We are part of the problem-A A +A
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
THIS happened a little more than two decades ago. A friend asked me to accompany him to the Carbon market where he was sent on an errand by one of his bosses in the government unit he was working with. The boss was going to Manila and, as what was his wont, wanted to bring the usual pasalubong of Cebuano delicacies to give to his superiors in Manila.
What surprised me when we went the rounds in Carbon was what my friend did. He had the units of the delicacies he bought priced higher in the receipt, with the collusion of his suki vendors. He must have been doing it a number of times already because he didn’t have any qualms doing it that time. He grinned like he won in hantak.
I recall that scene while mulling over the filing by the Department of Justice of plunder, malversation, direct bribery and other graft and corrupt practices cases against those involved in the P10 billion pork barrel scam “masterminded” by Janet Lim-Napoles. Many of those who call themselves anti-pork barrel are bristling with self-importance about it.
I was hoping that the fall of those hailed to court for the scam, specifically Sens. Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., would spark a reexamination of our very own contribution to this sordid mess. Nothing of that sort happened.
The scam “perpetrated” by Janet Lim-Napoles is actually but one instance of the widespread misuse of the pork barrel, called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Napoles-linked non-government organizations (NGOs) even represent only a small number of bogus NGOs used by lawmakers to get a percentage of the pork allocated to them.
Also, in the PDAF scheme, funds channeled to NGOs are for “soft” projects. But what about those allocated for “hard” projects like infra? How many billions of pesos have been poured into ghost infra projects nationwide through the years? Or if the projects were not “ghosts,” how many billions of pesos went to the “commissions” of lawmakers?
To widen our scope further, the pork barrel is but one of the sources of corruption in Congress. Funds for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) are another. In fact, “unfair” MOOE allocation sparked the recent conflict between former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and some senators. And didn’t former senator Panfilo Lacson expose the misuse by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago of her MOOE funds?
That is only for Congress. What about corruption in the other branches of government, meaning the executive and the judiciary? In his testimony before the Senate blue ribbon committee, Benhur Luy talked about Napoles dealing with some departments of the executive branch and with local government units. And that’s only Napoles.
What my friend did was corruption on a personal level and in a small scale. But the magnitude of government corruption in the Philippines ranges from small to big, and from the lower level to the higher level. Meaning that corruption has become so widespread I would say it is embedded as a “culture” in the bureaucracy and our politics.
What I am saying is that even many of the supposed anti-pork barrel elements may have committed corrupt acts in their own small ways or indirectly contributed to the existence of this culture of corruption. If they didn’t realize that, then they missed the point of the anti-pork barrel movement entirely.
Like, how many rank-and-file employees of government who are claiming to be anti-pork barrel have received bribes at one time or another for government transactions? How many businessmen and professionals who are joining the rallies bribed government employees or refused to pay the correct taxes? How many ordinary people sold their votes in the last elections?
The anti-pork barrel movement is not only for Napoles, Enrile, Estrada, Revilla, etc. It is also for all of us.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 18, 2013.