Without kickbacks, ‘jueteng’ thrivesBy Gil C. Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
This is because the traditional sources of “booty” for local government officials and other politicians—such as those hefty kickbacks from road projects—are drying up under President Bengno Aquino’s “daang matuwid (righteous path)” program, Negros Occidental Representative Alberto “Albee” Benitez said Sunday.
“The President’s relentless anticorruption efforts have been so broad and so relentless that some local government officials are resorting to other means to maintain their ‘livelihood’ under this administration,” Benitez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
“Since they can’t get their money from pork barrel projects anymore, such as from the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) and the Road Board, they encourage jueteng to keep their lifestyle.”
Cash cows gone
Benitez said the reforms implemented by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson had drastically cut kickbacks from public works projects.
He said road projects used to provide congressmen “with their gravy from pork barrel projects.”
“But when Secretary Singson pegged the maximum cost of building roads at roughly P8 million per kilometer, they lost their cash cows. If their contractors could not do it for that amount or less, Secretary Singson has state-sanctioned contractors that can do the work,” Benitez said, explaining why road projects had lost their allure under the Aquino administration.
“This is the reason jueteng and masiao are flourishing because these people have to sustain their lifestyle with another income,” he said.
Benitez is believed to be the second-richest member of the House of Representatives after Sarangani representative and boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.
Jueteng can be stopped
Cavite Representative Joseph E.A. Abaya said the DPWH’s reforms had borne fruit in the first two years of the Aquino administration but he could not say whether the rise in jueteng could be directly linked to zero graft from the pork barrel.
“I personally feel jueteng should be stopped and can be stopped. My father, former [Representative] Del Abaya, a former PC (Philippine Constabulary) officer, is adamant it can be stopped because they were able to do it while [he was] in the service,” Abaya said.
Palawan Representative Antonio Alvarez said: “If President Aquino’s efforts to curb corruption are affecting the lifestyles of some influential people, then the option for them is to cease and desist or change careers.”
Alliance of Concerned Teachers Representative Antonio Tinio disagreed that pork barrel commissions from public works projects had dried up.
“These new reforms and restrictions may still be subverted by complicitous politicians,
DPWH personnel and contractors. Hence, pork is still a principal source of kickbacks. The push to drive up jueteng profits is more likely due to the rising costs of running for political office,”