POSTSCRIPT / February 10, 2000 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Cutting out pork barrel from budget, made easy

WE’RE alarmed at the publication of racist articles fomenting hatred for Chinese and Chinoys in our midst. More so because some of the authors are prominent members of the community.

The drift of the articles is that we should beware of the ascendancy of influential Chinese and Chinoy cronies whose loyalty and motivations are in doubt. There is also the subliminal attempt to incite racist feelings against local Chinese.

Some of the latent anti-Chinese sentiments rising to the surface can be traced to the high-profile operations of Chinoy cronies perceived to be taking advantage of their having contributed heavily to the campaign chest of President Estrada.

The President can help nip this unhealthy development by reining in his overreaching cronies.

The Chinese community and the larger population, meanwhile, must not allow themselves to be carried away by these attempts to whip up racial animosity. There is no reason why we should allow a few fleeting issues disrupt our harmonious coexistence.

* * *

WE thought we finally had something good to say about President Estrada when he declared Monday that he would veto the P42-billion pork barrel inserted by lawmakers into the P629-billion budget.

Following up, Malacañang marked for presidential veto other budget items with provisions attached to them that they would be implemented only with prior consultation with and concurrence of lawmakers.

Properly bristling with presidential indignation, Mr. Estrada said the carrying out of budgeted measures was a purely executive domain where lawmakers may not intrude.

Tama!

* * *

BEFORE we could write a praise release, however, the Yoyo swung in the opposite direction and took back everything. (As expected, said my barber).

The day after he threw the veto gauntlet, President Estrada was reading another script. Now he’s saying that he would not scrap the P42-billion pork barrel where senators and congressmen could get funds for their pet projects.

And while he might veto that proviso requiring the concurrence of lawmakers, Mr. Estrada is now saying that even without this, senators and congressmen may still recommend priorities since they know local conditions better.

We didn’t realize that waiting to write praise releases for Erap Estrada could be this difficult.

* * *

ONE way of minimizing (even totally eliminating) pork barrel is to specify line by line in the budget all the projects for the coming year and earmark the needed funds.

The budget should not contain lump sums left to the (in)discretion and inordinate appetite of lawmakers and their partners in crime in the Executive department.

Carrying out the projects is then left to the Executive with zero interference (passed off as “consultation” and “concurrence” in the current budget) from legislators. Let’s put an end to the spectacle of lawmakers pushing projects and picking contractors — and pocketing kickbacks.

Why don’t Malacañang and Congress do it this way? Because this could mean goodbye to cholesterol and corruption.

* * *

SOLONS insist on prior consultation for projects. What should be required instead is prior planning. (All planning is “prior,” but please excuse the redundancy, as we want to stress the need for our officials to think ahead.)

Preparing and listing priority projects in advance should not be difficult for officials loaded with money for studies, experts and anything else they have to do. Besides, they claim to be familiar with the requirements of their respective districts.

So, why don’t our honorable senators and congressmen, individually and collectively as the Congress, devote some quality time to planning and listing all the local projects needed for implementation during the budget year?

Sorry na lang for those who cannot submit specific projects in time for the drawing up of the national budget.

* * *

WE should shift to this budget process in preparing the appropriations law for next year. We’re assuming, of course, that we really want to get rid of that stinking pork barrel.

Maybe the media, militant groups, and other concerned sectors – even 3D experts, we might add — should push this idea with much noise and vehemence.

We wonder what our readers have to say about this.

* * *

WE were having breakfast yesterday and nearly vomited when we came across a press release about presidential son JV Ejercito allegedly asking his father to restore the P2.5-billion cut in the education budget.

His having been installed as national president of the Kabataan ng Masang Pilipino, whatever that is, does not automatically qualify him to speak for students affected by the budget cut.

His publicist also reported him as urging colleges and universities not to raise their fees. Well, some people have their urges and they are entitled to them.

This early, JV the budding politician is being raised on praise releases?

* * *

WE have just been informed that Press Undersecretary Ike Gutierrez had been publicly identified by a columnist as one of those who collaborated in preparing the Malacañang “White Paper” on alleged destabilization plots using media.

That’s a welcome development, because finally we’re hearing names and the persons named are then afforded the chance to defend themselves.

For the benefit of readers not familiar with the supporting cast of Press Secretary Rod Reyes, there are two press undersecretaries. The other one is Usec Noel Cabrera. Since both Ike and Noel are friends, we will have to step back as mere kibitzers in the ensuing scuffle.

* * *

WE apologize to Ner Dayrit of Comlink, his nephew Amando “Butch” Dayrit of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and to our readers for having said that Ner had issued a press release for Environment Secretary Antonio Cerilles on the inspection of hotels and restaurants along Roxas Blvd.

It is actually Butch and not Ner who has been sending us DENR press releases. Readers may have gotten the misimpression that Ner and/or Comlink has been retained by Cerilles, which is not the case.

We met Ner in a recent kapihan and this engaging PR specialist, actually an old friend, must have stuck to our subconscious. So when we handled the statements sent by his nephew, we inadvertently typed Ner instead of Butch.

We owe both gentlemen a cup of hot coffee each.

* * *

SO chairman Perfecto Yasay of the Securities and Exchange Commission is resigning March 25. It is all up to President Estrada to accept or reject his resignation.

Since the President has not been able to recruit a good replacement, we hope he keeps Yasay longer so he can continue some reforms in the securities market that he has started to introduce.

Whatever it is, Yasay should not be removed from SEC until he has completed and made public his final report on the alleged manipulation of trading of BW Resources shares last November at the stock exchange.

His untimely removal would stoke lingering suspicion that he is being removed to protect presidential crony Dante Tan, the major owner of BW Resources who has been linked to suspected insider trading.

* * *

OUR Navy is the only armed force out there at sea resisting the intrusions of foreign vessels, particularly in the Scarborough area where Chinese poachers have been fishing with impunity.

The very least we can do for our Navy is to give it the benefit of the doubt. For Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon to remark that our Navy should not have fired warning shots at resisting Chinese fishermen is unfortunate.

Firing warning shots after other procedures have failed is part of the rules of engagement, contrary to what Siazon says. If he were the skipper of the Navy patrol, what would he have done? Rolled out a red carpet?

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 10, 2000)

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