. The President or Cabinet member can dip his hands into it and use it any which way he wants. The President uses it to bribe members of Congress to do what he wants them to do, be it to pass priority legislation or convict impeached chief justices.

Even assuming that President Aquino will henceforth not misuse it, what about  his successor? What if Vice President Binay becomes president?

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Rep. Walden Bello is right: P-Noy should appoint a new budget secretary.  Having been a former congressman, Abad knows how to manipulate the budget process to create hidden pork barrel.

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Sign up for the people’s initiative bill against the pork barrel. It would prohibit all lump-sum appropriations which becomes the graft-ridden pork. There will be booths in markets, malls, schools, maybe also in barangay halls.

The bill prohibits all lump-sum appropriations in the budget and the hijacking of funds by retention, reduction, deferral, suspension of release or any other method “unless there is an official declaration of an unmanageable budget deficit.”

It will also prohibit congressional insertions, a practice that is still being done now, as well as the post-budget intervention and participation by lawmakers in project implementation. It will also prohibit the realignment of improperly declared savings.

Members of Congress will never pass such a bill because they are among the principal beneficiaries of all forms of pork barrel. So it is up to the people to initiate such a bill to protect themselves. Like voting for a presidential candidate who is not tainted with corruption, it is our solemn duty to sign up for the antipork barrel people’s initiative bill.

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TAGS: Budget Secretary, dap, Disbursement Acceleration Program, florencio abad, Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process, Malacañang mouthpiece, massive protest rally, pork, pork barrel, Walden Bello
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