The academics who did their take on how the loss of the PDAF would impact on the helpless—and did it without shrillness – have pointed out this assessment: it is the poor towns with no source of capital expenditures other than the PDAF that would suffer most. These are the 5th class towns and the 6th class towns, those as underdeveloped as the areas in the sub-Sahara.
In these towns are the dregs of the earth. These towns are the atrophying holding areas of the starving, the desperate and the illiterate .
The assessment, I think, is factual but it needs a bit of amplification. The most accurate assessment is probably this: More than any other sector, it is the farming sector, or the scores of people engaged in small-scale farming, that would suffer most from the budgetary reforms that the government would undertake in the period called AP, or After Napoles. Not the towns that can’t even raise enough for payroll.
While the 5th and 6th class towns can still hope to get trickles of congressional support through government intervention in the areas of health care, education and scholarship and infrastructure—which Congress has identified as the new investment areas of the reformed—the small-scale farmers have been written off, totally and with extreme prejudice, from the list of beneficiaries of the revamped and rewritten congressional funding.
There is already a strict promulgation on the matter of agricultural support: no support shall be given to anything that is related to and smacks of farm inputs—from seeds to fertilizer to farm implements. The DBM and all instrumentalities of government have been duly informed and advised. The words “farm inputs” are now synonymous with corruption of the most brazen kind.
Non-farmers, of course, will not lose a single night of sleep over that top-level decision. The general reaction, when Malacanang scrapped farm inputs and implements from the list of sectors that would receive of support in one form or the other, was this: So what. To the anti-pork protesters, city-based and full of themselves, small farmers, several millions of them, do not even exist.
Sadly, the small farmers that would bear the most brutal impact of the pork removal, are the non-persons in the whole le affaire Napoles.
These are the small farmers’ three stages of suffering, arranged chronologically.
First, Napoles and her NGOs used farm organizations as cover for the scam operations. Then specified farm inputs as the items in the ghost deliveries to supposed farmer-beneficiaries. That was the singular but effective racketeering scheme, from the PDAF of the congressmen and senators, to the close to P1 billion the Napoles’s NGOs cornered supposedly on behalf of typhoon-ravaged LGUs from the DAR-supervised Malampaya funds.
(Smaller Napoles-type operations ran by the four other groups also used fake farm-oriented NGOs as fronts, such as the Cucueco-Roque-Antonio Group exposed by a TV network.)
Second, Malacanang, in a knee-jerk reaction, identified farm inputs as the favorite racketeering tools of scoundrels. Then banned any government support to the provision of farm inputs to farmers. As if the small farmers can fend off for themselves with subsidized certified seeds and farm implements.
Third, the anti-pork protesters, mostly city-bred and urban dwellers, showed total indifference to the small farmers and farming communities that got stung by the fake farm NGO capers of the Napoles group and the other smaller operations. Nowhere in their rallies were the farmers, more brutalized than they in the scheme of things, mentioned.
The swift but ill-advised decision of Malacanang to ban all forms of support to small farmers, can actually be viewed from the context of the Joc-joc Bolante fertilizer scam. The Napoles affair, after a close examination, was just a cruder and more rapacious version of the Bolante fertilizer scam. Both involved official corruption anchored on the delivery of non-existent or sub-standard farm inputs.
Both used farmers as front for the racketeering—the uncomplaining, voiceless sector crippled by too much misery and poverty.
If Malacanang and the anti-pork protesters hold the view that neglecting the farmers would have no dire consequences whatsoever on food security issues, they are dead wrong.
The palay output for 2013 is 2.5 million metric tons short of the 20 million MT palay required for national rice sufficiency. In 2014, the gap between production and actual national need would balloon to at least 3 million metric tons of palay without the usual support of farm inputs to rice farmers from the PDAF of legislators.
I am familiar with this. I sit in the governing council of a party-list group that has been supporting farmers of Central Luzon with farm inputs, from certified seeds to fertilizer and farm implements.
We have drawn a worst-case scenario that goes like this: in 2014, production shortfall without the support to farmers would be between 3.5 million metric tons of palay to 4 million MT.
Of course, Malacanang can raise the fact that the delivery of farm inputs and support to farmers had been used both in the Joc-Joc case and the Napoles affair. So it had to be stopped temporarily, while the reform processes are being put in place.
But what about the small farmers and the urgent need for support? What about the effort to achieve rice self-sufficiency? What about the promise to change the face of poverty, which has a rural and agrarian face?
The farmers, it should be noted, suffered most under the scam, be it the Joc-Joc kind or the much more cruder and bigger Napoles type. They have been the primary victims. They were not willing tools used to commit corruption, again, that is of the most brazen kind.