The number of Filipinos who are getting fed up with Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III is definitely growing. As Churchill would say, he has all the virtues they dislike and none of the vices they admire. Granted, there are still those who are in denial of the likelihood that BS Aquino personally benefits from the existence of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or the pork barrel funds. Nevertheless, it won’t be long now before the truth behind his leadership skills comes out – that he is powerless without it.
It’s no secret that President BS Aquino uses the pork barrel funds to wield power over members of Congress, which is supposed to be an independent branch of government. This was evident when he strong-armed members of the lower house into signing a hastily and badly written impeachment case against former Chief Justice Renato Corona. After months of relentless trial-by-media propaganda against Corona before and during the trial, BS Aquino and his army of “little-ladies” who helped gather “damning” but false evidence managed to rile up the public against Corona. Members of Congress were eventually compelled to convict him for what they interpreted as his failure to fully disclose his dollar savings in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
The injustice committed against Corona was so obvious to some particularly when they compared the crimes some of the senator-judges have committed in the past that dwarf Corona’s perceived violation. A lot of people say that Corona’s non-disclosure of his dollar account wasn’t even an impeachable offense for two reasons: it was protected by the foreign currency account secrecy law and more importantly, during the trial, it was explained that some of the funds from his dollar account came from the proceeds of the sale of his wife’s property. In short, it wasn’t all his to declare.
Now that media has revealed that some of the members of congress who played a key role in convicting Corona has been diverting funds into bogus NGOs, perhaps Corona can file a lawsuit against them for wrongful conviction. If the allegations that these senators and congressmen have been pocketing millions from their pork barrel funds are true, they have to be removed from office as soon as possible even before a criminal case is filed. It’s only fair since Corona was removed using a trial-by-media, even when his “violations” weren’t criminal.
In retrospect, Corona’s trial, which distracted the Aquino government from addressing more important matters for almost a year, was a total waste of time. After Corona was removed from office, BS Aquino and his minions hailed it as a success in his anti-corruption campaign. A little over a year later, the Filipino people are now convinced that the anti-corruption campaign hasn’t even begun. With BS Aquino’s reluctance to stop the giving out of pork barrel funds — the source of corruption from his budget — any further statements claiming that he is for daang matuwid is nothing but lip service.
There is no real justification for providing “development” funds to lawmakers. Congress shouldn’t even have funds for projects. Their role is different. They should be busy crafting laws and deliberating them. They shouldn’t be wasting time dealing with contractors who build basketball courts, waiting sheds or any other small projects that won’t even translate substantially to the overall development of the country. It’s not as if the funds have resulted in the upgrade of the country’s railway system, schools or hospitals.
Our congressmen didn’t even think about using the funds to find alternative sources of energy. To this day, some people in some parts of the Philippines are still literally living in the dark ages, trying to make do with a few hours of electricity each day. Instead, it seems like the bulk of the pork barrel funds have been used to fund the extravagant lifestyle of “esteemed” congressmen and those who run bogus NGOs. Columnist Neal Cruz made a good point when he stressed that members of congress need to focus on their real jobs:
Constructing government projects is the job of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), not of members of Congress. The job of the latter is to enact laws, not to be a duplicate DPWH. Search the Constitution with a fine-toothed comb and you will not find any provision that authorizes Congress to be a de facto DPWH. But year in and year out, legislators act as miniature DPWHs. That is usurpation of public authority. And because they shamelessly pocket some of the money, that is corruption which P-Noy promised to fight.
Apparently, it was BS Aquino’s mother, former President Cory Aquino who instituted the practice of using the pork in the Countryside Development Fund. Prior to this, the allocation of any project from the pork barrel funds has to be approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate. BS Aquino further institutionalized the amount of pork each congressman got when everybody got the same amount every year, which translated to between Php70 to 200 million. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad tried to justify it:
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the P70 million in PDAF for a member of the House of Representatives and P200 million for a senator was adopted as the norm beginning in the 15th Congress.
“We just wanted to put an end to the inggitan (envy) among lawmakers. At least everyone gets their share no more, no less. Dati may tampuhan pa kasi ’yung mas malakas, mas malaki (Before there was displeasure because those who were close [to Malacañang] got bigger amounts.)
Secretary Abad’s statement is proof enough that the Executive branch of government is paying Congress to grant them favors.
The Commission on Audit should not be exempted from any accountability in this scam. It seems they have not been doing their job properly for the last decade. Reports say that they are only focusing on GMA’s last three years in office, but what about BS Aquino’s first three years in office? It’s been said that the President’s own pork allocation from the P27 billion in pork barrel for 2014 is a staggering amount. Any promises to tighten the release of the funds will be in vain because even so-called auditors can be bought using money from the pork barrel funds, it seems.
The only solution to preventing members of congress from pocketing or mismanaging the pork barrel funds is to not give them any at all. BS Aquino just has to find a better way to bring the concerns of local constituents to the national government’s attention without using the legislators. Once the legislators don’t have pork barrel funds anymore, maybe there will be less celebrities who will seek a position in Congress and more qualified people who answer the call of duty will instead fill the legislative posts.
[Image collage of senator-judges courtesy Balita.ph.]
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