EDITORIAL: A tale of two calamities

Once again, the Philippines has been hard-hit by its perennial foes. Last week, Tropical Storm Maring along with rains induced by Habagat barraged through Luzon and swept most of NCR and Southern Tagalog provinces with flashfloods. Total damages have reached PHP 630 million and the number of affected individuals has already ticked over 2 million; wherein 25 were reported dead, 30 injured, while three remain missing.

However, these figures will appear diminutive if we are to contrast it with the damages brought by a larger, more menacing calamity. Recently, the issue of the pork barrel scam stormed the public with an alarming PHP 10 billion worth of taxpayers’ money involved. These amounts under the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) ironically contradict its very name; or at least we may ask—whose “priority” and “development” are these funds serving? With the current fiasco, answering that question would be stating the obvious.

In fact, these aren’t minuscule amounts. PHP 10 billion could already have done a lot to mitigate disasters. That amount would suffice for a restoration project for the forest mangrove cover (PHP 8.3 B) which serves as a natural flood control in large lakes and waterways, plus the remaining two billion for almost four year’s worth of community-based disaster preparedness and response programs.

Damages of this “calamity” do not end there. Money lost due to corruption led to unfinished roads and infrastructures, dwindled funds for education and healthcare, and even further exploitation of Filipino workers. It is infuriating how billions of pesos for pork barrel, even over a trillion pesos (if we look at the presidential lump sum funds), are likely being used for corruption instead of actually benefitting the people from whom this money came from.

However, Aquino is not parting with his pork, despite the growing public consciousness that his “matuwid na daan” is nothing but hypocrisy after all. His claim to abolish PDAF is nothing but a pretense for the lump sum allocated for the legislators, and himself, actually remains.

The recent heavy rains have further enraged the people and made us realize that it is about time to reallocate commonly misused pork barrel to serve the real recipients’ needs—genuine social services including proper drainage systems, calamity assistance, forest rehabilitation, affordable housing, and comprehensive plans that will prevent fatal damages brought by the disasters.

Thus, this is a call for all of us to push for the abolition of pork barrel and stay vigilant for other conduits of corruption that are yet to come. For as long as public funds persist to serve the interest of just the few, the people would continue to carry the burden of the tolls. [P]

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