Breaktime: Walk in the porkBy Conrado R. Banal III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Even before news broke out about the public call for “mass gathering” at the Luneta park, many of the guys down here in my barangay were ready to take to the streets in protest over the reported anomalies in the congressional pork barrel.
They surely must want to take part in the forthcoming “mass gathering” on Monday at Luneta, which just came up recently from out of nowhere, even citing a target figure of one million “gatherers.”
One thing about the “mass gathering”: Although it actually gained supporters spontaneously—and swiftly—in electronic social media, it is foolish for anyone to assume that political groups of various persuasions will stay away from it.
We can thus call it anything we want, sanitizing it even by saying it is just an ordinary holiday walk in the park, but the “mass gathering” is an out-and-out protest movement.
Its conception was an obvious public reaction to reports on the Napoles fake NGOs that raided public funds—i.e. the pork barrels of both the legislature and the executive branch.
Another thing about the mass gathering: The principal demand of the public, the overriding reason why people want to take part in it, is also specific—enough is enough; let us abolish the pork now!
Also from out of nowhere, thus giving us the thought that it was a reaction to the call for that “mass gathering,” our dear leader, Benigno Simeon (aka BS), suddenly announced he would suspend the release of congressional pork for the remainder of the year.
Mind you, the “suspension” would not apply on the pork of the executive branch, exclusively controlled by the Office of the President—the turf of our dear leader, BS, which Malacañang proposes to reach P25 billion in 2014.
He was, of course, careful to add that the withholding of the congressional pork was only temporary, or only until after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is under the Department of Justice, would have completed its investigation of the reported anomalies.
He also implied that he would resume the pork releases when the Aquino (Part II) administration would have plugged the “loopholes” in this multibillion-peso system of dispensing government largesse.
We all know that, since the beginning of time, our beloved government has been plugging all sorts of loopholes in the disbursements of public funds, be they “pork” or day-to-day expenditures of national and local government units.
We all know that the government created thick layers of bureaucratic red tape in the approval of projects by the various executives departments and instituted millions of controls in the release of funds by the Department of Budget and Management.
Yet the crooks, both inside and outside the government, found other even bigger loopholes to carry on their relentless attacks on public funds.
Before the “mass gathering” was reported in media, our dear leader, BS, already announced he would not abolish the congressional pork, officially termed PDAF, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund.
Now that the “mass gathering” is almost a certainty, our dear leader, BS, suddenly thought it best to just suspend the release of congressional pork. Down here in my barangay, the guys have a term for it: consuelo de bobo!
Like it or not, the funds raided by the likes of the Napoles NGOs were all political doleouts: PDAF, the agricultural competitiveness enhancement fund, the Malampaya fund, VILP (Various Infrastructure Including Local Projects) fund and others.
The Aquino (Part II) administration also wants to increase the 2014 budget for its program known as CCT (conditional cash transfer) to P63 billion, although one estimate put the leakage in the CCT at about 30 percent.
Our dear leader, BS, indicated that, as reason for his refusal to abolish the pork system—i.e. both legislative and executive pork—the PDAF actually helped in the “fast” disbursement of funds needed in various projects for the public.
For the longest time, however, the business sector has been voicing out its one big beef against the “pork:” While the government has been lacking in funding, the pork system somehow has splintered whatever funding was made available to the government through tax payments, borrowings and aid from abroad.
The congressional pork tucked into the proposed 2014 budget, for instance, amounts to P27 billion and the executive pork amounts to some P25 billion—not to mention the P63 billion for the CCT program.
As in the past, a good part of the funds is expected to go to various piecemeal projects like multipurpose halls, basketball courts and waiting sheds. Yet the money—combined—can be more than enough for big infrastructure projects like feeder roads and silos in farmlands, seaports and airports, anti-flooding structures.
Look, boss, the proposed P52-billion 2014 pork and the P63 billion CCT budget, put together, can already solve the decade-old problem of classroom shortage in this country in just one year.
We can just imagine what all the “pork” wasted in frivolous projects over the past 27 years or so could have done in solving the flooding and traffic problems in the metropolis.
Let us not even talk about the harassment that the public must endure from the BIR that, forced to meet a collection target set somewhere above the stratosphere, imposed tax payment “quotas” on small businesses, whether or not they could really afford the rates.
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Nationwide Development Corp. (Nadecor), in its annual stockholders’ meeting on Monday, announced that its foreign partner in the mining venture called “King-king” would inject some $44 million into the project.
The announcement was part of the report of Nadecor president Conrado Calalang to the stockholders.
The foreign partner is St. Augustine Gold and Copper Ltd., a company listed at the Toronto Stock Exchange and is partly owned by Queensberry Mining and Development Corp., which in turn is the investment arm of the family of former Senator Manuel Villar.
A few months ago, Queensberry invested $11 million in St. Agustine for an 18-percent stake in the Canada-based mining firm. Word has it that the Villar group also obtained an option to increase its holdings to 32 percent.
Now, Nadecor has been caught in an intra-corporate dispute between two groups of major stockholders, one headed by Calalang and the other, by Jose Ricaforte.
In the annual meeting, Calalang reported that a recent decision of the Court of Appeals in effect settled the dispute, paving the way for the Calalang group to elect the new board and thus take management control of the company.
At the same time, Calalang reported that the Supreme Court had dismissed the case filed by the Ricaforte group against the CA justices who issued the ruling.
As one of the largest undeveloped copper-gold deposits in the world, the King-king mine in Mindanao (near Davao City) has been in the Mines and Geosciences Bureau’s (under DENR) list of top priority mining projects in the country.
Calalang reported that the mining project was already in the advanced stage of design and engineering, after Nadecor completed with the feasibility stage of development—i.e. social, environmental and engineering phases.