Monday, December 21, 2015

Declaring PDAF unconstitutional

Declaring PDAF unconstitutional

If typhoon Yolanda lashed out its fury to devastate the provinces of Leyte, Samar and Capiz, maybe we can equally say the same about the Supreme Court when it declared unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund. The decision finally settled the lingering issue of pork barrel as illegal. It was an unexpected calamity that hit many of our incorrigibly corrupt politicians because it would deprive them of their dope that transformed public service to money-making.

It is pork barrel, cleverly disguised as PDAF, that attracts many to enter politics, thereby reducing many of them to filthy hogs wallowing in corruption. It is because of pork barrel that many of the incumbent politicians seek to establish their own political dynasty often characterized by warlordism. Everybody knows that our corrupted freewheeling democracy would usher in both wealth and power, a virtud Machiavelli would say, unmatched by any profession. It destroys all the virtue in us, and makes a mockery of the idealism and patriotism in our youth.

Specifically, the decision pertains to the annual allocation of funds to the members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate on projects they themselves introduce for legislation. That anomalous practice has been the greatest source of graft and corruption. Members of Congress have focused more on securing the release of those funds that are often diverted to bogus non governmental organizations, highlighted in the Napoles P10.5-billion pork barrel scam. The scheme has become an ugly ritual of parceling out the taxpayers’ money, like the carcass of a dead meat, thereby making Congress subservient to the wishes of the President.

The fear of being deprived of their share of the loot is most dreadful because it could spell the death of their political career, put an end to their political dynasty, their good life and opulence. In fact, no other employment could match such enormous amount of largess they receive on top of their regular salary. Notably, each senator receives about P200 million, while each congressman receive about P70 million. This does not include the added premium handed by the President to his minions in Congress from his equally corrupt practice known as the Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Of course, all are elated at the decision of the Supreme Court. As one observed, the High Court has finally regained its backbone and sanity to say no to corruption carried out with impunity and insult to public intelligence. However, the practice now goes all the way down to the barangay level. It was the members of that “august” chamber that led the pack such that all provincial boards, city and municipal councils, and barangay councils now have their own version of pork barrel. The basic question is, will the decision include and prohibit the practice of pork barrel down the line?

In Quezon City alone, each councilor receives anywhere between P20 million and P44 million annually. On the average, each receives about P22.2 million. While the same district represented by one congressman has P70 million pork barrel, the city allocates a total of P133.2 million for its six councilors in every district. Since Quezon City now has six districts, all in all it spends a total of P4.79 billion for its 36 “deputados” in the city council. Looking at the figures and giving the amount a ratio in relation to the number of constituents in every district, we could well surmise that the percentage of graft and corruption is much higher at the local level, in this instance in Quezon City.

This column has also gathered that there are 142 barangay districts in the city, and each receives his version of the pork barrel ranging from P4 million to P60 million, depending on their income. With that, we could surmise that each barangay receives an average of about P15 million, and multiply that with the total number of barangays that would reach a staggering amount of P2.13 billion to sustain those misguided clappers of the mayor that made the city the squatter and basura capital of the country. This explains why practically everybody now scrambles to be elected because they know there is much money – not to say power and inflluence – that awaits them once elected.

We are not saying this nefarious practice is a monopoly of Quezon City. All levels of government, where there is a council entrusted to enact ordinance, now demand their counterpart of the pork barrel, all parroting the line of wanting to serve their constituents. It is for this why there is a need for the Supreme Court to elaborate its decision. It would be odd and ridiculous to prohibit Congress from appropriating pork barrel laws while allowing provincial boards, city and municipal councils, and barangay councils to continue the practice of fattening themselves with public funds all on the flimsy reason that the decision did not tackle their practice even inferentially. Maybe this explains why former mayor and now Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte has his Plan B to possibly defy or circumvent the decision.

In fact, the Supreme Court could do more to leave a lasting legacy by also declaring as unconstitutional, viz. illegal, the novel criminal practice by President Aquino to release funds from his own bloated budget without any appropriations. The honorable magistrates should bear in mind that it was the use of DAP that tilted the vote to kick out one of their own. The revelation of bribe money rendered irrelevant the issue about the guilt or innocence of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona, but of the fact that our honorable senators miserably placed themselves to the level of kotongeros.

Should they renege on their duty not to declare unconstitutional the criminal practice of PNoy to release funds without an appropriation, it would do well to remind those magistrates that they themselves stupidly placed the Sword of Damocles above their heads. Should they cause the ire of a vindictive President, it will be their heads that will roll next. So, it is with more reason now for them to declare as unconstitutional and illegal the criminal practice that is fast turning to one of financial dictatorship.

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