(Photo shows Eastern Samar congressman Ben Evardone)
It appears that the greed of most congressmen, led by Ben Evadone, knows no bounds. For taking this stance, they’re utterly shameless and devoid of any sense of decency, and should therefore be condemned.
About half a million people trooped to Luneta Park in Manila on Aug. 26 to press the government to abolish completely the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or so-called “pork barrel” scheme which has resulted in multi-billion peso losses of taxpayers’ money in ghost development projects. The clamor for the complete elimination of the pork barrel scheme remains strong among many Filipinos, including millions who are at work overseas.
But clearly oblivious of people’s anger, Evardone and fellow congressmen plan to ask the Supreme Court on Monday to lift its suspension of the release of the balance of lawmakers’ PDAF.
To justify their planned petition, Evardone and his greedy colleagues shrewdly came up with some big numbers, namely 997,782 people who depend on congressional pork for medical aid and 456,871 scholars whose studies in the second semester of the current school year may be put in jeopardy. He claimed that these medical aid recipients and scholars will be negatively affected if the balance of their graft-ridden PDAF is withheld from them.
In a further display of congressmen’s unwillingness to give up their pork and their unmistakable greed, Evardone proposed that each congressman be allowed to “propose” up to five infrastructure projects. Under his formula, each House of Representative member would be entitled to only P24.6 million in “hard projects,” a reduction of 40 percent from what they were used to getting.
Now, let us stop and examine why Evardone and his colleagues are plain hypocrites and morons in their bid to lift the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order (TRO) on the balance of their PDAF.
First, House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and many congressmen have repeatedly said that the House has reached a consensus to scrap the PDAF or pork barrel scheme. Evardone’s statements clearly shows most congressmen, except those in favor of complete elimination, as a bunch of liars.
Second, if what Evardone says about medical aid recipients and scholars is true, why can’t he and his colleagues come up with an alternative way of continuing the assistance by endorsing them to the regional and provincial, and even municipal units, of the health and education departments? Commission on audit and budget department reports have clearly showed brazen and widespread abuses of the PDAF scheme involving dozens of congressmen and senators. So, why entrust more taxpayers’ money to lawmakers with kleptomaniac tendencies? Besides, are congressmen and their staff really equipped to select those who really deserve to get regular medical aid and scholarships? Or are these grants being given on a highly discretionary basis? Who keeps tabs of the genuine as against bogus or ghost recipients?
Third, Evardone’s proposal for each congressman to “propose” up to five infrastructure projects is totally ridiculous and insane. They are lawmakers – period. So, why do they keep on insisting to dip their fingers in infrastructure projects? Nueva Viscaya Carlos Padilla’s claim during a recent visit to Hong Kong that barangay roads and other projects in the countryside won’t be built were it not for congressmen’s PDAF is pure hogwash.
Local development councils are currently in place at the provincial, municipal and barangay levels across the country. They are better qualified than congressmen in identifying and overseeing the proper establishment of priority infrastructure projects in the countryside than congressmen who are expected to spend most of their time in Manila to attend to their law-making functions.
Fourth, the P10 billion PDAF scam masterminded by Janet Napoles and documented by the audit commission and attested to by over a dozen whistleblowers clearly provide strong and incontrovertible grounds for the complete elimination of the graft-ridden pork barrel scheme to stop the loss of taxpayers’ money to corrupt lawmakers and their accomplices. So, why does Evardone and colleagues keep on pressing for the retention of a corrupt scheme?