Who among Cebu solons would deny having pork barrel in 2020?

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - November 9, 2019 - 12:00am

A good number of Cebuanos know that pork barrel is a figure of speech, borrowed from the US Congress, to represent how legislators, whose job is just to make laws, are instead dipping their hands into the executive functions of spending millions in their districts, choosing the areas to be benefited, and worse, helping choose the contractors. They brings home the bacon in barrels for the boys.

The P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, like any year's budget, will be taken from taxes of poor and middle-class Filipinos, including every working-class Cebuano, who has difficulty living under harsh economic conditions. Cebu has 11 Congressmen. It’s being alleged that each of them has at least a P100-million pork barrel for 2020. One of them, designated one of the 22 deputy speakers, will allegedly get no less than P750 million (quoted from an alleged statement from my fellow Manila Rotary Club centennial awardee Boo Chanco of The Philippine STAR). It’s then the right of every Cebuano to inquire from the congressmen. All of them, or none of the above? Really?

This isn’t an accusation but a question. I respectfully challenge our congressmen to declare once and for all, their categorical and specific reply to such a pertinent question. The standard reply, of course, by the majority coalition in the House, is that there is no pork barrel in the next year's national appropriation act. The standard reply of those who are using their coconut is: Tell that to the marines. Cebuanos may be silly at times, but they aren’t stupid. They weren’t born yesterday. Most Cebuanos today, especially the younger ones, because of social media, are no longer naive, clueless, much less ignoramuses.

The Makabayan block, led by Davao's courageous and incorruptible Bayan Muna partylist representative Carlos Isagani Zarate and Rappler have quoted the administration-affiliated Joey Salceda of Albay, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, to have admitted that indeed every congressman has a minimum of P100 million to allocate the beneficiaries and choose contractors. Of course he hurriedly put a caveat that this is not a DAP or a PDAP (declared illegal by the Supreme Court). But Zarate retorted that when a fowl quacks, even if you call it a cat or a dog, it’s still a duck. To which, I would add: A pork barrel by any name is still pork.

Why don't they just admit it and explain why they need to participate in the executive function of selecting beneficiaries and even contractors. Well, the choice of contractors is the unkindest cut of all. To deny it would be adding insult to the intelligence of the Cebuanos. Just tell the people that congressmen are just doing what the people expect. The people want infrastructures and assistance. That is why, according to Salceda, the P70 million will be for infra and the P30 million for soft projects, like educational and health assistance. But Zarate declared that all members of the Makabayan block have refused to receive any pork barrel. They are principled and have always been consistent in their fight against pork barrel.

I do not wish to prejudge the Cebu congressmen. I respect them and hold them in high esteem, especially the deputy speaker from the third district, and the gentlemen from the first, second, and seventh districts of the province, and the Cebu City north district solon. That is why I am asking them to be transparent and to answer the simple question that their constituents have the right to ask. I pause for any reply.

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