Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Scrapping of pork barrel funds untimely

Supreme Court of the Philippines
The latest Supreme Court's ruling that declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also more popularly known as the "pork barrel funds",unconstitutional was unexpected.

At this time, when the Philippines is faced with the on-going problem on massive rehabilitation and rebuilding of the infrastructures damaged by the strongest super typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) that ever hit the Philippines, the government will surely be rendered helpless in carrying out its mission to fast-track whatever it has started to normalize the grim situation in Tacloban City and the outlying towns and villages in Eastern Visayas.

As of press time, the Camp Aguinaldo-based National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) has confirmed the death toll at 4,011, with more than 18,000 injured and more than a thousand people still missing. In fact, the magnitude of destruction brought by Yolanda in Central Visayas was much
stronger than that of hurricane Katrina in New Jersey, and the tremors in Japan and Haiti combined.

It is no wonder why at least 28 countries worldwide had come together to lend their assistance to the thousands of survivors through the distribution of relief goods, water and medical supplies to the badly hit areas.

Prior to typhoon Yolanda, the Aquino administration was already beset by the onslaught of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake which destroyed most parts of Bohol and Cebu provinces. Combine both situations and we'll surely come up with a scenario wherein the government could be overwhelmed by the magnitude of
the problems at hand.

In the absence of the pork barrel funds, it would be doubly difficult for the government to mobilize the resources available to accomplish things. At the least, what the Executive Branch can do is to call for an emergency session in Congress so that a supplemental budget could be deliberated and approved in a haste. But haste is something that the opposition group doesn't want done, if only to render the administration inutile.

As far as I'm concerned, when many people are dying for immediate assistance shall the government come to a quorom in order to thresh out the nitty gritties of a particular law that can grant the release of billions of funds from the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA) to be utilized for the massive rebuilding of the
cities of Tacloban in Northern Leyte, Ormoc in Southern Leyte; Guian and other nearby towns in Eastern Samar, where the first landfall took place.

Of course, it is easier said than done. In fact, most of the opposition lawmakers had expressed satisfaction over the SC's decision to make the PDAF unconstitutional. According to them, the complete abolition of the pork barrel funds would now undermine the administration's strategy to engage in "political patronage", which could favor only those lawmakers identified with the Liberal Party and its coalition groups by showering them with alleged "bribes."

Some of the opposition lawmakers had even insisted that the social funds of President Aquino, which amount to billions,  be scrapped, too. Are they hallucinating that the social funds of the P-Noy be used for the Liberal Party candidates' own advantage in the 2016 elections?

Seriously, without the pork barrel funds or social funds, development programs of the government will hit some snags, if not grind to a halt, because some critics are only keen on dragging the accomplishments of the present administration even if they're for the benefits of the impoverished majority. Surely, they will exhaust all means to pull down its legs every time the administration tries to leap beyond.

Without a choice, the SC ordered the remaining pork barrel funds for 2013 be returned to the national treasury. It even ordered for a thorough investigation of those lawmakers who misused their pork barrel funds while in public office. As this is being written, at least a number of lawmakers have yet to answer the formal criminal charges filed against them before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Well, the whistleblowers' testimonies against the mastermind of the P10 billion pork barrel fund scam--Janet Lim Napoles--could be considered a "blessing in disguise." Otherwise, Napoles and her cohorts in the scam may again capitalize on the recent calamities that hit the Philippines to advance their sinister plans to bleed the government of some more billions in taxpayers' money to fill up their greed.

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