A DAY before the Freedom of Information Act was supposed to be taken up at the House of Representatives, Speaker Prospero Nograles told media that text messages and phone calls were being made to ensure that House members would attend Friday’s session for the ratification of the FOI bill.
AT LEAST four congressmen and a governor have personal and family interests in companies that secured multi-million-peso civil-works contracts over the last seven years, according to the online registry of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The five elective officials, in reply to PCIJ queries about possible cases of conflict of interest, acknowledge their interest in the companies but also stress that the contracts were awarded before they took their oaths of office.
LAST JANUARY 21, at a House of Representatives committee hearing on the alleged collusion and corruption in World Bank-financed road projects, Pampanga Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. offered a quaint proposition. He said it should be the Bank that should be sanctioned and not the contractors who won the bids under a cloud of collusion and overpricing.
“(Hindi) dapat i-sanction ang mga contractors,” said Gonzales, one of the vice chairmen of the committee on public works and highways that was conducting the hearing. Instead, he asserted, it should be the World Bank that should be put under scrutiny.
UNDAUNTED by the resounding defeat recently of the fourth impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the opposition at the House of Representatives is embarking on another crusade that does not seem to stand a chance of winning, at least under the present administration.
The opposition now seeks to control the president’s wide discretion in disbursing public money, including the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), derisively called ‘pork barrel,’ and other unspent amounts in the annual budget program.
THE 14TH Congress will open its second regular session on Monday with a spit-polished image, amid massive renovation efforts for the Marcos-era Batasang Pambansa building, home to the House of Representatives.
Largely cosmetic, the frenzied makeover has secured an initial funding of P200 million from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but once completed will cost taxpayers almost a billion pesos.
IN 1996, in celebration of its 30th anniversary, the all-female Soroptimist International Manila was in search of a guest speaker who was known for championing women’s causes, had contributed to the women’ s struggle, and had affected the lives of millions of Filipinas in a positive way. It didn’t take its members long to come up with a unanimous choice. The only problem was, they had chosen a he.
FOR SOME 160 families, the two Houses of the Philippine Congress have practically been home for the last century. These families have had two or more members who have served in Congress, and they account for nearly 424 of the 2,407 men and women who have been elected to the national legislature from 1907 to 2004.
HE IS a practicing lawyer, but Jose Luis Martin ‘Chito’ Gascon also wants it known that among his professions are as “democracy activist” and “social reform advocate.” After all, he has been no mere spectator in watershed events in contemporary Philippine politics.
IN THEORY and in law, the legislators’ role in pork-barrel allocations remains limited to “consultation” to enable them to recommend priority projects. In practice, however, they have the final word on what projects should be funded.
The release of pork is based on the lawmakers’ request to the Department of Budget Management (DBM), detailing the nature and location of the project they want, the implementing agency, and the funds required. This setup makes legislators the lords of pork-barrel funds. It also makes them natural magnets to contractors and suppliers who offer bribes so they can sell their goods and services.
IN 2001, 108 congressmen gave P162 million of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) — considered as the “main” pork-barrel allocation — for medical assistance to their constituents through the Department of Health and various government hospitals. The Philippine General Hospital, the country’s biggest state hospital, received P30.8 million.
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