ULY 22, 2013 (INQUIRER) As I See It By Neal H. Cruz - President Aquino, after days of hesitation, finally noticed the anger of the people over the P10-billion pork barrel scam and ordered a “full, fair, and impartial” investigation.

The National Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Ombudsman are already doing that, so the Malacañang press release may be just for public consumption—to show the people that he is doing something about it.

What the President should do, if he is sincere about stopping corruption as he promised, is not to include in his budget proposal to Congress an appropriation for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the polite term for the hated pork barrel, which is one of the major causes of corruption. No pork barrel, no temptation, no corruption—it is as simple as that.

The greedy members of Congress cannot put it there because, under the Constitution, Congress is prohibited from adding to the budget proposal of the executive branch. It can only reduce or remove appropriations proposed by the budget department. So, no budget proposal for the PDAF, no pork barrel, no corruption.

Some members of the House of Representatives have already filed a bill prohibiting Malacañang from proposing a budget for the PDAF, but why go the roundabout way? Besides, the crooked and greedy congressmen, which compose the majority in the House, will surely vote down the bill. For years they have fattened on the pork barrel. Do you think they will willingly vote to abolish it?

The excuse for the pork is that it funds the projects of the legislators and helps their constituents. Pork funds supposedly finance roads and bridges, schools, textbooks, scholars, health centers, barangay halls, basketball courts, waiting sheds, etc. But being imitation public works and education secretaries is not the job of legislators. Their job is to enact laws, not to duplicate the work of the executive branch.

What will happen to their pet projects? they ask. There are regional development councils, as well as provincial, city, and municipal development councils, precisely to process and recommend local projects. Congressmen are members of all these councils. They can propose their projects in these councils and, if these are meritorious, these will be endorsed to the departments concerned. So the congressmen can still have their projects.

But the legislators want to implement the projects themselves even if that is not their job. They choose the contractor (the public bidding is a moro-moro), the place where the roads and bridges will be located, the printers who will produce the textbooks, etc.

The contractors and printers, etc. kick back to the congressman at least 30 percent of the project’s budget. In the case of the P10-billion scam allegedly involving JLN Corp., there are no projects at all. The projects and persons listed on the documents as beneficiaries are all fictitious, according to the affidavits submitted to the NBI. The congressman and senator get as much as 60 percent of the pork allocation, and the rest allegedly goes to the middleman, JLN. Nothing for any project.

Even when there is a real project, only half of the budget goes to the project itself. Thirty percent goes to the legislator, more to the public works engineers, local government officials, treasurers, clerks and others. The contractor makes do with what is left. That is why all government projects are substandard. The contractors have to cheat to make both ends meet. Many projects are not finished at all when the contractor runs out of money or runs away with it.

Each senator gets P200 million a year in pork funds, and each congressman, P70 million a year. Multiply those numbers with the number of senators and congressmen and you will have the total amount of pork funds spent every year. Only less than half of that goes to the projects, so you can imagine the billions of pesos lost to corruption.

Legislators claim the pork funds do not pass through their hands but go directly to the beneficiaries. Who are they kidding? The real beneficiaries, like the contractors, kick back to the legislator part of the budget as soon as they collect from the government, usually even before the construction starts.

Legislators claim that if they have no pork for their projects, their constituents will not reelect them. Not true. Senators Panfilo Lacson and Joker Arroyo never collected their pork funds but they were reelected, and probably would have been reelected more times if there were no term limits.

If P-Noy were to abolish the pork barrel, he would be so popular and loved by a grateful people, he would surely be reelected if there were no term limits to the presidency.

But why do presidents continue with the pork barrel system even when they know that it reeks of corruption? Because it is a means of making the legislators do their wishes. Cooperative legislators get their pork promptly; uncooperative ones don’t. Thus, the pork is being used to bribe legislators. Note that no pork allocation can be released without the President’s approval.

The presidents, including P-Noy if he does not stop the pork barrel system, are all guilty of bribery. Was P-Noy sincere when he said he would fight corruption?

Judge for yourself whether he is fighting or abetting corruption by continuing the hated pork barrel system.

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KAPIHAN NOTES: Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Vice Mayor Isko Moreno will tell the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond hotel on Monday what they plan to do to solve the city’s myriad problems such as, to name a few, flooding, squatting, criminality, traffic congestion, decaying slums, unemployment, and the flight of business establishments.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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