Jinggoy: Please be careful with my taxes

- Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - August 21, 2013 - 12:00am

Dear Sen. Jinggoy: I have covered many politicians in the course of my journalism career and I thought nothing will shock me about what politicians are capable of doing.

But I was wrong. I was shocked and angered by this pork barrel scam. I know you are as jaded as I am about how things are done in this country. But this one is of such shocking proportion, its brazenness and the tens of billions of pesos lost, that one can’t help being scandalized and incensed.

 Last Saturday, you added insult to injury… poured vinegar into an open and festering wound. ABS-CBN’s Ryan Chua reported that you, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said you are not obliged to check NGOs getting pork.

Excuse me, Sen. Jinggoy. You gave away P396.25 million of the taxpayers money to bogus NGOs … you are one of five senators to have done so and you are saying you are not responsible for it?

I ask you, Mr. Senator, if that was your money rather than ours, the taxpayers, would you have been more careful? I bet you would. You would have done real due diligence… checked out if the NGOs are real or not… followed up the use of the money to see if it accomplished what it was supposed to have done.

You are also right, Mr. Senator to say that the Department of Agriculture has a responsibility to check NGOs receiving pork barrel funds. Indeed, it seems they failed to do their job.

But DA’s failure does not excuse you from your responsibility, as an elected public official to treat money from taxpayers with a lot more respect. The people trusted you to do the right thing when they elected you and you failed the Filipino people big time.

‘KAHINDIK-HINDIK’ or absolutely shocking was how one newspaper reported COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan’s description of her reaction on learning how members of the two Houses of Congress abused their pork fund. “Pag sinabi nating labis-labis... hindi lang po P1 million o P5 million, ang labis hundreds of millions and at least one lawmaker got almost P3-billion allocation for PDAF.”

She said the irregularities became possible because of a combination of corruption and the failure of national government agencies, lawmakers’ offices, and lapses by the Department of Budget and Management itself, which did not follow its own rules in some cases.

Thus, Mr. Senator, your reaction to this boiling issue is pathetic. It came at a bad time for me because I had just written a check for a substantial amount of money (for me, that is, it may be peanuts for you) to pay for my quarterly tax. That was hard earned money I gladly parted with because it is my duty to do so as a citizen.

Indeed, I have become more conscious of the money I pay out as taxes ever since I retired from corporate employment. Now, everything this senior citizen earns including that from writing this column I must report every month and pay VAT on. That’s aside from the quarterly income tax.

And since retirees don’t earn as much nor enjoy fringe benefits like health care, I resent any misuse of whatever little I contribute towards the financial health of this republic. Your cavalier attitude towards my money, Mr. Senator, is despicable, to say the least. Nakakasuklam!

Ryan Chua reported that you told reporters, “It is not up to the senators to determine whether an NGO is bogus or not. Alangan naman na kami pa ang magsasabi na, ‘Uy, bogus ‘yan.’ How will we know?” Estrada added that lawmakers only endorse NGOs, and that they do so in good faith.

Naman… naman… Sen. Jinggoy. When you endorse an NGO to partake of our scarce resources in the Treasury, you are vouching for it. The final executive branch agency that releases the money, under your pork barrel system, can hardly go against the wishes of a powerful senator that you are.

Would it be too much to ask the Senator to assign one of his many staff members to check on an NGO before endorsing it for funding?  Find out at the very least if the address is valid?

COA Chair Pulido-Tan said “many of the NGOs were of dubious existence. They were either unknown or could not be found at their given addresses, or have given nonexistent addresses, or were traced to mere shanties or high-end residences which turned out to be residences of their owners/officers.”

Your fellow showbiz senator, Bong Revilla, is also washing his hands by refusing to answer the charges and instead, issues a counter charge that it is black propaganda against him. I don’t know how it is in showbiz but in the real world, you answer a charge directly if you are innocent. You don’t change the topic or obfuscate.

Sayang, Sen. Jinggoy. My only personal encounter with you showed you to be a public servant ready to serve. It was pleasant and I really want to keep that memory. But your reported reaction to this pork scam was a big personal disappointment for me. I want to believe you are better than that.

I believe you can redeem yourself. Work to abolish the pork fund or drastically curtail its application. Follow the example of Sen. Ping Lacson who survived his tenure without touching his pork fund. If he can do it, so can you unless you want to concede Ping is made of better stuff than you.

Maybe we can start with a pork-free Senate. Anyway, senators are supposed to have a national constituency. Having an influence on the National Budget should be enough.

I heard that Sen. Ralph Recto, for instance, poured most of his pork on Batangas. That’s not right because he is supposed to be senator for all Filipinos, not just Batangueños.

One good advantage of a pork-free Senate is that we will discourage those who are only after the funds from running. As a result, brilliant people with true public service motivations but with modest financial means can run and win. We may yet have statesmen in the Senate rather than what we have as its current composition.

Let us ban all NGOs from partaking of pork. I know this will affect some good NGOs who use pork funding to render good community services. But let NGOs remain non-government. Let NGOs raise funds from private sources or foreign foundations. NGOs should not be coddled the way Ate Glue coddled the NGOs behind the Peace Bonds... and the really fake ones who were given money out of the Malampaya Fund.

Pass a law that bans the present treatment of special funds like the Malampaya Fund. It seems that this has become a big pork fund for the Executive Department and that’s not right too. Ate Glue was seen to have massively misused the Malampaya Fund because there are not enough checks on it.

No more Malampaya Fund. No more Pagcor Social Fund. Everything must go to the General Fund and let Congress appropriate the money. If something is good enough, Congress should see it as its duty to appropriate funds for it.

Finally, lead the investigation of this scam. If, as you say you are clueless about the Napoles NGOs, maybe someone in your staff is in it. Let’s find out so that the taxpayers can get justice in this horrible rape of the Treasury. It is your duty as an elected public official to see to it that those who misappropriated pork funds are punished and proper restitution made.

Interestingly, in Japan officials know what personal honor is all about. BBC reported over the weekend that Japan’s Agriculture Minister Toshikatsu Matsuoka committed suicide. Mr. Matsuoka was embroiled in two political scandals, though he denied any wrong-doing.

The Japanese minister had allegedly claimed more than ¥28 million ($236,600) in utility fees at his parliamentary office, where utility costs are free. It was also alleged that he had received electoral campaign donations from a businessman linked to a bid-rigging scandal.

You will agree, Sen. Jinggoy that the politicians here do worse. But I don’t expect any of you to hang yourselves the way Mr. Matsuoka did. It is not in our culture to do hara kiri.

But is corruption so ingrained in our culture we just have to accept practices like pork funding? Don’t wash your hands of responsibility over the money lost through your endorsed NGO. Help punish the guilty.

My plea to you, Sen. Jinggoy… Please be careful with my tax money.


Promises, promises

Atty Sonny Pulgar sent this one.

Misis: “Darling, akala ko ba, mahal mo ako?”

Mister: “Oo nga! Handa akong mamatay alang-alang sayo.”

Misis: “Sus! Puro ka naman satsat, hindi mo naman ginagawa!”

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with