PGTW: Taking Back the Bacon

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 22 August 2013, Thursday

Taking Back the Bacon

These were the headline Tweets of another daily newspaper the past few days:

“Nearly 7,000 families from 38 QC brgys evacuated to shelters”

“Cainta is 80 percent underwater, in need of relief donations”

“1,000 families evacuated as La Mesa Dam spills water”

“Body of baby fished out of swollen Tullahan river”

“12,000 evacuees packed in Marikina schools, gyms”

Flooding has been a problem in the metro for over a hundred years, if not longer, as archival photos from the late 1800s will attest. Why have we not been able to solve it yet? Advances in flood engineering are being applied in countries such as the Netherlands. Can we not bring that technology here?

Oh, wait. We don’t have money – because it went to line the pockets of unscrupulous lawmakers and their corruption enablers.

Despite the cooler temperatures brought by typhoon Maring, the Filipino people’s temper is still raging red-hot over the latest pork barrel scandal revelation, after the report released by the Commission on Audit last week.

More lawmakers were revealed by CoA to have released large amounts of their PDAF to foundations they are involved with and/or to bogus NGOs, as intrepid journalists found out. Several of these journalists visited the listed addresses of these supposed organizations and found most of them in humble residences. Some companies had never been heard of by neighbors; some had a staff of three or less.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada claims that it is not their job to check on the legitimacy of the NGOs they support. Does this mean, then, that he and the other lawmakers named in the report signed the approvals without knowing to whom and where the money was going? Are we supposed to believe this?

In this manner vast sums of PDAF are diverted, while to placate their constituents, they tap other government agencies and similar organizations for aid. For instance, many lawmakers ask for ambulances, free medicines, and the conduct of medical missions from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. Why can’t they spend for these things from their PDAF, which is allocated to them for such purposes?

The money in that pork barrel comes from public funds, some from the taxes we ordinary folk pay that we don’t even get to touch, deducted from our salaries before we receive them.

 

That is our hard-earned money. We slaved late hours and weekends, missed time with family, risked and ruined our health for that. That money was taken from us with a stroke of a pen, creating laws giving pork to legislators who disregard accountability and check-and-balance in their spending.

Such is the people’s indignation that a call on social media for a “million man march” on August 26 for a pork barrel protest has brought about enthusiastic response.

Here are some of the mass action venues and times: Quirino Grandstand, Rizal Park, Manila, 9am; Rose Garden, Burnham Park, Baguio, 12nn; Rizal Park, Davao, 9am; Rizal Park, Digos, 9am; Plaza Rizal, Naga, 9am; Museo Ilo-ilo/Plaza Libertad, Ilo-ilo, 9am; Plaza Independencia to Fuente Osmeña, Cebu, 9am; Provincial Capitol Lagoon, Bacolod, 9am;  Kiosko Kagawasan, Divisoria, Cagayan de Oro, 2pm to 5pm;

Rizal Park, General Santos City, 9am; City Rotunda, Tacurong, 9am; WMSU Normal Road to Plaza Pershing, Zamboanga City, 8am; and in the US, at the Philippine Consulate, New York, 3:30 PM local time, at the PHL Consulate General in Los Angeles on August 25, 5pm, and in Washington DC, Honolulu, Hawaii, and San Francisco.

Whether you join the August 26 assemblies or not, if you are angry that part of the taxes you pay finance the extravagant lifestyles and line the bank vaults of the corrupt, then let your voice be heard. Don’t let your anger die. Filipinos believe patience and forgiveness are virtues, but that is how those without consciences keep on robbing us – because we say “let it go” and forgive.

We must not let this go.

If the PDAF had been spent wisely, perhaps there would have been no cities underwater, no evacuees in gyms, no dead baby floating in the Tullahan River. These are the annual tragedies of our nation. How many more years must we suffer these?

Find the Napoleses and bring them to justice. Investigate the lawmakers named in the CoA report and hold accountable to the fullest extent of the law those found guilty of misusing their PDAF. Take names and kick ass, ie, do not vote them or their family members into office ever again. Scrap the pork barrel system – it is prone to abuse. Use the money for flood control measures, infrastructure, and other things we need for our nation’s development.

It’s time for the taong-bayan to take back the bacon. ***

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