The burning issue over the past weeks has been the P10.0 Billion Pork Barrel scam where public funds intended for specific projects ended up with bogus NGOs (Non-government organizations) and NGOs controlled by the shameless congressmen to directly benefit themselves. Of course, there is Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains of the multi-billion embezzlement, who surrendered last week to no less than President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd in Malacañang for fear of her life and that it is only the President whom she trusts.
However, what is most interesting is that the explosive revelation of government funds being pocketed by Mrs. Napoles through these dubious NGOs in connivance with corrupt members of Congress was not discovered by the much-vaunted anti-corruption crusade of President B.S. Aquino III. The P10-billion scam with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) given to legislators was only exposed after the whistle-blowers surfaced with their affidavits and mass media printed and broadcast it.
Hence, without the whistle-blowers who were employees of Mrs. Napoles, the PDAF racket would have continued until the end of the term of P-Noy in 2016. In fact, Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad of the Department of Budget & Management (DBM) had already allotted P25.2 Billion in the proposed 2014 national budget that he does not want scrapped. Yet the President told the editors and reporters of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Thursday last week of his frustrations in his three-year anti-corruption drive.
The good news was the front-page headline in the Philippine Star last Thursday, 05 September, that the leadership of the House of Representatives has decided to scrap the P27.0 Billion PDAF for 2014 national budget. As per our Philippine Constitution, the Government Appropriations Act (GAA) emanates from the Lower House. So the Senate simply has no choice on the PDAF since they will not dare make an insertion in next year’s national budget, given the very angry public opinion on the pork barrel.
On the anti-corruption crusade of P-Noy where he voiced his frustration last week, the basic and tragic flaw is his focus on the past administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo rather than the past three years under his watch. His concentration in 2012 was on the former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona who was impeached in the House of Representatives and convicted in the Senate through the use of the evil pork barrel system. Yet Corona was not found guilty of corruption on any stolen wealth issue, but on the SALN provision of R.A. 6713, which has an administrative remedy.
A good example is what happened to Mr. Lito Banayo, former administrator of the National Food Authority (NFA). The President just allowed Mr. Banayo to leave NFA and run for Congress without even a slap on the wrist. It took the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate the multi-billion rice smuggling involving its former administrator and their findings were referred to the Office of the Ombudsman.
P-Noy apparently did not even know that Banayo was fired in 1987 as Postmaster-General by his own mother when she was president through DoTC Secretary Rainerio “Ray” O. Reyes.
The question is why is it so difficult for President Aquino and DBM Secretary Abad to let go of the allotments of P200 million and P70 million for senators and congressmen, respectively. In his interview with the Inquirer, P-Noy recounted the importance of the pork barrel in providing the public funds to the needs of his constituents that were not being addressed by the national government.
However, it is not the job of legislators to identify and fund projects directly through their PDAF. What senators and congressmen can do is to ask heads of the line government agencies to include what they believe as the dire needs of their constituents in their respective budgets. Then the Cabinet secretaries and their staff can evaluate the requests based on merit—and not on political pressure.
During the administration of President Corazon C. Aquino, then Senator Edgardo Angara asked the Department of Transportation & Communications (DoTC) for an airport in Baler, the capital of his home-province of Aurora. However, the request of Senator Angara was not accommodated by DoTC Secretary Reyes because there was not enough traffic on the volume of passengers who will be flying in to Baler and back to Manila.
Until today, there is not enough traffic to justify the operations of an airport in Baler, but the enterprising senator managed to do it via legislation in conjunction with his congressman-son through their Aurora Pacific Economic Zone & Freeport (APECO).
The challenge now to the President and his DBM Secretary is how to have the P2.2 Trillion Budget for 2014 approved by Congress without the usual bribe that they give to the senators and congressmen through the pork barrel system that they have apparently “institutionalized.” Well, there is still lots of money available in the government coffers with four months to go (September-December) for the year 2013.
Rick B. Ramos at email@example.com