01 September 2008

Greed to the Extreme

Photo courtesy of madhavaji
As if the billions of 'pork barrel' funds and millions more for their trips abroad are not enough, the lawmakers in the House of Representatives want the Filipino people to shoulder the operational expenses incurred by their political parties, including campaign activities. There were already at least 132 lawmakers who wants to rush the passage of House Bill Number (HBN) 3655 on third and final reading before it is transmitted to the Senate.

The proposed measure also stipulates that funds will be distributed to national political parties based on their seats in the House of Representatives (50 percent) and the Senate (45 percent). The remaining 5 percent is given to the Commission on Elections for monitoring, information dissemination, and voter education.

Among the items to be funded by taxpayers’ money are the travel expenses of candidates during the campaign period, salaries of staff, expenses for the maintenance of party headquarters and even campaign flyers and other propaganda materials.

Wow! Talk about self-serving legislation that promotes not the welfare of the majority, especially the poor people of Mindanao, but the few and the elite that holds political power.

To make it appear that this measure has some noble gesture in mind, the bill was touted as a way of penalizing turncoatism among elected officials. Hmmm ... so they need money for their party to do this?

Why not a gentleman's agreement among the political parties not to support politicians who turned on them? Oops, I do not think this will work anymore since honor seems a scarce commodity for politicans in this country.

The bill was also supposed to empower political parties by preventing them from being beholden to certain groups and even criminal elements like gambling and drug lords who offer them funds during elections. With state subsidy, the authors of the measure believes that the parties can now refuse such offers.

Double wow to the nth power divided by 3 multiplied by 64 plus 1! Why not just make it a criminal offense with a penalty of life imprisonment without any possibility of being pardoned for any guilty politican who accepts these kinds of gifts during election? Or better yet, aside from the penalty above, forfeiture of all assets once the politician fails to submit a detailed expenditure report after each election.

Anyway, before they start enriching themselves yet again at the expense of the taxpayer's money, I have three more issues to raised:

How will the Commission on Audit (COA) monitor the disbursement of funds since it was the Comelec that was empowered by the bill to monitor the expenses? Can COA still conduct a credible audit on this given the fact that at present they are already having trouble auditing the 'pork' barrel funds that each lawmaker receives each year?

How important is this bill and the funds that will be allocated for its implementation compared to spending it right now and for the next ten years on the most depressed areas in Mindanao? How about used it to fund the Agrarian Reform program?

Is this measure consistent with the provision of the Philippine Constitution (Article IX (C) Section 6), which provides for a 'free and open party system'? Among the three listed, I do not think it will be able to survive the issue about its consitutionality once it is raised in the courts.

The constitution guarantees that smaller political parties are not discriminated upon by the major political parties. Allocating money to fund the self-serving interest of the big parties violates this provision to the detriment of small parties. Besides, it Section 10 of the same article in the constitution states that 'bona fide candidates shall be free from any form of discrimination'.