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September 03, 2015, Thursday
  • Hundreds of fishermen join the protest at the Quirino Grandstand vs. supposed restrictive provisions in Amended Fisheries Code. 6 hours ago |
  • Magnitude 6.1 earthquake jolts Sarangani. 6 hours ago |
  • DOTC Sec. Joseph Abaya eyes the awarding of the long-term maintenance contract for MRT 3 within the year. 6 hours ago |
  • Gov’t Procurement Policy Board okays the negotiated mode of procurement for P 2.2B maintenance contract for MRT 3. 6 hours ago |
  • Number of injured in Marikina road accident stands at 14. 6 hours ago |
  • PNP says 10-wheeler trucks like the one that figured in Marikina mishap are not allowed to travel in Barangka. 6 hours ago |
  • Reckless imprudence resulting in homicide & multiple injuries to be filed vs. truck driver involved in Marikina road accident. 6 hours ago |
  • Marikina PNP says cctv shows the 10-wheeler truck involved in Marikina accident was speeding at 60 kph along a curved overpass. 6 hours ago |
  • Marikina PNP identifies the driver of 10-wheeler truck involved in accident in Barangka, Marikina as Fernando Padilla. 6 hours ago |
  • Senators Enrile, Revilla & Fmr. Sen. Edgardo Angara among the respondents in a malversation case linked to PDAF. 6 hours ago |
  • Atty. Levito Baligod asks Ombudsman to probe the alleged misuse of P 500M worth of PDAF by NGOs not related to Napoles. 6 hours ago |
  • Malversation charges filed at Ombudsman vs. 20 incumbent & former lawmakers over alleged questionable use of PDAF. 7 hours ago |
  • Lack of documentary requirements cited as reason why CA did not confirm Comelec Chairman Andy Bautista’s appointment. 11 hours ago |
  • Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile blocks the confirmation of Comelec Chairman Andy Bautista at the Commission on Appointments. 11 hours ago |
  • Jose Maria Abaya surrenders in Camp Caringal, QC after the shooting incident in White Plains that resulted in a woman’s death. 11 hours ago |
  • Inquest proceedings ongoing for Jose Maria Abaya who fired his unlicensed gun at a van in White Plains, QC. 12 hours ago |
  • Victims of road accident in Barangka, Marikina taken to Amang Rodriguez Medical Center & QMMC. 12 hours ago |
  • Driver of 10-wheeler truck that figured in accident along Barangka, Marikina still pinned inside his vehicle as of Wednesday noon. 12 hours ago |
  • PNP Highway Patrol Group (HPG) to begin manning traffic flow at EDSA beginning Monday. 12 hours ago |
  • At least 2 killed as a 10-wheeler truck loses break & rams into 4 other vehicles at overpass going to Barangka in Marikina. 12 hours ago |
  • Some fishermen at Navotas Fish Post preferred to send 'protection' or financial aid to fellow fishermen protesting at Luneta. 14 hours ago |
  • Many fishermen at Navotas Fish Port did not join the 'fish holiday.' 14 hours ago |
  • Maynilad and Manila Water say rotating water supply interruptions may begin next week. 14 hours ago |
  • Maynilad & Manila Water say they will advise customers two days before they implement any 'rotating' water interruption. 14 hours ago |
  • Glitch occurs in new ticketing system that uses 'beep cards' in LRT 2 Santolan Station in Marikina City. 14 hours ago |
  • PNP says it can readily deploy at least 80 Highway Patrol Group members to take charge of traffic flow in EDSA. 14 hours ago |
  • Atty. Levito Baligod to submit to Ombudsman the affidavits of witnesses linking 20 current & past lawmakers to pork barrel scam. 14 hours ago |
  • Murder & illegal possession of firearms filed vs. Jojo Abaya who fired at a van at Katipunan Ave. in QC & killed a female passenger. 14 hours ago |
  • Woman dies as son of a ret. general fires at a van he thought was from a drug rehab center that was fetching him at Katipunan Ave. in QC. 15 hours ago |

Investigating the pork barrel scandal

Aug. 06, 2013 at 12:01am
The pork barrel is not a unique Philippine phenomenon. In the United States, pork barrel allocations are known as earmarks that are funds provided by members of Congress to be spent on specific projects in their home districts. Because such projects are not vetted more rigorously as federal spending, pork barrel projects are easy targets of critics against wasteful government spending. For example the Citizens Against Government Waste has been publishing an annual “Pig Book,” taking note of the silliest projects funded by earmarks such as a $1.65 million grant to “improve the shelf life of vegetables” and $50 million for an “indoor rainforest” in Iowa.

That recent brouhaha about the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or the pork barrel funds is a cyclic phenomenon. As a matter of practice, Congress enacts the Appropriation Act but the PDAF is given in lump sum with no specific projects listed where they will be allocated. While the Department of Budget and Management is given a list of projects for pork barrel funding, the legislator is given enough latitude in identifying his or her pet projects. Along the way, kickbacks and commissions change hands. That to this day no lawmaker has been directly linked to corruption involving the PDAF is, according to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), not due to congressmen’s best behavior, but on a technical detail in the audit system: it is the implementing agency that is audited.

In the book “Pork and Other Perks,” the PCIJ reveals that as early as 1998, then Finance Secretary Salvador Enriquez said that “up to 45 percent of pork barrel funds might have been lost to ‘commissions,’ especially in the case of the money set aside for school and other instruction materials.” He added that kickbacks from public-works projects eat up an average of 30 percent of the total project cost. One will just wonder -- how much of these funds have been lost to corruption since then?

That the use of PDAF by some senators and members of Congress is now again the subject of controversy is not surprising. For so long, the misuse and abuse of pork barrel allocations have been the fodder of rumors and have in fact become the accepted norm. That is why the resolution filed by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago that would phase out pork barrel of lawmakers by 2016 might just be a step in the right direction. Yet even President Aquino, who is supposedly a staunch anti-corruption advocate, is not so keen on scrapping the PDAF. Irrespective of the merits or demerits of pork barrel politics, when back scratching, pork-barrel rolling are prerequisites to win in an election, compounded by too much discretion on the part of legislators, lack of transparency and accountability, corruption becomes an inevitable by-product.

In the meantime, who will investigate the loss of the P10 billion PDAF funds supposedly used by some senators and congressmen for phantom projects? Logic dictates that Congress cannot launch a probe on itself because of conflict of interest. To quote a Facebook post of the respected journalist Marites Vitug: “An independent and credible body should investigate the pork barrel scam, get to the bottom of this multi-billion peso theft of public coffers. If congress or the senate does it, it would be like asking the mafia to probe themselves and police their ranks.” Indeed, it would certainly be a mistake for the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee or its counterpart body in the House of Representatives to conduct a probe that will eventually implicate many of the members of both bodies. One option is for the investigation to be conducted by the Ethics Committees of both houses of Congress but that would still be questionable as the same conflict of interest obstacles would still be present. Likewise, a probe conducted by the Executive branch would be suspect because many of the departments are perceived as active conspirators in the misuse of PDAF funds.

In my view, the way forward is for Congress to pass a resolution creating an independent and non-partisan fact finding body that will investigate the scandal with impartiality and independence. Such a resolution is necessary because that body must be given adequate powers (to subpoena witnesses and documents, for example) to get to the bottom of the scandal.  Once the investigation is completed, the report of the body containing recommendations on who should be prosecuted and suggested legislation to prevent repetition should be submitted simultaneously to Congress and to the Ombudsman for appropriate action.

A final note: as upset and angry as the citizenry should be about the pork barrel scandal, there is need to caution everyone not to make a sweeping indictment of the whole of Congress or the Executive department. Universalizing corruption is not only unfair but, ironically, such over-generalization will result in no one being held accountable. It would be absurd to investigate everyone. And if everyone were corrupt, who would do the investigating?

Facebook: Dean Tony La Vina Twitter: tonylavs
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