PDAF not the problem-A A +A
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
SAMUEL TAYLOR Coleridge once said “[t]o all new truths, or renovation of old truths, it must be as in the Ark between the destroyed and the about-to-be-renovated world.
The raven must be sent out before the dove, and ominously, controversy must precede peace and the olive wreath.”
This is why the pork barrel scam is one big blessing in disguise if, this time around, we will not again suffer from the disease of misdiagnosis.
I honestly believe the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) is not the problem.
For one, the PDAF has been held by the Supreme Court to be well within the constitutional power of Congress to control the purse.
The question on the constitutionality of the PDAF, then known as the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), was already raised to the High Court and it not only affirmed its constitutionality, it also cited its benefits.
According to the Supreme Court in Philconsa vs. Enriquez (G.R. No. 113105. August 19, 1994, En Banc), prior to the era of CDF (now PDAF), when all members of Congress were not given the mechanism to identify the projects that will be funded, “there was an uneven allocation of appropriations for the constituents of the members of Congress, with the members close to the Congressional leadership or who hold cards for horse-trading, getting more than their less favored colleagues.
“The members of Congress also had to reckon with an unsympathetic President, who could exercise his veto power to cancel from the appropriation bill a pet project of a representative or senator.”
The High Court stressed that the Countrywide Development Fund attempts to make equal the unequal.
It is also a recognition that individual members of Congress, far more than the President and their congressional colleagues, are likely to be knowledgeable about the needs of their respective constituents and the priority to be given each project.
PDAF is not the problem. As we all instinctively know, the problem is in our system of government accountability.
Every crisis of financial integrity always finds the government’s central auditing body standing at its fulcrum.
This is because one important component in the fight against corruption is detection.
Moreover, a serious look at the least corrupt countries of the world will show that, aside from detection, two other important pillars are certainty of prosecution and certainty of conviction.
And always, the tried and tested means of shaping a culture of national integrity is to send continuous stream of strong messages against corruption by frying the big fish.
This is why if an overhauling needs to be done, it should be done in the offices of the Commission on Audit (COA), Ombudsman, Department of Justice and Sandiganbayan.
The PDAF scam happened because the perpetrators did not fear getting caught.
Even if we scrap PDAF, the other systems that will be put in place to replace it will still be bastardized for as long as this culture of impunity is permitted to persist.
In a research report released by the Independent Commission Against Corruption, it was pointed out that what most certainly hampers the willingness to take action against corruption is the belief that reporting corruption is futile as nothing useful would be done about it.
This is why the pork barrel scam can in fact be our biggest blessing in disguise.
Scandals as massive as this can at times serve as the rallying point, the litmus test, the watershed event.
We can use this massive scandal to bring home the message that we are not hopeless, that in fact, something will be done on reports of massive corruption.
Barely eight months ago, news broke out that then Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile distributed P2.2 million in bonuses or cash gifts to his favored senators, this at a time when 23 million Filipinos or 27 percent of the Philippine population live below $1.35 or less than P54 a day and the country had a P241 billion-budget deficit.
Prior to that, the NBN-ZTE deal, fertilizer scam and a host of other multi-million controversies hugged the headlines. Where has the prosecution of these cases gone?
Indeed, what this country needs is a scandal as humungous as this pork barrel scam--now reportedly reaching P100 billion--to hold both COA and courts accountable to their sworn duty to bring the scammers to justice.
So, instead of calling for the scrapping of the pork, let us make a national countdown for the government to first, name and prosecute the biggest scammers together with the officials and employees of COA who made all possible.
Second, for the judiciary to impose the stiffest penalty at the soonest possible time.
Surely, massive scandals cannot be prosecuted at the same snail’s pace as the crimes committed by common thieves.
In fact, let us demand a marathon televised trial for these criminals.
Name them and shame them: this has always been how other decent countries of the world have been able to achieve significant house cleaning.
It is time we go beyond this discussion about the pork. Let us demand that our courts fry the big fish instead.
To be biblical about it, let us give our government 40 days to discern and get its act together. And for this, let the countdown begin.--Joan Largo
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 04, 2013.