The legislators are still at it. One should think that by now they would drop the idea of using the suffering of people to justify their pork barrel allocations. No, they’re just too thick-skinned for that. Or maybe they think we are a nation of suckers.
Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza asked the Supreme Court to lift the order stopping the release of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) so that medical and educational assistance could proceed.
The government lawyer was making the argument on behalf of the Executive and Legislature.
But that’s old hat. As this corner observed a while back, legislators were using the sick and the plight of poor college students in their districts as justification to keep the PDAF money flowing. They tried that trick before, and successfully so, to our eternal grief. They diverted at least P12 billion to spurious non-government organizations (NGOs) in the name of farmers and fishermen, even Ondoy and Pepeng typhoon victims.
It won’t work this time. The people already know the scheme. They won’t allow themselves to be gypped again. And for once they find an ally in the judiciary.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio made short shrift of the argument. He pointed out, in so many words, if the government—congressmen and senators—is so concerned about the sick and the students why doesn’t it just realign funds for that purpose?
“I don’t know why you’re saying they will die because there is no money for dialysis,” Carpio said.
The government does not need PDAF to extend assistance to the sick and poor students or, for that matter, to calamity victims. It does not need it to finance the purchase of fertilizers and insecticides for distribution to farmers.
In fact, it is the very existence of PDAF—or its machination—that deprived this marginal sector of society of much needed government assistance.
So far three senators and a number of congressmen, along with their chiefs of staff, have been charged with plunder for funneling their PDAF allocations to sham NGOs. It turned out that the projects these NGOs were supposed to have implemented for the poor and calamity victims existed only on paper.
The money went to finance the lavish lifestyle of legislators instead. Meanwhile, the poor in whose names the money was disbursed huddle in makeshift houses, go to sleep on an empty stomach, and sometimes die for lack of medicine.
If its heart really bleeds for them, the government should get the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to increase its budget for poor patients. As regards scholarship funding program, President Benigno Aquino 3rd should tap the President’s Social Fund (PSE) for the purpose.
One congressman a month back announced, with a straight face, that a constituent of his had died because he could no longer pay for the man’s dialysis following the discontinuation of his pork barrel allocation.
It is obvious that Jardeleza was just milking a man’s renal failure for all its worth. He was warning the justices that the death of people deprived of the medical intervention because PDAF had dried up would be on their conscience.
The justices were not biting though, and they should not.
Practically all congressmen—and senators for that matter—tell us they spend a big portion of their pork barrel allocations for the sick and poor students.
The congressmen annually get P70 million PDAF allocations each, and all they can show for it is a medical and dental clinic they hold once in a great while, during which they distribute paracetamol and cough medicines. As regards their scholarship programs, not one of them has provided us with a list of students they helped through college. They crow about the program all the time, but we do not hear of anybody getting a college degree on a scholarship provided by a senator or a congressman.
The High Court should declare PDAF unconstitutional. That would save the people the trouble of getting rid of it through the so-called people’s initiative or, in desperation, through extra-Constitutional change of government.