Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

P10 billion scam said to involve 5 senators and 23 House members may be just tip of iceberg, as COA Chief vows to reveal more names. There’s also talk about new scam involving 50 House solons. If, as radio show asserts, Napoles contributed P100 million to LP kitty last elections, can UNA be far behind as beneficiary of her largesse? Gov't. to borrow P714 billion while CCT will involve debt servicing of $1 billion. Join campaign to abolish pork of Congress and President's, even if it’s just suntok sa bwan.

COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan
On the eve of the President’s SONA there’s fierce outcry among Filipinos against scandals unearthed in recent days. The P10 billion scam allegedly involving five opposition senators and 23 House members appears to be just the tip of the iceberg, as COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan promises additional disclosures next week.

Pulido-Tan has been under great pressure to conduct full investigation of this scam and reveal all she knows---and this is only fitting and proper as anything less will not satisfy the people. For as Navotas Rep. and UNA spokesperson Toby Tiangco said recently, why does DOJ and lead agency NBI zero in only on opposition senators and representatives when by logic, given the loose control of public funds by Congress and the irresponsible manner of disbursing and monitoring by executive agencies, there doubtless are solons of various political hues implicated in this wanton abuse of public funds.


But the COA Chair and NBI may have to do even more spadework. Buzzing in the highest circles of this administration---and creating squabbles among the officialdom---are reports on an alleged extortion attempt in 2011 that came to light only last year, by several DOTC officials on a Czech company called Inekon, that was interested in a contract to supply coaches for a Metro Manila light rail line.

Then there’s talk in the House that a scandal hitting an NGO called “National Livelihood Development Corporation” would implicate some 50 House members in the past and present administrations. This week, too, Standard’s ace reporter Christine Herrera quoted Nueva Ecija Rep. Magnolia Antonino-Nadres, daughter of former Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, as demanding that Congress investigate the multi-million Internal Revenue Allotment and pork barrel scams in three municipalities and one city in Nueva Ecija.

Rep. Nadres, who ran under the National Unity Party that's allied with the majority coalition in the House, alleged that some P120 million in public funds were released to bogus NGOs by the President’s allies in 2012 alone. She asserted that “It would be unfair for the administration to go after members of the opposition when the President’s allies, some belonging to the ruling LP, were having a heyday releasing funds that were not even subjected to audit by COA.”


What Nadres’ revelation asserts is that scams involving public funds were not just a fact in the Macapagal-Arroyo administration (e.g., the P700 million fertilizer scam) but continue to happen in the ‘Daang Matuwid” administration of P-Noy---under the DBM of Secretary Butch Abad and the Departments of Agriculture and of Agrarian Reform, despite occasional show of independence by the COA Chief.

Aside from the Napoles scam reports, there’s also the conditional cash transfer (CCT or more popularly known as the "Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program" or 4-Ps), this year amounting to P45 billion but expected to hit P63 billion next year. The COA has been quite unhappy about the loose accounting of CCT funds. I must confess that as a constant and keen monitor of this program (through domestic staff in my family and those of relatives, who are under it), I am bothered about how disbursement of funds to enrolled families is so uneven and loosely administered.


For instance, a helper of mine began receiving P1, 200 last November for herself and her three children under the 4-Ps, but the next grant through her ATM was only P500 last March, because she had skipped a visit to the barangay center for her “injectable” contraceptive. Since March up to now, however, CCT grassroots people have been merely conducting endless seminars but no cash---prompting suspicion that all the funds were spent in the recent elections; but none of the lowly women dare complain.

No wonder that after P120 billion spent in CCT doleouts in six years, poverty has far from decreased; on the contrary there are many more poor Filipinos. 

The question is, are all the little subtractions in doleouts across the land returned to the overall CCT fund or do they line the pockets of those administering it at grassroots? What’s deplorable is that the P45 billion CCT funds this year, mostly borrowed from foreign sources, will require loan servicing costing $1 billion, or equivalent to the funds being dispensed for the poorest of the poor!

In fact, in this coming fiscal year’s budget, reports say the administration will again borrow P714 billion to finance its gargantuan expenses (yes, including the CCT, the solons’ and the President’s pork barrel funds and even the P3 billion allocated this year for contraceptives under the RH Law).

Indeed, each new Filipino baby to be born will already have a debt of P56,442 on its head.


Just how big the scam over public funds is, we citizen  can only roughly estimate. The other day, a radio personality cited buzzing reports that Janet Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10 billion scam, had contributed P100 million to the Liberal Party campaign in the last elections. We should hear what the LP under Chair Noynoy Aquino and incoming Senate President Franklin Drilon has to say on this serious allegation.

Standard columnist Jojo Robles spun this issue of the letter that Napoles had publicly admitted to have sent P-Noy last April, wherein she complained about harassment by NBI agents. According to Robles, whose news hound’s nose is ever so sharp, Palace sources told him P-Noy acted on Napoles’ complaint “with uncharacteristic haste,” compared how he sat on Sultan Kiram letters.

One common fate shared by the Napoles and Kiram letters was that the Palace couldn’t confirm or deny their existence.  But assuming Robles’ sources are correct, would Napoles’ P100 million contribution to the LP kitty be the reason for P-Noy's “uncharacteristic haste” in acting on her complaint?
But if Napoles indeed contributed to the LP kitty, would she fail to be just as generous to the UNA campaign? After all, several prominent UNA politicians are alleged to have participated in her scam?


All these scams have raised howls from the citizens, various organizations and churches and faiths, for the outright abolition of the pork barrel system.

We all know that through various administrations, politicians have benefitted from public works projects through the lagay system where they get a percentage of project costs. This is why PW projects are substandard---tinitipid ng contratista para may maibigay sa politico;  but at least that old system GAVE SOMETHING  to the people. But recent scams are innovative in that funds go to BOGUS or non-existent projects. That really hurts our people, most of whom are so poor and struggling for basic services.

Thus the public outcry for abolition of pork barrel beginning with the President’s own Presidential Social Fund worth P70 billion annually, the senators’ P200 million each and the representatives’ P80 million a year each, from this year’s National Budget.


But such clamor is well-nigh impossible to achieve. As BusinessWorld columnist Rene Azurin stressed, the whole system of pork barrel allocations severely compromises the watchdog role of Congress. Azurin describes how the racket works:  “Public funds dispensed at their discretion provide monetary incentives for congressmen to designate specific beneficiaries of these funds, and the more lucrative the incentive, the weaker the inclination to verify the legitimacy of the beneficiaries.” In other words, “Fake recipients make the biggest kickbacks possible.”

On the other hand, the President is not about to give up his own pork barrel as well as Congress’ pork, for this is his way of controlling the solons' vote on issues. Recall that in the three years under P-Noy,  staunch oppositionist Mitos Habana Magsaysay failed to get her pork barrel, along with Dato Arroyo and one or two more solons. Secretary Abad’s reason: “Mitos and the others have always voted against us.”

Recall too, how key Palace henchmen stayed in the House lounge all night during two crucial votings on the RH bill, dangling the pork in an impending election year or threatening to withhold it if they vote wrong.  Many of the solons were more frightened by this threat than by their bishops and they stayed away from voting.

Yes, let’s all campaign to abolish the pork even if it’s suntok sa bwan.

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1 comment:

  1. Kaya pala we are very far behind with our Asian neighbor in term sa pag-unlad ng ating bansa dahil sa talamak na koruption sa ating pamahalaan lalo na sa ating mga mambabatas. Bat kasi may pork barrel e ang dahilan kung bakit andian sila sa congresso ay gumawa ng batas, hindi ba sapat ang kanilang sahod o sadya bang ginawa ang systemang yan para magkapera ang mga mambabatas. Buti kung talagang ibibigay ng congressman and prok parel sa kanilang constituent, paanu kung sa paraan na ginawa nila n2ng 10 billion pork barrel scam e di kawawa ang mga constituents nila. I support your advocasy.