POSTSCRIPT / August 20, 2013 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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It’s high time People marched against Pork

TAMA NA!: While Malacañang gropes for a safe response to the explosion of public indignation over the plunder of Pork Barrel billions, a logical immediate step is to stop the disbursement of all public funds that smell of pork.

Do not believe the lie that the government machinery will grind to a halt without being greased with Pork Barrel fat.

Itigil na muna yan — until we have in place an honest system of controls for the proper use of the notorious Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and all Discretionary Funds that should be lumped together under the tag “Pork Barrel”.

The abuse of the Pork Barrel has grown exponentially under a succession of corrupt administrators, remarkably under the present “tuwid na daan”, so that now only a quick surgical slice can excise the cancer.

But since the beneficiaries — from the President down to the senators, congressmen, Napoleses and whoever else God knows — connive to protect one another, it is time that the people themselves took the initiative of putting an end to the big swindle.

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PROSTITUTION: So now there is a call for concerned citizens to gather at a sacred ground – some suggest the Luneta— to raise their voice against the plunder of the Pork Barrel and its variations in and outside the national budget.

President Noynoy Aquino has served notice that, under his watch, the Pork Barrel stays. Naturally. He needs the pork to control salivating senators and congressmen (majority of them anyway) and do his bidding.

Then the senators and the congressmen in his pocket, in turn, move to protect their Palace patron in symbiotic prostitution.

Where does that leave the people, who have been fooled the past three years into thinking they are the Boss?

Abangan!

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ZERO INTELLIGENCE: It is an open secret that pork is the main item in the basket of goodies that Malacañang uses to buy off senators and congressmen.

More billions include special operations funds that are labeled Intelligence Fund to keep away the prying eyes of auditors. The talk is that the balance of the Intelligence Fund is always zero when the president steps down. Wow!

There is also the President’s so-called Social Fund – easily P500 million together with the Intelligence Fund– augmented by gambling money funneled to Malacañang from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

(We have the oddity of the President being the biggest Lotto and Sweepstakes winner on record without having to place a bet, through the neat trick of moving to his social fund all prizes unclaimed after one year.)

The annual P200-million pork of a senator and the P70 million of a congressman pale in comparison to the luscious Presidential Pork.

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KILLING IT: If the civil aviation authorities want to kill Zest Airways Inc., they are succeeding spectacularly with their sudden grounding last Friday of the airline’s 11 planes ferrying some 8,000 passengers a day, 2,000 of them foreign tourists.

The suspension order of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines hit like lightning on a clear day, leaving thousands of irate passengers hanging in various airports in the country and Asia. ZestAir estimates at P70 million its daily losses since its planes were grounded.

With stealth and shock effects, the suspension came at the last half-hour (4:20 p.m.) of the last working day of the week. The airline had no more time to work out a reconsideration and bring timely relief to its passengers.

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FAVORITISM?: The CAAP had warned ZestAir of its having no qualified accountable manager since July 19, failure to check aircraft logs, flight manifest, weather, etc., failure to present the Aircraft Mechanic License during ramp inspection, refueling with passenger on board last Aug. 14, and excessive flight duty time.

ZestAir director Joy Cañeba said these issues were not serious enough to warrant a suspension and the grounding of the airline’s entire fleet just a half hour before close of office hours of the last working day of the week.

In contrast to these issues that do not concern the airworthiness of ZestAir planes, it has been noted that another airline recently figured in a series of accidents but did not have its operations suspended.

Cañeba said they were caught by surprise, because they had been holding continuous meetings with CAAP wherein they submitted updates of actions taken on the concerns raised by the regulatory body.

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TOURISM A VICTIM: Cañeba said that although the CAAP had given ZestAir a “heightened surveillance” notice, the airline was never notified that the issues raised may lead to suspension.

When the suspension came, the airline had to scramble to attend to the needs of thousands of complaining passengers, including their transfer to other airlines or their boarding chartered flights.

The grounding of ZestAir planes, which bring in around one million tourists from China and Korea, is likely to affect the five-million tourist arrivals targeted by the government this year.

ZestAir reported that the confusion had affected some 16,000 passengers over the weekend. The budget airline accounts for 20 percent of domestic air travelers.

Owned by ambassador Alfredo Yao and Philippines AirAsia Inc., the airline expressed confidence that the issues raised by aviation authorities would be resolved soon.

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PERSONAL: President-CEO Arthur P. Tugade of Clark Development Corp. is 68 years old, not 58 as erroneously reported in my last Postscript…. One Yellowist questioned my saying that “excessive pork causes hair loss and fits of coughing”. He better believe me, I can talk with authority about falling hair.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 20, 2013)

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