Men of a certain age are Luddites. Not by choice but by the sheer incapacity to embrace, say, the tools of modern technology. Even if they want to be techies, there are too many handicaps to be so. I am somewhat in that category, a senior citizen and a small farmer who buys yellow corn monthly but is ill-equipped to track down corn futures using computer terminals that flash the movement in corn futures.
I do not own a computer, the PC version or the laptop. I do not have an Internet connection in the rural area where I live. The miserable farms around me are a Slough of Despond and having a powerful Internet connection amid such tableau of hard-scrabble-existence is not just right.
When It is time to type the words that fill up this column, I go to the city—a quick two-hour bus ride—then furiously type. And you know what? The offices and entities that are nicest and most accommodating to senior citizens like myself who pretend to be writers are the foundations. And over the past five years or so, I have been writing this column at the offices of a foundation named Read Foundation, which aside from carrying out humanitarian work, also gives people like me three hours twice a week to write and e-mail a newspaper column.
I have been calling the staffers of READ Foundation,“ Methodist Angels” for the predisposition of the Methodists to save souls and help people in need.
Read Foundation, for reasons a sane mind would not understand, is now being tagged as a “bogus” NGO, a Napoles-like creation that popped out like a mushroom during mushroom season to fatten the accounts of crooks and corrupt legislators. A report from the COA said that the READ Foundation has failed to liquidate millions of pesos in congressional money .
My reaction was this. What! I have ben typing columns at their offices over the past five years and in that period you get the sense what really the foundation is all about: scholarship grants to poor students who have no money for college, assistance to LGUs, relief work in disaster-stricken areas and even ground-breaking work on research and development. The foundation has had graduated four cum laudes and many were on the list of deans— meaning they studied with distinction—during their time in college.
I have been witness to the tears shed by grateful parents, all with poverty written on their faces, for the scholarship grants to their kids. As I typed this column on Thursday, August 22, I told the foundation staffers in a jest that they should have collected all the grateful tears , for freighting to the Commission on Audit (COA).
In the real world, a foundation—if it were legitimate–cannot operate with impunity. First, the congressional funds supporting a foundation do not go direct to the foundation. This fact is the most overlooked and ignored item in the “bogus NGO” discussion. The funds are coursed through the government agency that supervises a foundation—which in READ’s case is the DSWD.
The DSWD handles the READ money and only replenishes the funds after complying with the reporting and liquidation requirements. The DSWD validates all expense items and, in the case of the foundation’s scholarship grants, checks on the individual schools to see to it that all the scholars listed as scholars are indeed enrolled, with tuition paid for by the foundation.
No satisfactory liquidation , no fresh fund release. This is the standing rule of the DSWD.
Accounting for the expenses and asking the beneficiaries to file so-called “terminal reports” to prove that they have benefitted from congressional money are major responsibilities of legitimate foundations.
The DSWD staffers overseeing the legitimate foundations are professional civil servants and are not afraid to point out operational, liquidation and reporting errors of the foundations they oversee. They are not at all intimidated by the senator or congressman supporting the institutions under their supervision .
Why did the COA miss this most important point? That legitimate foundations operate under rigid rules and there is very little room to make money even if the original intent of the senator or congressman was to make money out of the foundations.
Of course, it is irrelevant to ask this question as the COA had placed P40 million in pork barrel under then Senator Benigno Aquino 111, which the president has denied receiving.
The COA should strive for accuracy instead of getting caught in the shrill moralizing of the day. It is its duty to call on the transgressions of corrupt politicians. But it should operate with the mandates of accuracy and sobriety.
A blanket accusation makes a sensational story and fits well into the needs of deadline-constrained journalists. Journalism has no time for the nuances and to go in-depth. They will fully thrive with such explosive documents such as the COA report.
But what about the reputations shattered, the good work smeared recklessly? The COA cannot transition from “kahindik, hindik“ to “ay mali” in one sentence. Just as if failed to draws the line between the Napoles NGOs and the legit ones .