VACC, Bayan fear loss of ‘participatory’ funds
TWO groups, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), on Monday said the government should immediately address the issue of rampant corruption among various local government units (LGUs) before entrusting to them billions in alleged “pork” funds under the Grassroots Participatory Budget (GPB).
In separate interviews with The Manila Times, VACC chairman Dante Jimenez and Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. both agreed that corruption on the local front is prevalent and systemic that huge funds that would be funneled to them might end up in corrupt hands.
“Corruption among LGUs is a system in itself. It’s there. From the mere paying for fees for business permits to the allocation of funds for major projects, corruption rears its ugly head. So, this must be addressed fast and with resolve. Otherwise, government funds will be lost,” Jimenez said.
According to him, the P20 billion or so funds from the GPB, a new introduction in the 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA), cannot be mistaken for not being “pork.”
Jimenez said patronage politics will only worsen under the scheme.
“It’s patronage politics all the way down. There must be a strict control over LGU funds whether they be from local sources or from the national government. The Commission on Audit should also police its ranks because there is a great possibility that local COA auditors have been co-opted already,” the VACC chairman added.
Reyes agreed with Jimenez that the GPB might be used by local politicians to further political patronage, which would eventually benefit administration candidates in the 2016 elections.
The idea of grassroots participation is not bad per se. But in a situation where LGUs are dominated by dynasties, corrupt politicians and vested interests, and when the dispensing power treats funds as ‘pork,’ we will inevitably end up with corruption,” the Bayan leader pointed out.
He said the GPB is a discreet form of pork barrel funds in the guise of being an impetus for grassroots participation in development.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Reyes added, cannot hide the fact that the perks being handed down to LGUs may only worsen the problem of corruption.
The Aquino gov’t cannot window-dress its pork-filled budget by invoking grassroots participation. As we draw closer to 2016, the desire to use funds as ‘pork’ and patronage is also there,” he said.
A previous report by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) indicated that as of October 2012, more Filipinos, or 68 percent of those surveyed, perceived city and municipal governments to be corrupt than in previous years.
The SWS 2012 Survey on Good Local Governance was the last of its kind so far. Over the years, the figure rose from the 64 percent recorded in 2011 and 58 percent in 2009, when the study was first conducted.
According to the report, the top three local offices where corruption is considered widespread are the Budget Office (48 percent), Mayor’s Office (32 percent) and the Engineer’s Office (30 percent).
These were the same offices considered most corrupt last year.
Other levels of government that are perceived to be corrupt that year were: provincial (52 percent in 2009, 59 percent in 2011 and 47 percent in 2012) and barangay or village (37 percent in 2009, 38 percent in 2011 and 37 percent in 2012).
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) attributed the high perceptions of corruption in city and municipal governments to their function of issuing business and other permits.
Though not as widespread as that in the government as a whole, SWS noted that those who see “a lot” of corruption in the city/municipal government hardly changed from 25 percent to 22 percent over the past years.
Jimenez said corruption among LGUs is also expected to worsen because of the fact that “there are no other forms of ‘pork’ they can avail of.”
“They need it for political collection because there is no longer the priority development assistance fund [PDAF] and the Disbursement Acceleration Program [DAP]. See if the local COA auditors are in connivance with LGUs. Local businessmen are the ones being hurt in the process,” he added.
Jimenez cited as an example the case of the missing P500 million for the rehabilitation of the Albay Electric Cooperative (Aleco), which is now the subject of a complaint by the VACC.
“This is a clear example of corruption in LGUs. The local government can no longer account for the half billion pesos that was allocated by [former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria]Arroyo for Aleco. It vanished in thin air like magic,” he said.
Over the weekend, the DILG announced that faith-based groups will be joining members of civil society organizations (CSOs) in monitoring implementation of projects by LGUs under the GPB program to ensure transparency and accountability.
The department announced that it will soon formalize partnership with various religious and faith-based groups ensuring their involvement in the monitoring of the GPBP-funded projects.
DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd called for stakeholders’ support as well as vigilance to ensure that the projects are implemented accordingly.