Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A more sinister "flood"

AS of press time the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) has reported that the total number of population affected by the flood has increased to 223,991 families or 1,060,094 persons in 35 cities from the regions of Ilocos, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Cordillera and the National Capital Region.  This storm-boosted southwest monsoon has flooded 514 geographical areas in 78 municipalities and cities in Luzon.  To date, damages have been estimated at P66 million with 88 roads that are still impassable.  There were 8 reported fatalities while 4 are still missing.  A big number of provinces, cities and municipalities have been declared under state of calamity.
While this is calamity enough, a larger social calamity is brewing in the offing that, unmistakably, is more devastating in all fronts for the whole country than the monsoon rains which impact could be substantially diminished if government funds were not funneled somewhere else.  The most inundated social disaster is the pork barrel scheme, which, according to Tony Lopez of Manila Times, has made Congress “the biggest criminal syndicate in the Philippines.”   And Commission on Audit (COA) Chief Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan confirms this when a recent news report quoted her as saying, “At least 12 senators and around 180 congressmen, through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) funneled P6.156 billion in pork barrel funds to 82 questionable NGOs from 2007 to 2009.
And that was during the time of President Arroyo when the pork barrel budget was only at the average of P7.8 billion annually. Under Aquino’s first three years, these have tripled to P24.8 billion.   In his 2011 budget, the first that he submitted to Congress, Aquino increased the budget for pork, which is officially called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), by 223 percent or from P6.9 billion in 201o to P22.3 billion.  In 2012, he raised the pork budget further to P24.89 billion.  Next year, it is set to climb to P30 billion.  But this is even peanuts according to Representative Neri Colmenares who recently disclosed in a press conference that more than P1 trillion of presidential pork barrel is hidden in the P2.268 trillion 2014 national budget, which Congress could not scrutinize.   In addition, he has also at his disposal more than P100 billion from the Malampaya funds.  It is no wonder then why social media is calling Aquino’s Philippines a Pork Barrel Republic.
And yet Aquino is not parting with the pork, despite the growing public realization that his “matuwid na daan” slogan is a farce after all.  It is seemingly sinking now to everybody’s consciousness that this is the root of the country’s misery.  People’s growing poverty aside that could have been alleviated if not for this “legalized” plunder, the pork barrel is eroding the country’s democratic processes in that the president uses it to control, bribe and make subservient the independent houses of congress and the supreme court.   The impeachment of Corona and the passage of the RH Law are glaring cases in point.  Presumably, there is more arm-twisting coming in Congress, which explains why the palace is unyielding.
The flood of popular outrage against presidential and congressional pork is gathering strength.  People from all walks of life are gathering at the Luneta on August 26.  The military and some established institutions are watching.  God forbid that this will end up in a more sinister “flood”.

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