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In Tagalog, whenever someone wants a “commission” from payments made to a project, they call it “taga” (chop). In the case of the alleged P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel fund scam involving bogus NGOs, we can call it “pork taga” or in English, “pork chops.” Obviously, this obscene scandal is turning into a conflagration, with more and more people questioning why an amount as gargantuan as P10 billion could go undetected.
Judging from reports, it would look like the extent of the scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim-Napoles is not merely confined to the Congress or Senate, but covers other government agencies and departments such as Agriculture and Agrarian Reform. Several congressmen and senators were named as the fund donors for what turned out to be ghost projects. Several government watchdogs are demanding an investigation on how Napoles – tagged as the brains – pulled off this grand scheme that has defrauded fisher folk, farmers and other marginalized people who should have benefited from the billions allocated for livelihood projects.
Senator Loren Legarda was mistakenly included in the list of Senators involved in the fake NGO scam but was immediately cleared by Secretary Leila de Lima. Loren told us her meticulousness in appraising proposals and scrupulous attention to receipts has paid off. But in fairness to her colleagues according to Loren, it’s the Department of Budget and Management that issues guidelines on the release and utilization of the pork barrel, with a menu of projects chargeable against the PDAF. But senators do not handle or see the funds at all. These are directly released not to NGOs but to the implementing agencies identified in the project menu, like the DepEd (construction of classrooms, sports fests) or the DOH (assistance to indigent patients). In the case of local government units, project funding is released to DBM which also acts as fund administrator.
But one nagging question is why the Commission on Audit – which is supposed to monitor the disbursement and utilization of pork barrel funds – failed to uncover the billions of pesos wasted on fake NGOs and ghost projects over several years. People are now demanding answers, asking the Ombudsman to conduct a thorough investigation and get to the bottom of this mess.
Obviously, the controversial pork barrel is being put under a negative light once again. Lawmakers can keep changing what they call it – Countrywide Development Fund, Priority Development Fund or the current PDAF – but the image of the “pork” as a “fat pig” continues to haunt the pork barrel system that badly needs more stringent controls to prevent a repeat of these shenanigans. There are suggestions to have NGOs accredited by the DSWD first before given any allocation, plus other control measures to prevent wastage of taxpayers’ money.
But the clamor to just chop out the pork barrel system altogether is growing. Definitely, this controversy will derail the agenda of the Senate, with every senator still deliberating whether to take up this issue and conduct an investigation when the 16th Congress opens tomorrow, or defer the issue to the NBI and DOJ in order to remove any conflict of interest angle.
Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1
Unquestionably, this scandal has greatly tainted both the Senate and Congress and it is incumbent upon the legislators to “take the bull by the horns” and properly address the allegations in a manner that will satisfy the general public — many of whom are frustrated and disgusted with fresh revelations of other “pork chops” like the internal revenue allotments (IRA) of LGUs with an estimated P30 billion reportedly lost annually to corruption over the years.
Another alleged “taga” that is coming out into the open involves the Department of Transportation and Communication regarding the MRT-3 expansion project, with certain officials implicated in a $30-million extortion scheme involving a Czech company. The DOTC is unquestionably one of the most crucial departments because whatever it does – or doesn’t – affects almost all sectors from real estate to tourism as well as the daily lives of millions of people from all walks of life, from airport passengers to motorists and commuters.
The other night I had the misfortune of taking EDSA on a Friday, and it took me close to two hours to get to the Araneta compound in Cubao from Makati. The worst part is that even my cellphone kept getting dropped calls — another public issue that squarely falls under DOTC jurisdiction. Some 2.5 million people and 400,000 vehicles pass through EDSA everyday — which is why the traffic remains horrific. And that doesn’t even include the estimated 500,000 people packed tighter than sardines inside the trains who take the MRT every single day.
It seems to me the P2.4 billion potential income said to be lost everyday due to traffic could actually be higher – requiring an urgent solution to the problem. The DOTC cannot afford to be indecisive. Big-ticket items should be bid out quickly and decisively. There’s a growing perception that the slow pace is deliberate with some officials allegedly waiting for “pork chops” with all kinds of flimsy excuses given to delay the process. Foreign participants are already very frustrated, saying that while other agencies also want some “chops,” at least they get things moving, but the DOTC is really something else – they want the pork yet nothing is moving.
Clearly, the Aquino administration is facing a lot of challenges in its last three years – from the pork barrel, the IRA to other allegations of corruption and anomalies involving government agencies. The well-entrenched “pork chop” syndicates and so-called “mafia heads” must be chopped off before time runs out on this administration that has consistently enjoyed high public trust ratings.
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See original here: ‘Pork chops’ – Philippine Star