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EDITORIAL - 'Pork' transparency

() - July 14, 2010 - 12:00am

To promote transparency, President Aquino has ordered the publication of detailed reports on the utilization of the congressional pork barrel. The reports must include an itemized list of materials purchased for construction or maintenance projects financed through pork barrel allocations.

The effort is a welcome development amid the long-standing resistance of lawmakers to any suggestion of promoting transparency in pork barrel utilization. Reports published in recent years have shown that a number of lawmakers belong to families engaged in construction and real estate development, which benefit directly from government contracts awarded through the pork barrel system. Aggravating the corruption in agencies such as the Department of Public Works and Highways, lawmakers compel the agencies to award deals to contractors or suppliers who do not meet qualifications set by the government.

The order from the President can put an end to these practices – if the reports on pork barrel utilization can be checked for accuracy. Like ranking officials in the executive branch, most lawmakers have mastered the art of fiction writing in official documents that they are required to file. The fiction writing, as Commission on Elections have observed, starts with the filing of statements of campaign contributions and expenditures.

Once elected or appointed to public office, the next piece of fiction comes in the form of the annual statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. This document often provides entertainment and little else. Now that former first lady Imelda Marcos is back in the House of Representatives, she could once again emerge as the poorest member of the chamber, based on her SALN, with no one trying to establish the accuracy of her statement.

To a certain degree, it is possible to check the accuracy of the SALN, by scrutinizing it against the official’s income tax declaration, but no one has bothered to make the effort. In the case of statements on campaign contributions and expenditures, the Comelec has admitted that it lacked the resources to verify the declarations. Will the same problem bedevil the move to promote transparency in pork utilization? President Aquino should see to it that this will not happen.

ACCURACY BARREL COMELEC DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES IMELDA MARCOS LAWMAKERS PORK PRESIDENT AQUINO REPORTS UTILIZATION
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