📰 Editorial: Parked pork [Malaya]

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From Malaya: We support Lacson’s advocacy of fighting the system of pork barrel which has metamorphosed into a more sophisticated mechanism of corruption, and hope that the Office of the Ombudsman and the two congressional chambers themselves could act in unison to stem impunity in the legislature.

Parked pork

December 17, 2018

IF there is big money to be made, if there are regulations that may be pushed to the limits of legality, leave it to members of the Congress of the Philippines to devise an innovative way on how to do it.

Congressmen have found a novel way to go around the Supreme Court prohibition on lining their pockets with pork barrel commissions, and in the process, invented a term that further enriched the vocabulary of graft and corruption. It’s called “parked pork.”

A senator or congressman very close to the national leadership – both in the executive and the legislative – would corner billions of pesos worth of infrastructure for his district. Because of the incredibly huge budget allocations, the concerned district would not have the absorptive capacity for these funds. The lawmaker or his staff would then strike a deal with less favored lawmakers to give them part of the allocation, in exchange for the privilege to name the contractor who would undertake the project.

This scheme would generate millions of pesos worth of commissions for the favored lawmaker, good business for his/her contractors, and of course, sub-standard implementation of the projects.

The Filipino taxpayers are hit twice: first, by skimming tax money directly upon release of the funds by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM); and second, by being given below-standard, unsafe or unfinished projects.

A former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and an expert police investigator, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, uncovered this scheme of “parked pork” when he noticed that a senator and several congressmen have been using the period of amendments in introducing budget amendments or insertions, “consisting mostly of infrastructure projects that were not consulted with the agencies” that supposedly needed them.

Lacson said the finance committee chairwoman (Sen. Loren Legarda) should have realized that these amendments could pave the way for legislators to earn kickbacks from infrastructure projects.

He also claimed that some lawmakers offered other legislators pork funds allotted to their districts on the condition that they got to choose the contractors. The senator noted: “It’s unthinkable that a district can absorb P4 or P5 billion worth of infra projects, but somehow, they insert or realign large sums to their districts because they are after the commissions more than the projects.”

With Lacson’s revelations, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon both called for the identification of the senator concerned, whose staff was reportedly into this wheeling and dealing about “parked pork.” They said Lacson should name the senator whose staff’s indelicate behavior he exposed, or every senator would be suspect.

We support Lacson’s advocacy of fighting the system of pork barrel which has metamorphosed into a more sophisticated mechanism of corruption, and hope that the Office of the Ombudsman and the two congressional chambers themselves could act in unison to stem impunity in the legislature.