POSTSCRIPT / July 28, 2013 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Scamdinavia: How’s that as new Phl name?

SCAMS ALL OVER: With scams erupting all over the place, maybe we can start calling this country Scamdinavia.

We have not seen the end of the stories that upwards of P10 billion in pork barrel funds had been diverted to ghost Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and then on to bulging secret private accounts.

The reported attempt to extort $30 million from a Czech lightrail coach supplier has not gone beyond the usual announcement of an investigation. They are probably still sorting out who should be sacrificed and who should be spared, and making sure their statements hew to the same straight line.

The mighty Customs has not been able to locate the 2,000 containers with highly dutiable goods that had vanished in transit from Manila to Batangas port, while over the recent years an estimated P35 billion in revenues is lost annually to the smuggling of oil products.

Add your own horror story to the long list of big-time scamdals popping out in various “moneyed” agencies.

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WHY POVERTY?: With no less than President Noynoy Aquino publicly scolding Customs for its thick-faced officials (yet rejecting their resignations when offered) for their unmitigated corruption and inefficiency, Aduana has become — at the moment — the icon of corruption under the administration.

The fact is finally dawning on us that all these three Aquino years pala, Customs under the saintly cover of Tuwid na Daan (Straight Path) has been reeking with big-time corruption, with protectors of smugglers calling the shots from their perch high up in government.

The President keeps saying in rhyme “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (There won’t be poverty if there’s no corruption). Now we know why poverty as measured by the government’s own statistical office has not gone down.

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EVIL STRAIGHT PATH: If only because the President’s maternal forebears came from Fujian province in China (where many Filipino taipans also trace their roots), he should restore friendly ties with the mainland and update himself on Chinese lore.

The last time I was in Beijing, decades ago, a serious-sounding official told me when he noticed I was looking at the arched roof of their pagodas that EVIL SPIRITS TRAVEL IN STRAIGHT LINES, a phenomenon that influences their architecture. Being a guest, I smiled and nodded in agreement.

Now it seems to me that the Chinese are right. President Aquino may not see it yet, but evil-doers, at least under his administration, do travel the straight Tuwid na Daan path on their way to the bank.

So now, will a congressman who does not care for pork please sponsor a bill renaming this country to Scamdinavia?

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SAFEGUARDS: Rep. Yeng Guiao (1st Dist., Pampanga) would rather approach the pork problem not by abolishing this controversial fund, that would be escapism, but by providing safeguards against its being abused or hijacked on its way to the districts that need it.

For instance, Guiao said Congress should consider removing or replacing Non-Government Organizations (NGOs)) as conduits for pork barrel, officially called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

He also favored a restriction that the PDAF of congressmen be used exclusively for their own districts. There have been cases when congressional pork was used for other places, depriving solons’ own constituents of funds and assistance meant for them.

Instead of lump sum appropriations, line-item budgeting adopted by Malacañang, he said, will also help minimize irregularities.

A first-time congressman, Guiao was guest at the “Balitaan” forum last Friday of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) at its Bale Balita (House of News) at the Clark Freeport.

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COMMON MODUS: As has been noted in the P10-billion pork scam, several ghost NGOs were reportedly used to funnel multibillions in public funds to private pockets without real projects materializing.

Guiao did not say it, but our own suspicion is that the provision of using NGOs as pork barrel conduits was inserted into the budget by some scheming lawmakers in connivance with outside collaborators to serve that evil purpose.

A similar modus operandi can be seen in the use of ghost cooperatives in the importation of rice through the National Food Authority. The NFA sometimes gives licenses to co-ops without checking if the organizations are legitimate. (Probably the salivating NFA boys know already?)

This is also the same scheme used by bogus importers who bring in contraband and other shipments pre-cleared with their padrinos in Customs and high places. When the smuggling is exposed, the importer cannot be located.

Does not the President know that these scams cannot happen without the connivance of well-placed individuals?

His vaunted Tuwid na Daan slogan has not been able to put a dent on the big-time hijacking of revenues and budgeted funds.

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TREADING LIGHTLY: Guiao is treading somewhat lightly, he being a newcomer in the Old Boys Club. Elected under the banner of the local party Kambilan, he is not even a member yet of the majority coalition led by the administration Liberal Party.

He can only indicate to the House leadership his committee preferences, which include those on transportation and commerce (so he can attend more closely to the Clark Freezone), agriculture, environment, sports and youth affairs, health and tourism.

The measures he has already filed include those on the conversion to Authorities of the Clark Development Corp. and the Clark International Airport Corp., prohibition of the parading of suspects in press conference, and the allocation for senior citizens of 1.5 percent of the internal revenue allotments of local governments.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 28, 2013)

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