Monthly Archives: August 2013

Now happening: Million People March

I’m calling for the prosecution of ALL those involved in the PDAF scam, but not for the all-sweeping abolition of the PDAF. More about the march later.

PDAF protest a la LGBT

PDAF protest a la LGBT

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Country Road; Siem Reap, Cambodia; 2009

Country Road; Siem Reap, Cambodia; 2009


The billion-peso PDAF scam continues to unfold like a giant, stinky flower; its cloud of stench permeating a wider area of government institutions as the days pass. This is not a report on the details of the scam. This issue has been in the news so much that it is impossible to be ignorant about it.

Universal Greed by Charlie Co

Universal Greed by Charlie Co

From my understanding, the PDAF or ‘pork barrel’ has always been like a double-edged sword. It was created to finance projects or initiatives that will benefit the constituents of a particular politician, to fill the gaps that national programs have overlooked. On paper, it sounds like a good thing. However, its implementation is anchored on an inefficient system that makes it vulnerable to misuse, abuse, and corruption. Small wonder people are fighting tooth and nail (spending millions of pesos in the process) to be elected in the Senate and House of Representatives. This also explains why people, once elected, become addicted to their posts, causing them to hold on to it for as long as they can.

I always thought that they were hooked on power. As it turned, the object of their addiction is a tangible one.

And now, there is a growing movement that is calling for the abolition of the PDAF. I’m not one to quickly jump into the bandwagon, even if it seems to be the ‘right’ one. I’m just saying, the PDAF by itself is not a bad thing. Like I said, it was created to benefit the un-reached and un-served portion of the population. The problem is in the implementation. I think the system of accessing, disbursing, and accounting for the fund at all levels of implementation need a lot of work in terms of process, transparency, and accountability.

If we have an efficient system in place, the PDAF will reach its intended recipients and fulfill its purpose. I’m not 100% sold on abolishing the PDAF because to me it means that we have given up on our government. And I don’t think we should just give up.

In an interview, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada said it’s not his office’s responsibility to verify the status of the NGOs that receive PDAF. I think it should be. I think there should be a system that scrutinizes the potential recipients of funds. Coming from the development sector myself, I know that even legitimate NGOs with documented track record still have to substantiate their claim to funding whenever they submit project proposals to donors. I wonder why there isn’t one when it came to the PDAF.

Either the conspiracy theories are true: that the PDAF scam resulted from the collusion of many people from various institutions and agencies, systematizing their modus operandi to a sophisticated degree that it eluded detection until now. That, or people weren’t just paying attention to what his/ her particular office/ agency should be doing. Neither, to me, is acceptable.

So while I’m not fully supportive of the calls to abolish the PDAF, I fully support holding all the people involved in this scam accountable for plunder. I think prosecuting the perpetrators should transcend political party lines and allegiances. We shouldn’t only focus on finding the fugitive, but also pay attention to those who sit in political posts, silently despairing that the fallout bypass them–diverting our attentions by crying political demolition job.

greed 04

The fugitive is small-fry compared to these men. We shouldn’t let them out of our scrutiny.

History Repeating

In high school we studied Jose Rizal’s two novels: Noli Me Tangere during the junior year and El Filibusterismo during the senior year. By this time I had ‘graduated’ from reading children’s books, having been initiated to Stephen King’s books in the summer before my junior year. For many of my classmates, reading these novels–albeit chapter by chapter, was a tedious chore. Something to be suffered.

There were times when reading some of the chapters was difficult for me as well. Even then, the Tagalog translation was old-fashioned. Some of the idiomatic expressions required either further reading or explanation. Especially with ‘Noli’.

still true today

still true today (image courtesy of Vibal Foundation)

When I got to ‘El Fili’ I realized that compared to the previous book it was an easier read. It was pretty straightforward, in terms of plot. It’s a revenge story that ponders on the necessity of seeking revenge–does this make sense. ‘El Fili’ shed the satirical tone of ‘Noli’, so the social commentaries being made here were less subtle than the ones in ‘Noli’. While reading it, I could see an action thriller film playing inside my head.

If ‘El Fili’ was the middle book of a trilogy, I can only imagine how the story of the final novel will move from the death of Ibarra. What would happen to Basilio and Isagani? Would someone discover Ibarra’s treasures? What kind of revolution will take place, knowing Rizal’s aversion to violence? Intriguing questions, surely. They were not mentioned in ‘Makamisa’, Rizal’s unfinished manuscript. Too bad Rizal died before he could complete another (even un-related) novel. I digress.

But why am I bringing up these books, which are believed to have inspired the Philippine revolution against Spain? The recurring themes of both books are greed and oppression. How one fosters the other. Its harmful effects that permeate all levels and sectors of society. The English translation of ‘Noli’ is called ‘The Social Cancer’ and ‘Fili’ is titled ‘Reign of Greed’.

Ring any bells yet?

The unfolding PDAF scam is a clear example that the themes explored by Rizal in his novels still rings through today, more than a hundred years later. This time, however, the perpetrators of this greedy and oppressive scheme are also Filipinos–no less than our elected legislators who connive with unscrupulous individuals to carry out a systematic and institutionalized robbery of our nation’s coffers.

Such a shame.

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