P1.3M for lechon; expensive venues

STRAIGHT TO THE POINT - Atty. Ruphil Bañoc - The Freeman

A Filipino occasion or party seems incomplete without lechon (roasted pig). Some even insist on eating lechon despite having hypertension or heart disease. They will even jokingly say they will take their medicine before the first bite.

But, lately, the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the municipality of Liloan for spending P1.3 million worth of lechon in 2022, saying the purchases were irregular and unnecessary.

At the heart of COA’s objection is that the pieces of lechon were given to private groups’ team buildings, religious activities, founding anniversaries, etcetera. COA said such an act violated Section 335 of Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code, which states that no public money or property should be appropriated or applied for religious or private purposes.

COA hit the nail on its head when it said that the procurement of lechon “deprives the constituents of projects or services that could have been derived from the use of said funds.”

In an attempt to justify the purchases mentioned above of pieces of lechon, Liloan Mayor Aljew Jordan Frasco’s said that it’s not the LGU itself that made the purchase. That is not, however, what COA found. The mayor also said that the purchase also helped the business establishments in the town that sell lechon. We know this is a non-response.

In fairness to the mayor, however, this purchase of lechon for private purposes is not exclusive to Liloan, much more so these days that political kettles at the barangay level are getting hotter as the barangay and SK elections are fast approaching.

Political supporters or aspirants for barangay positions create many activities intended to strengthen their possibilities of winning. So there are parties, meetings, and the founding of new groups, all requiring meals.

Politicians will find it hard to say no to requests for lechon for apparent reasons. My only advice is that you use your own money if the request is private or has nothing to do with the promotion of public welfare. Unfortunately, to say that a politician uses his own money to advance his political interest is hard to believe.

This unnecessary purchase of pieces of lechon is just part of the big picture of the waste of public funds. There are also other activities done by government officials and employees, which make one think about whether, indeed, we need more funds for service-oriented activities. From time to time, COA assails the use of public funds in government workers’ seminars and trainings held in expensive hotels and resorts. Modesty is gone.

I wonder whether these government workers believe that the grander the venue, the more brilliant the ideas will come out during team building or training.

Public officials and employees should practice prudence. They should not treat parties and meetings like spending their private fortune. Many are hungry and struggling to make ends meet.

Let us go back to the days when delicadeza reigned supreme among public servants, and the mere thought of spending public funds for purely private purposes embarrassed one.

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