The call of the people-A A +A
Monday, August 26, 2013
I HAVE no problem with politicians who change their minds. Lone Bacolod Rep. Evelio Leonardia accepted the signs of the times. “Let us heed the will of the people,” he said last week on the abolition of the pork barrel.
This is the same congressman who said in early August that “As soon as you abolish the pork barrel, that is depriving Bacolod City of P70 million,” to explain why he disagreed with the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) aka the controversial pork barrel.
But did Leonardia really change his mind. After all, he rationalized that the “pork barrel per se is not really bad. But if abused, that is something we should watch out for,” Leonardia said.
Back then, he batted for strict corrective measures over the pork barrel because he believes the largesse is not bad per se, “it is only the abuse that makes it wrong.”
However, he’s still for its retention. Leonardia even argues that he’s the collateral damage. He now says he has been “bundled up with some bad apples who abused in the past, now we are being made to feel the negative effects.”
“To compensate for the loss, considering that our constituents in Bacolod still need to be served, I’ll shop around at the national government agencies for programs and projects that could benefit our city,” Leonardia said.
Uh oh. Does that sound like heeding the call of the people? Last I heard, as a legislator, his job is not to fund raise but to legislate.
Compare the Leonardia philosophy with that of Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Abelardo Benítez who insists that the dispensing of the pork barrel fund by congressmen is a secondary function, their primary focus is legislation.
But there is pork barrel, and there is PDAF and then the Countryside Development Fund established under the Corazon Aquino administration.
What’s in a name? They’re all different names of the same pork barrel.
In fact, I should be impressed that our local solons are heeding the call for the abolition of pork barrel but I’m not. It sounds too good to be true. Let us heed the lessons of history.
In 1996, the Philippine Daily Inquirer published an exposé on systematic corruption in the CDF, with Marikina Representative Romeo D. Candazo elaborating how legislators and other government officials earned from overpricing projects in order to receive large commissions.
Public outrage over the misuse of the CDF was instrumental in the enactment of reforms. And the reforms led to the abolition of CDF and the formation of the PDAF.
But has PDAF reformed the abuses of the CDF? Not on your life. Just ask Janet Lim-Napoles.
The reformed pork barrel just became slicker. Instead of local government units, the vector used for siphoning taxpayers money were the creation of sham NGOs to perpetuate the scam.
So when our politicians say they’re heeding the call of the people, please suppress your laughter and scorn. The burden of proof lies with our solons to prove they will not resurrect a zombie, the living undead of a funding mechanism for abusing government money.
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Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 26, 2013.