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DBM makes it easy for thieves to steal public funds

/ 03:27 AM December 08, 2014

If there is money that can be stolen, thieves will surely come and steal them.

This is turning out to be the case not only in the Philippines but in other developing countries as well. (The Philippines is ranked among the most corrupt countries in the world by a world organization.) And the reason is that their governments make it easy for their officials to steal the people’s money through very lax budgeting and auditing of government funds. By including in the budget so much lump-sum appropriations (as is the case with the Philippines’ 2015 budget), the government is inviting thieves to come and get them.

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In the current separate investigations into corruption by the Senate, the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice, it is becoming clear that public officials are tempted to steal public money because it is so easy for them to dip their hands into the public coffers. And in the unkindest cut of all, it is the topmost officials who lead in the raids on public treasuries.

The Philippines has ousted two presidents and brought to jail two former presidents. It is now investigating the incumbent vice president and holding in detention a former Senate president and two other senators; it has also impeached a chief justice and is preparing charges against several legislators, Cabinet members and middle-level public officials and private persons—all for corruption.

Other countries are not far behind. Japan and South Korea have sent to prison prime ministers, Thailand and Indonesia are prosecuting top officials, and Turkey and some developing countries are preparing to do the same.

During the civil war in China, the Kuomintang government executed profiteers in public in a vain effort to curb profiteering, and during the Great Cultural Revolution in Communist China, Red Guards rounded up and sometimes executed “enemies of the state,” among them alleged corrupt public officials.

In the case of Filipino public officials and their cohorts outside government, temptation prevails over good sense. And in spite of lessons from the past, the present administration, whose battle cry is to curb corruption, continues to commit the same mistakes of the past—like appropriating lump sums which are not only tempting but also very easy to steal.

In spite of the scandals and the heads that have rolled as a result of the theft of funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the Malampaya Fund, the P-Noy administration not only insists on continuing the DAP; it has also put into the 2015 budget more lump-sum appropriations. To compare it to daily life, these lump-sum appropriations are like food left out in the open—it attracts hordes of flies. Or like a trunkful of gold coins, jewelry and booty which invite any resourceful pirate to get a scoop of them for himself.

The Malampaya Fund, which is the royalty that the government gets from gas extracted off Palawan, is supposed to be set aside specifically for energy and power projects. If the fund had been used according to purpose, we would not be facing a power shortage and the government would not be scrambling to give President Aquino emergency powers to acquire generators to stave off the shortage.

Where did all the money go instead? To projects unrelated to energy, primarily to agriculture and agrarian reform whose intended beneficiaries were poor farmers who were not aware that they were being used by public officials to steal money really meant to help them get out of poverty.

And instead of removing lump-sum appropriations from the budget, the Department of Budget and Management under Secretary Florencio Abad, the inventor of the DAP, in connivance with Congress, has increased them. Almost a third of the 2015 budget is lump-sum appropriations. In addition, Congress has passed another lump-sum supplemental appropriation for the outgoing 2014 budget.

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Not only has the executive department stolen the power of the purse of Congress; worse, the latter is conspiring with it to “legitimize” this. Why is Congress doing that?

Because like what happened with the PDAF, much of the fund could be allotted to the projects of legislators, a part of which they could rechannel to private pockets.

* * *

Because of climate change and given the fact that the Philippines is located in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, the birthplace of typhoons, the archipelago will be lashed by an increasing number of strong typhoons every year. The nipa huts and wood houses in the provinces are no match for the fury of these typhoons. Therefore, we should change the materials and the construction of houses in the Philippines so that they can withstand strong winds.

The northernmost Batanes islands are the most typhoon-visited islands in the Philippines. Therefore, they have learned to adjust to them. They have built their homes not with wood and bamboos but with stones and cement. The roofs are made with one-meter-thick cogon grass, not with galvanized iron sheets. Windows and doors are small, without any glass, so that they can withstand the strongest winds.

During typhoons, Ivatans just stay indoors and wait out the storm. The rest of the Philippines should learn to adjust to typhoons like the Ivatans.

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TAGS: DBM, Department of Budget and Management, Government, Graft and Corruption, Philippines, pork barrel, Public Funds, thieves
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