Posts Tagged Pork Barrel

Living Without Pork and Congress is the biggest criminal syndicate

Living Without Pork

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson
Privilege speech
March 11, 2003

Mr. President, I rise today on a question of personal and collective privilege.

Last week, we passed the Senate version of the General Appropriations Bill of 2003. No less than the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and principal sponsor of the bill aptly described the 2003 budget as “bare-bones”, thus appealing to his colleagues to contribute their share to arrest the projected budget deficit which our economic managers expect to hit the PhP300B mark by year-end.

I now answer the call.

I call for the scrapping of a very corrupt and corrupting system in our political institutions. All I ask are a few minutes of your precious time – and of your mind.

We now must move to abolish the pork barrel system. We must see its end during our watch without need to mourn its loss. It is a virus of corruption that must die.

And, there is no better hall on this space on earth to make it happen than the Senate – expectedly, a place of men and women with mature age, with honor, with dignity, with integrity. Further, there is no better time to declare its end than now – when the country’s budget deficit is at an alarmingly uncontrollable pace. For the past year, it was PhP213B. Of course, we do not believe the numbers.

One thing, I may say is apodictic. It is still counting. There is nothing in the pork barrel system that gives us pride. There is only everything that makes us hide in shame.

It should not matter anymore under what name the system sounds. Be it the Countrywide Development Fund, or the Congressional Initiative Allocation, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund. It is, and will remain to be a fund of compulsive corruption.

The name itself traces its origin to the pre-civil war days in the United States when, in periodic fits of generosity, white masters would give their black slaves salted pork in barrels. More often than not, the eagerness of the slaves would result in ugly shoving and rushing to grab more pork than the others. The more pork one could grab for himself, the more triumphant he would appear than the others who were meek and reluctant.

We may not realize it, but the Filipino people would sometimes see us behave like slaves rushing to the pork barrel. A critic has a worse description – that of swines rushing to get more slabs than they can consume.

Mr. President, our countrymen expect to see every peso of their taxes wisely spent on every project. They become profoundly disillusioned every time they are robbed of it.

Let me say now what they hate to hear. But they must hear what we have been afraid to say.

Under the pork barrel system, only less than half of the taxpayers’ money actually goes to the programs of work. More than half habitually goes to the pockets of corruption. Occasionally, depending on the insatiability of the corrupt, a shameful twenty percent of the fund is left to finance the project. Holy mackerel!

We can pretend all day not to know. But the Filipino people have never been stupid not to see through such pretense.

Let me give the breakdown. It is nasty.

• 2% goes to the Commission on Audit as S.O.P.
• 10% is given to the district engineer and other officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
• 2% is passed on to the Barangay Chairman.
• 14% goes to the contractor – 10% in profit and 4% as value-added tax, thank God!
• 5-10%, if the Mayor or Governor so demands.
• And – hold your breath – 20% of project cost is earmarked for the legislator who identifies the project.
Shares sometimes vary depending on greed.

Even the billboards that advertise the proponents of infrastructure projects are overpriced.

Legislators who allocate funds for the purchase of medicines and other pharmaceutical products, as well as school supplies get bigger takes. By how much, Mr. President? Some suppliers say, it is, “from here to eternity.”

In a book published in 1998 by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, entitled, “Pork and Other Perks,” the author wrote about vivid accounts of actual pay-offs involving legislators. Thus, a pay-off usually takes place inside the office of legislators. The more sophisticated ones prefer hotel rooms and restaurants. Sulo Hotel in Quezon City is said to be a favorite.

“Pork barrel” every year runs to billions of pesos. I hate to say it. The people hate to hear it. But they lose billions of pesos anyway. They lose these billions to the many deep pockets of corruption.

Mr. President, my esteemed colleagues, there is no saying here that every senator or congressman is corrupt. It is only to say that we have all become suspect. The public has every basis and right to suspect. And we seem not to mind anymore.

Mr. President, those with clear conscience among us do not need to rage. They only need to help those without it.

In this regard, may I take this opportunity to thank the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and some of our colleagues who have expressed support to this advocacy.

One colleague, Senator Joke Arroyo has done something truly admirable: he had not allocated a single centavo from his “pork barrel” allocation for the past year. However, I cannot help but wonder how his PhP200M pork was realigned since it was part and parcel of the 2002 GAA. That is the reason why I want my allocation this year deducted from the proposed 2003 GAA. I have an unsolicited advice to the distinguished gentleman from Makati and the Bicol region – why not slash the 2003 national budget by PhP211M more?

To all of us in this august chamber, maybe we can help alleviate the burgeoning budget deficit by waiving our 2003 pork barrel fund allocations. We can actually do our share, no matter how small, in balancing the budget by doing just that. With twenty-three senators, at PhP211M each, four billion, eight hundred fifty-three million (PhP4.853B) will automatically be deducted from the 2003 national budget.

The Speaker of the House, Jose de Venecia, can equally display his statesmanship by doing the same in the lower house. With more than 200 congressmen, at PhP65M each, that would be another PhP13B at least. Let us be the first to sacrifice for the sake of tiding us over a financial nightmare. I, therefore, call on the Senate and the House of Representatives to voluntarily give up the pork.

Mr. President, it is a simple choice between self-respect and self-aggrandizement.

That is exactly my point. Those among us whose hands remain untainted and unsoiled by the fruits of corruption from the evil “pork” must now be insulated from the temptation it may bring upon us. How? Let’s try scrapping the “pork.” There is life without it!

We all know who we are and what we are on this issue. That is one thing we are all sure about. Mine are not speculations – I definitely have my own sources. The figures I brought out earlier are never a figment of my imagination.

If the “pork barrel” stinks, how much longer must we suffer the stench? I believe it is time to abolish it altogether.

Mr. President, we were elected by the Filipino people to make good laws for the common good and never to make gold under the “pork barrel” system. We are here to make laws, not to build roads and bridges.

We were voted into office to provide check and balance under the principle of powers; and not to accept fat checks to enhance our bank account balance.

Former French President and Prime Minister, the late Jean-Raymond Pompidou, was correct. There is a whale of difference between a politician and a statesman. He said, “while a statesman places himself at the service of the nation, a politician places the nation at his own personal service.”

With the “pork barrel” system, we are all perceived as dirty, corrupt and greedy politicians. Without it, we can all become better statesmen and public servants.

Whenever our committees investigate anomalies in government, does it not occur to us how equally guilty they think the legislators could be?

Mr. President, pardon my asking. There are all kinds of arguments to defend the “pork.” Its advocates invent new methods and formulas to make every legislator happy. Ironically, in the mind of every Filipino, they are all mad and madly corrupted by it.

I know that the pork barrel system has never been legally flawed. In fact, the Supreme Court has ruled on its constitutionality. But the Supreme Court never ruled that scrapping the “pork barrel” system would be unconstitutional either.

I can only hope the Senate leadership will take a serious look at this proposal and not simply toss it to the dust heap of the Philippine Senate history.

I am sure to lose some friends and create more enemies in this 12th Congress. I am sure skeptics will taunt me and the cynics will mock me without end.

I remember BAYAN MUNA Party-list Representative Crispin Beltran, he who declared the lowest asset in the lower house at eighty-one thousand pesos, said in a media interview immediately after my position on the “pork barrel” issue first came out, and I quote, “mabuti pa si Lacson ay may ibang pinagkakakitaan na illegal. Paano naman kami na sa “pork barrel” lamang umaasa?” Realizing that what he said was an instant give-away, he paused and started to stutter. Another congressman commented that this representation would not need to make money from the “pork barrel” because supposedly, “I have a lot in some foreign banks.”

Mr. President, if this is my misfortune, so be it. It is not the one I cannot possibly learn to live with.

Mr. President, I derive no pleasure in telling what I have told. I am sure many colleagues derive no pleasure in hearing what they just heard. But the people surely hate what they already know about.

It is time to bring the “pork barrel” system down. Or, we all go down under.

We can surely live without “pork.” Certainly, there is life without it.

Thank you very much!

Congress is the Philippines’ biggest criminal syndicate

August 20, 2013 1:24 am

by TONY LOPEZ
VIRTUAL REALITY

The biggest criminal syndicate in the Philippines is not any of those crime groups listed regularly by the Philippine National Police.  It is Congress.

As a syndicate, Congress is really massive—24 senators and 289 congressmen. This group of con men and women help themselves with money called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAP) to the tune of P25 billion, if not more, a year. The simple word for PDAF is pork barrel.

In ancient times, the term referred to a barrel of goodies larded with pork so it becomes greasy and difficult for those trying to grab it. Slaves competed to get the barrel. I suppose applying lard around the barrel was the equivalent of leveling the playing field.

In today’s parlance, pork barrel has become billions of pesos. It is grease money so that our congressmen and senators—our slaves or public servants—do their work. Instead, these senators and congressmen have become our masters—veritable Mafia bosses who keep driving us citizens to greater penury, misery and economic enslavement.

The senators and congressmen come from no more than 70 families—our dynasties and political elite.

Since we have had a Congress for the past 83 years and nothing has happened to the Philippines—in terms of greater income equality, substantial job creation (12 million Filipinos today are either jobless or underemployed), massive reduction in poverty (China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Azerbaijan have proved that you can reduce poverty by 90 percent in just ten years), one can argue that you can eliminate our Congress and it won’t make a difference to the lives of ordinary Filipinos. In fact, my life, your life, our lives could be better.

Imagine the savings if Congress did not exist. We already have more than 15,000 laws, anyway, one law for every active lawyer we have in this country. And more laws than we probably need in a lifetime. Any act of man, and sometimes, even acts of God, are already covered by an existing law.

Our Congress is there just to pursue its criminal operation, a plunder of mind-boggling scale and gall. To paraphrase a famous quote of President BS Aquino in his last State of the Nation: “Where do these people get the thick skin of their faces?”

The rate of plunder is P200 million per year per senator, the pork barrel allowance. Multiply that by six years—the term of a senator, and the amount becomes truly gargantuan—P1.2 billion. Multiply that by two—the allowable maximum terms of a senator and the amount becomes even more gargantuan, P2.4 billion. There are 24 senators so the entire loot amounts to P4.8 billion per year. Or P28.8 billion in six years.

In some cases, there are siblings among the senators, so a single family—out of the 22 million (million) families in the Philippines—takes away P5.8 billion in 12 years. This P5.8 billion is an amount far more than what all of the more 300,000 small and medium enterprises can make in their entire corporate life.

The rate per congressman is P70 million per year or P210 million in three years (the one term of a congressman). Congressmen are allowed three consecutive terms or nine years. So multiply P70 million by nine years and you get P630 million—per congressmen.

There are 289 congressmen so the total loot in a year is P20.23 billion. Add the senators’ loot of P4.8 billion and you get P25.03 billion for the entire Congress. Per year.

For the years 2007 to 2009, our Commission on Audit conducted an audit on the PDAF and so-called Various Infrastructures, including Local Projects (VILP). PDAF is for so-called “soft” projects like education, health, livelihood, social services, financial assistance to address pro-poor programs, peace and order, culture and the arts. VILP is the “hard” portion or public works. VILP is why it’s more fun—rather, fund—in Congress.

In the COA audit for 2007 to 2009, those who participated in the plunder involved three cabinet ministries—Department of Agriculture, Department of Public Works and Highways, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

DA has become synonymous with hunger (4.9 million Filipino families or 25 million Filipinos had nothing to eat at one time in the last three months, according to the Social Weather Stations).

DPWH has become synonymous with highway robbery— the kind perpetrated by our senators and congressmen. And the social welfare of DSWD could as well stand for “private welfare” of our 70 elite political families.

Aside from the three cabinet departments, also involved in the massive looting of taxpayers’ money were four government corporations—Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC), National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC), National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCor), and Zamboanga del Norte Agricultural College Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC).

Plus five provincial governments—Tarlac, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental; and eight city governments—Mandaluyong City, Manila (including 12 barangay), Las Piñas, Tabaco, Iriga, Naga, Panabo. Plus 94 barangay of Quezon City.

The COA audit for 2007 to 2009 validated P101 billion in VILPs (infra funds) released by the Department of the Budget nationwide, P12 billion in PDAF released to DA, DPWH and DSWD; and P2.36 billion from allocation for Financial Assistance to LGUs and budgetary support to GOCCs.

An anonymous person, Luis Abalos, who was not a congressman in the 13th and 14th Congress, received P20 million. I guess this is the equivalent of a ghost payroll, the kind of shenanigan only our Congress is capable of.

Of the P12 billion PDAF released by DBM, only P8.374 billion or 69 percent was audited. Of the P101.6 billion in infra funds (VILPs) released, only P32.66 billion (32 percent) was audited.

In other words, the leakage or “bribe” is 30 percent for PDAF and 68 percent for infra funds of senators and congressmen. Three senators and six congressmen helped themselves with P1.393 billion of infra funds.

About P6.156 billion was transferred by three Cabinet departments—DA, DPWH and DSWD —to 82 non-government organizations (NGOs). The P6.156 billion came from the PDAFs of 12 senators and 180 congressmen.

Ten NGOs received a total of P2.157 billion. All ten are linked to Janet Lim Napoles.

Six other NGOs got P189 million. These six included those owned by the legislators or with a relative as incorporator or officer. In other words, the senator or the congressmen gave the money to himself. The gall talaga.

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