Saturday, 31 August 2013

Commentary: Pork barrel rolled across Mambulao

The 72m-long seawall along the line of squatter shanties that dotted the Parang beach, this structure will stop the surge of destructive waves towards the houses during typhoons. – MWBuzzpic by ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ


THE landscape of the scandal-rocked pork barrel system would be greatly altered if President Noynoy Aquino has his way.

From being dealt out by the president to senators and congressmen - as has been the practiced over the years – pork allocation will now have to be included in the national budget.

Here, the use of the money would be subjected to the so-called “line-item budgeting”, a fine-comb system to separate the spurious projects from the legit ones.

Earlier, Aquino told the nation that the notorious Priority Development Fund Assistance (PDAF) has been abolished.

In truth, it was not – the announcement was the Palace’s bid to cushion the surge of anger from the people who found out too late that the pork barrel money raised from their taxes had actually been benefiting only the chosen few.

And so the President’s PDAF scrapping tale he dished out on TV was not true – it just assumed a new personality, a new mentality but same dead end – somebody’s hungry pocket.

Accordingly, of the P25.2 billion government money allocated for pork barrel for 2014, a great part of it could not be used by senators and congressmen even if it was already earmarked as pork barrel.

Funny, it was Budget Secretary Florencio Abad who deciphered P-Noy’s mind for the bemused, mouth-agape Filipinos by hinting at a scenario where senators and congressmen would still have the right to choose what projects to bankroll next year with the money.

And at the end of this scrutiny-laden pork process, they could still get their dirty hand in the cookie jar and pocket much of the money – if not all, as what had happened in the Janet Napoles pork barrel-NGO saga, a story that devoured the entire nation as it unfolded with changing plot, twists, turns and new players.

Locally, the congressmen who have districts in their provinces to look after for development funding could always come up with projects purported to benefit their constituents.

Some of them may be sincere in bringing such positive changes in the community.

While others would still scheme to pocket a part of it, using tried and tested strategy they have mastered with finesse in their previous handling of the pork.

Anyway, despite the evil that surrounded the pork barrel system, it has in more ways than one benefited many municipalities across the country.

And the dripping of the money into the various community development initiatives by the governors and mayors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) was no doubt facilitated by friendly or sympathetic senators and congressmen.

Mambulao is among the hundreds of municipalities that pushed some of their development projects fueled by pork barrel, courtesy of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Chiz Escudero and Teofisto “TG” Guingona among the few, and local congressmen.

During his first term as mayor, Ricarte “Dong” Padilla chased these lawmakers for some “manteca” (pork lard) that the local government badly needed to work its various social and community projects -- road-building and bridge-building among them.

The latest of this to get pork allocation was the 2km San Pedro-Baranggay Silang Dos (Labo town) concrete road that would connect Mambulao to the Maharlika Highway, one that would serve as a diversion road in future.

The funding came from Enrile, estimated between P15 million and P20 million.

During the nine years of William A Lim as Mambulao mayor, he also sought pork barrel money from friendly lawmakers for his projects and initiatives designed to benefit Mambulaoans.

And CamNorte Governor Edgardo “Egay” Tallado, from the year 2011 to early this year, claimed to have poured into Mambulao at least P159.5 million in so-called development initiatives.

Much of the funding came from pork barrel allocations of the Office of the President, specifically the Office of the Presidential Affairs on Peace Process (OPAPP), Enrile and other lawmakers and money from the General Appropriations Act, through the Agrarian Reform Community Projects (ARC), National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Department of Health.

Enrile’s pork of P7 million went to seven farm-to-market roads, namely: Bagong-bayan FMR; Plaridel FMR; Osmena FMR; San Isidro FMR; Sta Rosa FMR; Luklukan Sur; and Luklukan Norte.

Another pork-fueled project was the asphalting of a 2.5km road linking San Rafael to Sta Rosa at a cost of K10.9 million.

In San Martin, pork barrel had also funded the rehab of a washed-out 175m-concrete pipe culvert and spillway at a cost of K3.3 million.

And from the president’s pork barrel, P20 million was purportedly spent on the Sta Rosa-San Rafael, a 2.8km farm-to-market road; and another P7 million went to the construction of the San Isidro-Sta Cruz FMR.

At baranggay Parang, a sea-wall of 72-meter long was built for P4.9 million. Rising along the line of squatter shanties that dotted the Parang beach, this structure will stop the surge of deadly waves towards the houses during typhoons.

And the muncipality’s Rural Health Unity (RHU) was extended and renovated for P2.3 million in 2011.

An evacuation center at Motherlode was built in 2011 at a cost of P2.5 million.

Pork also benefited seven barangays when their multi-purpose building/covered court/evacuation centers were built for P6.23 million. These barangays were Larap (P2.5 million); Dayhagan (P500,000); JPES South Poblacion (P700,000); Sta Rosa Norte (P1 million); Calero (P1 million); Nakalaya (coming up); and Sta Elena (Senior Citizens Hall 0 P50,000).

Of course, without the pork, the provincial government won’t be able to fund an array of small community projects and financial aids here and there -- from the purchase of toilet bowls to the construction of a terminal for tricycle operators (Osmena) and baranggay outpost, to the purchase of JetMatic Pumps and uniforms of Senior citizens, to the construction of day-care center and classrooms.

This did not include several thousand pesos that went towards free medicines and dental care program during the provincial government’s so-called multi service caravan at baranggays in and out of Mambulao poblacion.

On this alone, the provincial government said in a recent report that it spent a total of P2.45 million, or 1.53 percent, of the P159.5 million that went to Mambulao for development from 2010 to 2012

It is true that any organization such as the provincial government and the municipal local government won’t be able to function properly as government unless they have enough funds to run their affairs.

It is for this reason that the pork barrel has been institutionalized as a necessary tool of progress as well as a necessary evil -- to buy favors of senators and congressmen – something that no President of the Philippines could do without.

Pork barrel is one assurance to his political survival; it is his umbilical cord to his constituents – the Filipino people.

And for the senators and congressmen, it is a means to give flesh to what they have promised to the voters – that is progress for the people.

But over the past ten years – Circa Janet Napoles – pork barrel has been deliberately made a necessary tool of evil, contaminating to the core the bone of the powers-that-be and personalities in all levels of the government.

And here in Mambulao, we just don’t know how much evil went out with Tallado’s churning of the P159.5 million funding designed to benefit our municipality.

There was this concreting of a 2.8km farm-to-market road – the Sta Rosa-San Rafael stretch – costing P20 million with funding from P-Noy’s pork barrel. It’s Tallado’s project under the OPPAP-PAMANA program.

The public would not know how much money went into this road.

And looking at the appalling state of the 2.5km Santa Rosa Norte-San Rafael road asphalted at a cost of P10.9 million, we could easily deduce that the forces of evil had worked hard to steal from Mambulaoans.

This stretch crumbled in just a few heavy downpours.

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