If vetoed, P305-billion pork can be used for jobs
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - February 13, 2019 - 12:00am

Panfilo Lacson must be the sole pro-Duterte senator. Supporting President Rody’s anti-corruption and -wastage drive, he alone resisted pork barrels in the 2019 national budget. Personally he exposed some of the staggering sums and extracted confessions on the rest. The lard totaled at least P305 billion. That’s more than eight percent of the P3.757-trillion government expenditure program. And 14 times larger than the congressional pork when the Supreme Court outlawed it in 2013. That P305 billion will go to commissionable gimmick projects this election year. Duterte knows how pork funds end up in lawmakers’ pockets. He so abhorred it when he was congressman in 1998-2001 that he never sought reelection.

Sadly Lacson is but one vote among 23 senators and 297 congressmen. The horse-trading majority members of the bicameral conference committee drowned out his lone dissent. Senators and congressmen ratified the national budget – with their P305 billion largesse – last Friday.

Lacson now pleads with Duterte to veto the pork insertions. The President is authorized to do so selectively, item by item, without voiding the entire budget law. Duterte just needs to instruct his economic team to run the P3.757 trillion through a fine-toothed comb. Secretaries Sonny Dominguez of Finance, Ben Diok-no of the Budget, and Ernie Pernia of Economic Planning can consult Lacson. The pork slabs they need to excise are:

• P2.4 billion-P8 billion each for a hundred congressmen;

• P160 million lump sum each for 197 others;

• P23 billion for selected senators.

Those are embedded in lawmakers’ provinces and districts. Lacson gives examples. There’s P2.8 billion for Antique alone, including oddly bundled amounts for the provincial police’s intelligence and fuel that, Lacson says, GHQ surely will resent and state auditors red flag. Also, P2.4 billion for a hundred farm-to-market roads for one district alone in Pampanga, and P1.9 billion in another in Camarines Sur. About P29 billion is inserted without the knowledge of the Dept. of Public Works for payment of rights-of-way in 2019, although P20 billion for the same road works was allotted in 2018. Lacson suspects that last item will be pocketed outright.

Once excised from the 2019 budget, the P305 billion can be used for projects that redound directly to jobs, food, health, and education. Duterte’s political advisers would know how to make Congress abide by passing supplemental budgets.

In that too Lacson gives examples. During budget hearings in Nov. defense officials told him that Duterte wanted to form a new Army division for troubled Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi. With no funds for it in the 2019 budget submitted to Congress as far back as Aug. 2018, Lacson trimmed fat from other agencies. That would create direct jobs for recruits, as well as in camp constructions, military supplies, and equipage. Lacson did the same for belated needs of the National Police, Dangerous Drugs Board, and Drug Enforcement Agency. All those formally were reported to the Senate President then discussed on the floor, not merely whispered to the committee on (budget) finance or written on paper napkins. Meaning, they weren’t hidden pork. Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon too openly proposed the transfer of P50 billion from shady dredging and de-silting to universal health care. Prolonged healthier lives mean more productive citizens.

Projects that the P305-billion vetoed pork can fund are countless. Like, construction and operation of more Bahay Pagasa reformatories for youth offenders. Not only would inmates be set aright, but thousands of social workers, and hundreds of cooks, guards, and helpers would be hired. Same with relocating squatters from hazardous cliff- and riversides; restoring agricultural extension offices; replanting forests and rehabilitating waterways; and constructing irrigations, rail and highways, sea and airports.

Vetoing the pork barrels would have deeper reformative effects than going back to the Supreme Court and having them outlawed anew. That would only reiterate jurisprudence, but not generate jobs or spur economic activity.

Lacson has done his role of making Filipinos aware of the ongoing pork greed. A veto can secure Duterte’s legacy.

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“Charot!” is the vogue Filipino colloquialism to mean joke only, or chill out, or to not lose sleep over truly bothersome matters.

Charter Change and related issues are so divisive, even of families and “barkadas” that it’s tempting to shout “Charot!” to the pros and cons.

“Charot!”, PETA’s 51st season ender, does just that, as it alternately explains and spoofs in music the aims of Charter revision. Is it for federal form or term extension? Is it what people need or the politico wants? In a 2020 setting, shall you vote “yes” or “no” to the many nuances? (So best bring a smartphone and your friends or classmates.)

Presenting stage newcomers and veterans: Jack Yabut as Papsy; Teetin Villanueva and Gardo Vicente as Millennial Girl; Bene Manaois and ABS-CBN Star Magic’s CJ Navato as Millennial Boy; Meann Espinosa as Tita Mary Grace, Sister Joy, and Karen de Villa; Kitsi Pagaspas as Nanay; Jason Barcial and Gie Onida as Boss; Gio Gahol and Lemuel Silvestre as Beki Grab Driver; Gold Villar-Lim and Jimma Nariz as Grethel Tuba; Icee Po and Rhapsody Garza as Mall Saleslady; and Norbs Portales as Street Vendor. Directed by PETA artistic head Maribel Legarda.

Playing weekends till March 17: Saturdays and Sundays at 8 p.m., with 3 p.m. matinees on Fridays to Sundays. At the PETA Theater, #5 Eymard Drive, Brgy. Kristong Hari, New Manila, Quezon City.

*      *      *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jarius-Bondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website https://www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

PORK BARREL SUPREME COURT
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