The pork barrel scam a perfect model of corruption

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman - The Philippine Star

Every single solon or government official connected to the latest pork barrel scam is trying to make us (the public) believe that he or she has got nothing to do with it at all! Sanamagan!

This scandalous pork barrel issue is history in the making. It is a problem and it is bigger than what it seems. Imagine how many senators, congressmen and government agencies are allegedly involved in it? How can they have processed the projects without knowing that they gave our money to a fake NGO that didn’t even deliver? How could the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Commission on Audit (COA) have approved the many transactions that took place under their very noses? Something smells fishy here – very fishy.

So who should be held accountable? Why is everyone all of a sudden washing their hands on the issue? As a matter of fact, there is even a strong effort to silence this whole issue because there are too many of them involved. The naturally outspoken Napoles has also been silenced. Well, actually I think it is the other way around. They don’t want her to speak because she might turn against all of them. So these imbeciles are not hard on her.

This case is clearly a model of a perfect crime.  The perfect example of corruption and malversation of government funds where every paper work and trail has been studied with the right connections in the different agencies to get the processed approved, released and shared to the hogs. Nothing can beat this case. Nothing! No one will ever be convicted because there are no traces of evidence that corruption has taken place. It is the greatest deal yet so far in the history of this country.

The question of the hour is: Should the congressional Pork be stopped? The two houses are already divided on the issue. Do they give up or not their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and just concentrate on legislative work?

Here’s my two-cents worth of opinion. The Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), established in 1990, is the progenitor of PDAF. As the term implies, the fund was intended to bring development to every part of the country by making sure that every congressman will have an assured allocation for his district even if he is a member of the silent committee in congress. In 2000, the CDF was renamed PDAF to stress its use for priority projects. But what’s in a name? The fund continues to be sarcastically referred to as “pork barrel” due to the general perception that it is allocated to congressmen and senators, to be used, based on their unrestrained discretion, to fund pet programs or projects in their districts without any accountability. In the guise of bringing home the bacon to their constituents, the mind-boggling cut of up to 60%, as reported, would literally insure them of re-election for the next batch of pork. What a wonderful world indeed. No wonder, a candidate could risk spending millions during elections. With an annual pork of P70M for a congressman and P200M for a senator, it is worth all the investment. And with pork, politics has become a lucrative family business in the Philippines too.

In defense of pork, then Speaker Prospero Nograles and then Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Rep. Edcel Lagman, reported that, “the Members of Congress neither handle the funds nor implement the projects. Their authority is limited to the identification of projects and designation of beneficiaries, subject to a specific menu. The implementation is undertaken by the appropriate government agency after an open public bidding. Hence, the congressional allocations have definitive parameters, equal apportionments, built-in accountability and clear transparency.”

So what really happened to the P10 Billion Pork Barrel in question? If the whistleblowers are telling the truth, how was it possible for a private individual to have become the “mother of all scams” in relation to the release and implementation of PDAF of senators and congressmen? Did they not say that the utilization of the PDAF should have been strictly defined and limited by a shortlist or menu of qualified projects, tested by the requirement of utility and relevance, subjected to stringent procurement and public bidding procedures, reviewed by accountable implementing agencies and post-audited by the Commission on Audit (COA), among other safeguards? Were not the people assured that – for further transparency and accountability, there shall be a publication in a congressional website of all projects and programs identified by House Members under their respective lists of “soft” and “hard” projects, which will also include the progress status and accomplishment of the same?

When there was a call for the scrapping of PDAF, it has been touted as a defense “that since the advent of the CDF in 1990 and the institution of the PDAF in 2000 up to the present, there has been no post-audit report by the Commission on Audit (COA) directly associating any Member of Congress to a serious abuse, misuse and/or infraction in the utilization and implementation of the much-maligned congressional funds.” Is this true?

Of course, none of the allegations have been proven yet. But I will not bet on a sacrificial lamb. PDAF cannot be released and implemented without the knowledge and approval of the legislator concerned and the complicity of the implementing agency. That much is clear. As a matter of fact, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala whose office has been implicated as a key facilitator in funneling government funds to at least two dummy non-government organizations allegedly formed by Janet Lim-Napoles, explained that the DA had practically no choice when given an endorsement letter from a lawmaker or local government officials to allocate DA funds for a livelihood project.

When we acknowledge such undeniable fact, only then can we follow where the putrid smell is coming from. Maybe our investigators should also consider the possibility of grandmothers or grandfathers of all scams.

Unless the men and women of congress will miraculously make a great sacrifice, one thing is sure, the congressional pork (reportedly at P25B) is here to stay.

In the meantime, am I for the scrapping of pork? Unless we change the culture of political patronage and the general perception that politics is a lucrative business, it is best to scrap the Pork and come up with a better scheme of assuring the delivery of basic services to all corners of the country through executive line agencies. At least, the cut of up to 60% will be spared. Let our legislators focus on the enactment of laws. Then we can truly see who will vie for congress not for the Pork but for the greater interest of public service.

But then again, P-Noy has spoken. He has not only retained the controversial pork barrel in his proposed 2014 national budget, he has even increased it by more than P2 billion. I rest my case!


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