An economic disaster waiting to happen

The klaxon bells are now blaring to signal the approach of a critical level in the problem caused by the truck ban imposed by the Manila City Government on the operations of the Port of Manila, notably the Manila International Container Port and South Harbor.

File photo by AFP.

File photo by AFP.

In his column, “Market Files” that came out in the Business Mirror, Lito Gagni warned that the situation is nearing “tipping point” and the negative consequences on the national economy could prove disastrous.

The truck ban is just one of the factors, Gagni pointed out. The situation is also aggravated by the longer processing time for import papers and the LTFRB/LTO crackdown on the operation of trucks without franchises, or better known as “colorum”.

Already, the Bureau of Customs has suffered from a shortfall in its collections vis-a-vis its goals. For the first quarter for 2014, it generated collections of P86.501 billion, but this was 8.73% short of its target collection of P94.778 billion for the period. The trend continued in April 2014, with the agency posting only P30.5 billion, or P5.26 billion short of its P35.76 billion goal for the month.

Unless the President of the Republic steps into the picture and intervene, our country’s economy could suffer from a man-made disaster from which recovery might be as difficult as getting back on our feet after Yolanda.

Fight it or perish (A letter from Bishop Socrates Villegas in 2008)

(This is a letter written by Archbishop Socrates B. Villegas when he was still Bishop of Balanga, Bataan on November 27, 2008. It has taken nearly five years before Filipinos have awakened to the truth about how graft and corruption has devoured so much of our lives and caused untold suffering of our people. I am reproducing it below for everybody to ponder upon.)

FIGHT IT OR PERISH!

Fighting Graft and Corruption

To steal is wrong. It is a crime. It is a sin. When stealing is done by those high up in power and authority, it carries a greater culpability. The corruption of the best is the worst. The social problem of graft and corruption in public life in our country has reached abominable and embarrassing proportions. How shall we describe graft and corruption in our country? It is systemic. It is rewarding. It hurts the poor the most.

Graft and corruption is systemic and structural. It is not only individual or isolated persons who corrupt and get corrupted. The present system—the elected and the electors, the employers and the employees, the appointed and the appointing powers—has become so corrupt that what we do need is a radical, systemic, interior change. Changing personages through the electoral process or even through legal processes like impeachment and court suits will not necessarily result in reform unless there is a willingness to change from the heart and soul. Pinning our hopes on legal processes unaccompanied by conversion from within will lead us to nowhere but deeper frustrations. We can hear the protest “Tama na. Sobra na. Alis na. Kami naman!”. It is important that those who investigate or prosecute corrupt officials will not gain political or financial benefits from convicting or absolving the accused.

Graft and corruption is rewarding and rewarded. It is hardly punished. The politicization of the judiciary and the perennial rumors about rogues in robes are problems we need to address urgently. Vigilance is lacking. Political will is weak. Prosecution plays favorites. The penal system is flawed. Pardon and clemency is cheap. Among our people, there is an increasing level of tolerance for corrupt officials. Corruption does not seem to anger many of us anymore. We are not outraged enough by graft and corruption. Widespread graft has sadly numbed our morals.

The public money that goes to graft is money stolen from the poor. Because of graft and corruption, school buildings cannot be constructed and teachers are not paid; public hospitals cannot protect us from untimely death; soldiers are deprived of their just wages.

Our biggest problem in our country is graft and corruption. This problem must be faced courageously now. We are risking the life of our nation if we continue to ignore it. I appeal to the consciences of our countrymen. Do not leave the solution of graft and corruption to corrupt officials. Our problem cannot be our solution. Let us come together as Catholic faithful to fight the sin of graft and corruption. We cannot profess faith in God and not get angry at widespread graft and corruption. Faith in God and outrage at sin go together. Outrage is not enough; it must lead to action. If we are not outraged by the sin of stealing happening all over our once beautiful land, could it be that our faith has turned cold and uncaring? If your faith has turned cold and uncaring, how can you be saved? Fight corruption or lose your soul!

I place this appeal at the feet of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

From the Cathedral of Saint Joseph , Balanga City , November 27, 2008

+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Bishop of Balanga

When will you respond?

Pork for votes: How the Aquino administration used pork barrel for political victory

(A special report for TNT Libre)

TNT Libre Page 1 Aug 26 2013

Liberal Parties allies of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III in Iloilo province were recipients of a pork barrel largesse of not less than P100 million shortly before the 45-day campaign period leading to the May 13, 2013 elections, documents obtained by TNT Libre show.

The biggest single beneficiary of this pork barrel bonanza was Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor who received P40.5 million sometime in March 2013 as “financial assistance to the Province of Iloilo for the implementation of priority programs and projects.”

Included in this package were P14.5 million for “food subsidy, burial and medical assistance, transportation allowance and livelihood programs”, P16 million for “small and medium enterprises/livelihood”, P4.3 million as “educational assistance/scholarship program for 1,720 college students”, and P5.7 million for “educational assistance/scholarship for 11,400 students in high school”.

The Province of Iloilo has its own funds in the regular budget for assistance to persons in distress, and this pork barrel package was clearly intended to augment the Capitol’s ability to extend help to more people during the campaign, an official of the provincial government, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

The documents were made available to this paper just as thousands of Ilonggos prepare to stage a local version of the #MillionPeopleMarch this morning at the Iloilo capitol grounds. TNT Libre asked an Executive Assistant of Gov. Defensor to react to this story, but received no reply as of press time.

And even as President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III tried to defuse the public outrage over the pork barrel scandal, the documents provide evidence that his own administration has its big share of the issue on the misuse of public funds.

During the campaign, then vice gubernatorial candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) Rolex Suplico had assailed what he described as the Liberal Party’s misuse of government resources to  buy votes. But his protestations fell on deaf ears.

Based on the initial batch of documents, the misuse of the pork barrel to advance the political agenda of the Aquino administration reached gargantuan proportions.

The documents made available reveal that at least P77 million of the pork barrel was disbursed just last March 2013 just before the campaign period started. “It is more in the level of P100 to 120 million,” said a source from the DBM.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, who was then general campaign manager of the LP, was pinpointed as the architect for the allocation and disbursement of pork barrel funds for political campaigning.

Twitter messages asking for his comment to his @frankahan account on the issue over the weekend were unanswered.

Six municipalities in the second congressional district of Iloilo partook of a P24.15 million package for various projects, another Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed.

The LGU of New Lucena, Iloilo got a share of P5 million, P2 million for Sta. Miguel, 5 million for Sta. Barbara, P5 million for Leganes, P2.5 million for Alimodian and P4.45 million for Zarraga, Iloilo from this package.

The special allocation for the second congressional district was intended to bolster the candidacy of Pavia municipal mayor Arcadio Gorriceta for the congressional seat then held by Augusto Boboy Syjuco, a source revealed.

Drilon and Gorriceta are considered “best friends”, which goes a long way back to their high school years.

Because Alimodian’s incumbent municipal mayor was supporting the candidacy of Dr. Ferjenel Biron of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), its allocation was channelled through the Iloilo provincial government and given directly to the barangays that expressed support for the Liberal Party, it was disclosed.

Only the municipality of Leon was excluded in the second congressional district along with the LGU of Pavia from this package.

“Leon was omitted because its municipal mayor and all barangay captains refused to shift their support to the congressional candidate of the Liberal Party in the district, Arcadio Gorriceta,” a source who was privy to the “cutting up of the cake” said.

Leon was committed to support 1-CARE party list Salvador “Kiting” Cabaluna III.

It was largely because of this pork barrel kitty that Gorriceta achieved victory at the elections in the three-way battle. Syjuco came in third.

AAMBIS/OWA party list congresswoman Sharon Garin received a portion of her 2013 PDAF (official name of the pork barrel is “Priority Development Assistance Fund”) also in March in the amount of P5.070 million, all of which was funnelled into the LGU of Guimbal.

From this amount, the sum of P4.7 million was labelled as “financial assistance to the Municipality of Guimbal, Iloilo for marginalized farmers for livelihood alleviation in Region VI thru distribution of seeds, seedlings, farm and garden tools and other suitable inputs in provinces of Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Guimaras and Antique.”

A source familiar with the pork barrel said the use of the Guimbal LGU as conduit “is almost the same as using a fake NGO.”

“The LGU has no business managing the funds from the pork barrel when its beneficiaries are from outside its territorial jurisdiction,” she said.

But she said this has been a practice institutionalized by the Garin family “to better administer the funds and make it disappear without a trace.”

In a text message, Rep. Garin defended the action. “Guimbal is one of the beneficiaries of this project. Channeling the project to one of the beneficiary LGUs is allowed. Check DBM guidelines for this,” she said in a text message.

The Garin family jumped into the Liberal Party bandwagon along with Defensor just last year.

In another SARO, the DBM authorized the disbursement of P8.150 million to a total of 163 barangays in the fourth and fifth congressional districts, with each barangay getting a share of P50,000 as “financial assistance for the implementation of social services (such as but not limited to burial, medical, transportation, educational, food, etc) in the Province of Iloilo.”

The funds were distributed to the following LGUs: Dumangas (23 barangays), Passi City (26 barangays), Banate (16 barangays), Anilao (3 barangays), Barotac Nuevo (7 barangays), Duenas (2 barangays), San Enrique (8 barangays), San Rafael (8 barangays), Barotac Viejo (26 barangays), Concepcion (5 barangays), Ajuy (13 barangays), Lemery (5 barangays), Balasan (10 barangays), Batad (10 barangays).

In addition to these pork barrel releases by the Aquino administration, Drilon also allocated P30 million to the municipality of Sta. Barbara, Iloilo in September last year for the construction of a 3-kilometer road and P6 million to the municipality of Oton, Iloilo for a drainage project in barangay Cagbang.

Both PDAF disbursements were deemed part of Drilon’s strategy to solidy the Liberal Party’s machinery in preparation for the elections.

Lampoon: Hog industry fears decline in sales

The hog industry of the Philippines has expressed concern that the public outrage over the pork barrel scam will lead to a sharp decline in their sales.
“Now the pork will suffer from a worse image problem,” one major hog raiser from Iloilo said. “It used to be that cholesterol issues were the only ones we had to contend with. Now the pork has become a national symbol for wanton theft.”

Presidential hat trick: The pork is intact

President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III seems to have mastered the art of the sleight of words.

scrap porkIn a nationally televised address on Friday, Aug. 23, Pres. Aquino told the Filipino people in so many words that “it’s the time to abolish the PDAF” and that he wants to set into a motion a mechanism for stricter guidelines in the dispensation of public funds for development. The well-crafted turn of phrases, however, couldn’t hide the true nature of the President’s intentions. The pork barrel will be there to stay, to be managed under new rules. The President’s trick failed to fool the people.

Listening to Pres. Aquino deliver his address was torture. It was hard to capture his drift, so to speak. I even missed that particular one line that became the headline, or misleading headline, about his plans on pork. “It’s time to abolish the PDAF,” he said. It was carefully tucked midway into his speech. It ended a paragraph, and in writing parlance, didn’t get the prominence it deserved.

As the President droned on, I was feeling short of breath. I tweeted: “Did he or didn’t he abolish pork?” or something like that. I saw tweets from the networks saying he had said it, but he said more things that left me confused. It was only later when the full text of the address was posted online that I saw for myself, the cheering was premature.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Pres. Aquino didn’t abolish the pork barrel. It’s still there in his 2014 budget proposal. What he said was that he wanted to institute safeguards to make sure the funds are properly spent. His vague point about each and every district getting a fair share for projects was the give away. When you talk of legislative districts getting equal share of the pie, that’s pork barrel. It still gives the congressman and senator a say on where the money goes.

This is the problem with Pres. Aquino. He thinks he can just explain away things and people will swallow every morsel of it. He is misjudging the mood of the people. He may have succeeded with Houdini tricks in extricating himself from tight situations before. He should heed the lessons of history: you can’t fool the people all the time.