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Saturday, May 18, 2024

‘Let it all hang out’

So when our legislators, being ‘on the right side of history’ cut here and there, and then add here and there, expect the re-alignment to be laced with pork as well

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I happened to be in the US in the eighties when I watched on television a replay of a concert which featured Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

They performed a duet of “Let it all hang out,” which, upon checking with Google recently, was supposedly sung by a forgettable group called The Hombres.

My recollection of the otherwise ugly song in that performance was more focused on the pectoral endowments of Dolly Parton, who Rogers teased about letting it all hang.

When I listened to former president Rodrigo Duterte hitting Congress over the confidential funds where he demanded the Commission on Audit should bare details of how the legislature and legislators spend their humongous budget, the memory of Dolly Parton came fresh.

Otherwise, the former president would “ask everybody, every soldier, every policeman, every farmer, the Church” to demand a full account on how they spent the funds they themselves appropriated, having the ‘power of the purse,’ and then he described the legislature as the “most rotten institution.”

What would the COA do, now headed by its chairman, Gamaliel Cordoba, who prior to his appointment to replace former Solgen Joe Calida (a Duterte and Marcos loyalist), was the longest-running NTC Chairman (from Arroyo to Aquino to Duterte)?

If COA complies with the demand of PRRD, will it just come up with a slew of liquidation documents which, as Atty. Harry Roque, the former spokesman of Duterte, claims as “mere certifications” with no supporting list of expenditures?

And would the former president then call upon the people to demand a full accounting not only of the confidential funds, but likewise the ‘extraordinary expenses’ that HoR SecGen Reginald Velasco claimed to be subject to audit by the COA?

Meanwhile, congressional leaders chorused that they see no pork in their HoP (they prefer their house to be of the ‘people’), stating they are compliant with the SC ruling that outlawed the practice. He, he, he!

The former president demands transparency to the fullest on how all these funds were spent, and declared his willingness to have the funds allocated to him during his incumbency to be brought out.

In fine, “let it all hang out,” in the full light of day, for every Filipino to see how their ‘taxpayer money’ is utilized by officials of government.

Fair enough. But will our officials really let it all hang out?

***

Whispers emanating from Davao, which dzRH’s Deo Macalma of Pinili, Ilocos Norte in a recent broadcast claimed, point to a potential run for Congress by the former president come 2025, which requires filing his COC one year from now.

Truth to tell, many from his PDP-Laban and even a former president are persuading him to run for senator in the coming mid-term elections.

But Sen. Bong Go, his most trusted loyalist, has previously denied that PRRD would run for senator and would prefer to completely retire, ‘smell the flowers’ and dote on his grandchildren and a great grandchild.

But then again, politics is a ‘fever in the blood,’ and politicians get stronger when the challenge of electoral politics beckons.

For PRRD, whether it is the Senate or the House, winning would be a walk in the park.

The precedent has been set by PGMA who after a long reign of nine years still chose to represent her ‘kabalen’ up to the present.

Abangan ang susunod na kabanata in this never-ending telenovela of the nation’s politics.

***

If he does run for congressman, sure to win in whatever district of Davao City he chooses, the former president will be in the company of a House of Contractors, with 20 percent of its membership made up of construction company owners.

Or politicians who, eyeing even the marginal profits their favored contractors get from the pork barrel’s ‘hard’ projects, decided to put up their own construction firms so everything goes to them.

There are more contractors than lawyers in the present HoR.

Some are triple A, really big-time; some are medium-sized contractors minding only projects in their particular region, city or province.

Some erstwhile contractors also got tired of being ‘forced’ by the political dynasts into getting a measly profit with the dynasts getting the lion’s share, so they decided to turn politicians themselves, “para solong-solo na,” minus of course the small leavings they would give to DPWH district engineers, COA, and other members of ‘the boys.’

So the Committee on Appropriations headed by mega-contractor and Bicol kingpin Zaldy Co decided to re-align the confidential funds embedded in the President’s budget, also known as the National Expenditure Program.

Now guess how they will finally re-align the funds, along with some other cuts they made on some department’s requests.

Wait for the final GAA as it goes through the wheeling and dealing process in the bicameral conference committee.

These will most likely be re-aligned into different agencies and departments, such as DSWD, DOH, and the DA’s myriad agencies, with the verbal condition these will entitle the congressmen to ‘identify’ beneficiaries, which is what they term as ‘soft’ pork.

The DSWD has its AICS program from which congressmen and senators can draw ‘calamity assistance packages’ for victims of typhoons and fires.

Thus, typhoon victims will receive food packs and rice sacks with the name of their benefactor, whether senator this or congressman that emblazoned on the package.

Legislators can also endorse ‘indigent’ patients to public hospitals, the expenses covered by their ‘soft’ endowments.

Oh, and ‘college scholars,’ courtesy of CHED, and referrals to TESDA for vocational courses. “Tulong Dunong” the program is called.

All these are taxpayer monies, but through the generosity of our honorable legislators, to whom the “utang na loob” is collected every re-election.

Thank our legislators for tender mercies.

So how come our congressmen deny the GAA has been stripped of the hated “pork barrel” allocations?

Because after the Supreme Court outlawed the PDAF, a.k.a. pork barrel, our legislators found another way of hiding their entitlements.

The ‘projects’ are already embedded in the NEP, which the DBM submits to Congress after the president’s SONA.

Built-in. And who sits down with the DBM technocrats in crafting the president’s budget? Why the contractors, of course.

So when our legislators, being “on the right side of history” cut here and there, and then add here and there, expect the re-alignment to be laced with pork as well.

These entitlements, which in the US of A are called “earmarks,” were once called Countryside Development Funds, then Priority Development Assistance Funds, and have blossomed from P50 million under Pres. Cory, P70 million under FVR, and progressively higher until the present, which, my reliable “murmurings” compute at “500 million minimum for each of our congressmen and P1 billion per senator.

But for the favored few, and the ‘smarter’ guys (who said “some are smarter than others”?), it could run into multiples of billions.

And considering how huge the fiscal deficit is (some P1.4 to P1.6 trillion), how will the government finance such huge slabs of pork?

E di utang, ano pa?

Pati baboy inu-utang!

 

 

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