The Plunderers in the Philippines
September 9, 2013
Millions of hardworking Filipinos are outraged against the misuse of the taxes they pay by the politicians entrusted to use them for the benefit of the country. It’s been a long while before we gave our comment about the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel fund issue. It’s just because the amount and the politicians involved keeps on growing. The subject also strikes a sensitive nerve that makes us emotional than to remain objective. It still does, and we still want to vent steam. PHP10 bn would have meant a lot to 92.34 mn Filipinos. It could have been used for roads, bridges, seeds, medicine, livelihood and others. Now, the news say that PHP10 bn is just the tip of the iceberg. The size of the pork barrel is too big an amount for politicians to remain in a straight path and to keep them from walking in a crooked path. The President’s “daang matuwid” (uncrooked path) slogan is being acid-tested in this issue.
The root of the problem is that politicians don’t think the pork barrel is OPM (Other People’s Money) or the People’s Money. They think this is a jackpot prize for winning the popularity contest called the elections. Senators get PHP200 mn each and congressmen get PHP70 mn each from the PDAF every year. Many people want to be politicians. They spend their life-savings to run hoping to win in the elections. They do a reimbursement and more for what cost them in the elections when they win. Here, even the lowest officials get a piece of the People’s Money. Barangay captains (or Village Chairmen) in Makati were reported to have received brand new cars from the mayor. The Barangay captains in Quezon City likewise had a grand get-together in Singapore sponsored by the mayor. What’s worse is that even the Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Council) in every barangay have a PHP100,000 allocation each for their “projects”. These projects are as poorly audited as the projects by the senators and congressmen. What this pork barrel did was intensify corruption even down to the level of supposed young leaders.
People are just realizing where bulk of their taxes go to now and that it only trickles to the projects where they were meant for. NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) have also been tainted with this issue. These were vehicles for direct and effective development and livelihood before in the 80s and early 90s. Now, they’re just seen as bogus vehicles for laundering taxpayers’ money. Even with the issue, GDP growth has been rallying. It was last reported at 7.5% in 2Q13. This issue is inherent to the Philippines, and it is going to dampen the PSEi along with external factors. Filipinos also now know more with this issue that the Philippines can be as great as its neighbors like Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. It is just held back by their own countrymen, their own and supposed public servants. Structural change must happen for real development to happen in the Philippines. Otherwise, it is just going to hobble along with its neighbors. A 7.5% GDP growth though big is just a big hobble if public funds are not utilized for the greater good.
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