Why lawmakers won’t admit pork insertions

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc - The Philippine Star

Lawmakers expectedly will not itemize their pork barrels inserted into the 2019 national budgets. They will ignore the plea of citizen watchdogs to post the data on their websites. Why would they, when they deem themselves a special class. Recall that they also had conjured new rules in order to un-publicize their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth. They also passed a “federal constitution” not to restructure the government but to lift their term limits and preserve their political dynasties. Their purpose in Congress is to make money at the expense of taxpayers. Those billions of pesos will come in pork barrels. They will conceal it and continue to do it if reelected.

Social Watch Philippines, consisting of good governance advocates, has called for transparency in the pork insertions. It also urged lawmakers to delay no longer the transmission of the budget bill to Malacañang. The bill was ratified as far back as Feb. 8. Normally bills are transmitted for presidential signing within days of passage.

 During 2019 budget deliberations Sen. Panfilo Lacson had exposed pork slabs inserted in congressmen’s districts. At least P2.4 billion was in one district alone in Pampanga and P1.9 billion in another in Camarines Sur. The House of Reps Majority Leader retorted that the P2.4 billion was only the 100th largest, since other slabs were as much as P8 billion and P5 billion. He also admitted that each of the 297 congressmen had P160 million each. Lacson then found P23 billion more for selected senators.

The exposed pork totaled at least P305 billion. The amount is 14 times more than the pork in 2013, when the Supreme Court outlawed it.

To differentiate non-pork amendments that he introduced to the budget bill, Lacson itemized P30,497,826,800 on his website. Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also openly proposed in plenary the transfer of P45 billion from shady flood controls into universal health care. Citizens are able to scrutinize such open changes. “We challenge all legislators who have sponsored amendments in the House of Reps, Senate, and bicameral conference levels to follow Lacson and Drilon’s lead,” Social Watch said. Illegal multibillion-peso pork insertions are only scribbled on paper napkins or whispered to Senate and House committee chairmen, Lacson revealed. At the bicam the two committee heads also horse-trade on how much pork are to be retained by their respective chambers.

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Parents bear hard work, loneliness, and dangers overseas for their children’s schooling. Yet as far back as the 2000s educators had noted an irony. Three in five children of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) drop out. Causes range from lack of parental guidance to separation shock and family breakup. Often cited is the brood of Flor Contemplacion, a nanny (wrongly?) executed in Singapore for the drowning of her ward. First her husband, then two of her children reportedly turned to drugs. It supposedly wouldn’t have happened had she stayed home to look after them. Then again, where would they, all unskilled, have gotten food money had not one sacrificed abroad? Not all OFWs have elders to perform “apo-stolic duty” of raising the grandchildren. Few state agencies and NGOs care psychologically for OFWs’ left-behinds.

Magnifying OFWs’ worries is the legislating down of the age of criminal liability to 12 from the present 15. A huge chunk of the 11 million OFWs are parents of pubescents. Some fathers and mothers both are abroad. How many would now rush and stay home for fear that their juveniles might fall into delinquency and land in jail? The number would be worth studying.

Age-12 as criminally liable was just a compromise. The original bill was for nine years old, which many found too harsh. Lawmakers settled for the median to assuage scientists who advise retention at age-15, and the President who the Speaker said wants nine. Criminal raps can be filed against 12- to 14-year-olds who run afoul of the law. Imprisonment like adults await those involved in murder, rape, kidnap, robbery, and arson. Or rehabbed for petty theft and light offenses. The police reports a jump in incidents of juveniles induced into Islamist terrorism, and used by crime gangs as drug couriers and porch climbers.

Not only the age but also parental accountability is to be legislated. Parents of children in conflict with the law, especially recidivists, shall be imprisoned if parenting lessons do not sink in. Most youth offenders were found to be from broken homes and absentee parents.

The need is for more Bahay Pagasa shelters for offenders of minor age. Now that politicians are courting votes for senator, most of them acknowledge it. In such shelters would be social workers, nurses, physicians, psychologists, cooks, helpers, and security guards.

Question: will the politicos forgo congressional pork barrels in favor of funding the construction of such rehab clinics, and the hiring of thousands of personnel? That too could make interesting study.

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“Sons of Lourdes we’ll ever be.”

Lourdes School Quezon City grand alumni homecoming reunion: Feb. 23, Saturday, at the LSQC Grade School Grounds. Registration starts at 5 p.m. Honorees: Golden Jubilee Class 1969. Hosts: Silver Jubilee Batch 1994.

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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

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