CALBAYOG CITY, Samar, Philippines —A high-ranking official of the ruling Liberal Party (LP) cried foul over public outrage at the plunder of public funds through the pork barrel system, appealing to those demanding death to pork, mostly taxpayers, not to be emotional.
Senen Sarmiento, representative of Samar’s first district and LP secretary general, said he worried about the students who relied on his pork for their education. Sarmiento said he maintained at least 2,000 scholars using public funds through his pork.
Another congressman, Luigi Quisumbing of Cebu’s sixth district, admitted he dished out pork but not through the Philippine Forest Corp. (Philforest).
Sarmiento, who is from one of the country’s poorest provinces, said people should look at pork objectively.
“Let’s be objective!” Sarmiento exclaimed. Abolishing pork, he said, “is not a problem to those in Manila because the cities are rich and can attend to the needs of their residents.”
“What will happen to the patient from a poor family in a remote town in Samar and the district, provincial or regional hospital cannot attend to his special medical needs that can be treated only in specialized hospitals in Metro Manila?” Sarmiento said.
He said a system should take pork’s place to give the poor from the provinces access to medical services that are available only in urban areas.
According to records at the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Sarmiento used public funds through his pork to send 2,141 students to Northwest Samar State University (NWSSU) and Christ the King College. Tuition at NWSSU, a government-run institution, is P120 per unit for an undergraduate course.
Sarmiento used P1.4 million of public funds, through his pork, for his “scholars.” The DBM records said Sarmiento also used P12.5 million of public funds for medical, surgical and dental missions. He also used P1 million of public funds to subsidize the expenses of poor patients at Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, Philippine Heart Center and Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center.
DBM records said Sarmiento also spent P20 million in public funds for a road project in Calbayog City.
In Cebu, Quisumbing said he did not dish out pork to Philforest, contrary to an earlier Inquirer report.
He said he did spend public funds through his pork but these went to projects implemented by the Department of Agriculture.
The Commission on Audit (COA), in a report released recently, said at least P900,000 of public funds credited as Quisumbing’s pork went to Kabuhayan at Kalusugang Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. At least P750,000 went to Kasangga sa Magandang Bukas Foundation Inc. The COA questioned the use of public funds for the groups.
Quisumbing said it was the agriculture department that picked the two groups, however. The department, said Quisumbing, certified and validated the livelihood projects that the two groups were supposed to have implemented.
Quisumbing added that his pork was also used for medical programs and scholarships.