by ERNESTO T. SOLIDUM
A banner headline of Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 15, 2013) shows that 28 Solons are linked to the P10 billion scam. Bogus NGO named JLN which Pres. and CEO Janet Lim Napoles facilitated the documentation and release papers of members of the Senate and House of Representatives. Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) sharing arrangement is 60-40 in favor of requesting Solon. The money must be deposited in preferred bank. All told, this stinking mess has (started in the 1950’s and “institutionalized” and enlarged in the new millennium, during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. One reason to divide Aklan into two congressional districts is the yearly P70 million pork barrel for each congressman).
Each senator is entitled to P200 million annual allocation while congressman is P70 million. The disposition of these huge amounts and its liquidation do not really pass through stringent accounting by government watchdogs or Commission on Audit (COA). It is so lax that liquidation papers do not involve official receipts and accomplishment reports but merely rely on certification of top but likewise corrupt officials. The reason is that COA personnel and official can be subjected to harassment and intimidation since Congress has the sole power to appropriate fund for national offices.
How PDAF allocation is expended and whether internal rules and regulations are followed are hotly contested. To be sure, there is no rule as each Senator or Congressman is free to disburse it on projects of his/her choice. This kind of arrangement is highly flawed, encourages corruption since the principle of transparency and accountability is disregarded.
PDAP or pork barrel must be abolished since our poor country cannot afford to squander billions of pesos annually while 27.9 percent of our population is in abject poverty. This is tantamount to kleptocracy not democracy. One reason why political dynasty continues to persist and expand is due to the traditional politicians’ unfair edge over new and aspiring leaders. The law stipulating P5.00 per registered voter as campaign expenses is long dead and inoperational.
Plausible reason why congressmen and senators spend millions in their political campaign is due to their easy access to public fund that they can always dip their dirty fingers on the pork barrel to recover political campaign expenses. Moreover, the President of the Philippines can dangle it as carrot and stick during Administration’s campaign for support of priority bills. Those not toeing the line get subtle reprimands, arm twisting, delayed fund release, or none at all.
What can be interesting about PDAF is that barely two decades ago, priority ones supported by Congressmen are “soft projects” namely basketball court, catwalk, and waiting shed among others. Now, the priorities are for farm to market roads (FMR), health centers, public markets, and school buildings. This sounds quite good but former Sen. Ernesto Maceda charged that 30 percent of our PDAF is spent as kickback. Add regular profit margin of contractor at 30 percent, only 40 percent of the money is actually spent on the project. Thus, of the planned 5.0 kilometer stretch FMR, only 2.0 kilometers long may be constructed. Can we restore sanity to our public works project?
Presently, Metro Manila is groaning under the weight of urban squatters. The reason for the mass exodus from the rural areas is that their living environment experienced is hell itself. This means no roads, electricity, school, health center or drinking facility. Six out of 10 patients die without seeing a doctor. Dan Brown, author of the Da Vinci Code describes urban traffic of Metro Manila as “gates of hell”. Wait till you visit our remote barangays and see for yourself actual life and struggle for survival.
In Aklan, leading municipalities that urgently need all weather roads and other infra projects are Libacao and Madalag. A few road sections in Ibajay, Tangalan, Makato, Malinao and Nabas need to be upgraded. By the way, how can we ensure their cooperation when there are limited funds available? Clearly, our PDAF MUST BE CHANNELED to proper government agencies tasked for the purpose, if not, then abolish PDAF. We must remember that the legitimate task of legislators is to make laws, not to engage in the implementation of development projects.
In advanced countries like Japan, US, Italy, France and United Kingdom whenever their political leaders commit a crime or betray public trust, the officer responsible immediately tenders his irrevocable resignation. This attitude is noble and worthy of respect and emulation. Why wait for strong public opinion criticizing your misdeed? Public office is a public trust. Nobody likes that our elected public officials become models of corruption and incompetence. If they are, they must quit their office at the soonest time possible. God forgives only repentant sinners.
Abolish PDAF, the strong devil especially to the greedy. /MP