Ex-Chief Justice Puno: Pork is evil

‘We must fight from start to finish’

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Retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno has denounced the pork barrel system as an “evil” that people should fight to abolish.

Speaking on Saturday before a gathering of Methodist Churches at the Good Samaritan Church in Quezon City, Puno lashed out at the P10-billion pork barrel scam, saying it “could well develop to be the worst to hit the government as billions of pesos misused by our public officials can still be unearthed by the Commission on Audit (COA).”

“However you look at it, the pork barrel scandal is all about abuse in the exercise of the powers of government, especially the legislative power over the money of the people,” he said.

The retired Chief Justice was referring to the controversy involving the alleged diversion of the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, to bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) in schemes involving lawmakers and detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

“The pork barrel is an evil practice and it is our duty to fight evil by engaging it and not running away from it, not escaping from it,” he said.

“The fight against evil requires that we not only start the fight but we finish the fight. The fight against evil demands a period. The fight cannot be postponed by a comma, cannot be suspended by a ceasefire. Evil deserves but one end—defeat,” he added.

Plunder charges were filed last week against Napoles and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in the Office of the Ombudsman. Charges of either plunder or malversation of public funds also were filed against 34 other people.

In his speech, Puno asked what should be the response of Methodists to the controversy considering that people had expressed their indignation against the scam by flocking to protest rallies in Manila’s Rizal Park and Edsa.

Puno cited four ways to understand the issue via Methodist teachings and the 1987 Constitution—the source of power of the government, the role of government, political responsibility of the State and their position on graft and corruption.

“In sum, the Methodist position in regard to abuse of governmental power is clear, unchanging and unchangeable. Our North Star has always been and will always be the Word of God. We maintain that government derives its power from God; that it is the sovereignty of God that counts, it is the sovereignty of God that controls, its the sovereignty of God that should dictate the direction of human destiny,” Puno said.

Disquieting theft

As Methodists, they view that the government only exists to serve the people and that “the only rationale of the government is to maintain order by promoting good and not evil, and above all, the government must be an instrument of God, hence no government can subvert the sovereignty of God,” Puno said.

He said the pork barrel scam was a “sad story repeated again and again in the history of governments.”

But Puno said the scam was more than the story of “mass theft” of the people’s money and that “more disquieting is how the money was misused against the people’s interest.”

“It was misused for political patronage; to buy the loyalty of people whose politics is for sale; to corrupt our system of making laws; to corrupt our systems of enforcing our laws; to corrupt our system of election; to perpetuate poverty; in other words, to violate the dignity of our people, to demean our democracy, and worse of all, to defy the sovereignty of God,” he said.

The retired Chief Justice said this was “God’s battle” as it was a struggle between good and evil. “This is a battle between God’s power and evil people in power,” he said.

And when evil reigns, this is temporary while goodness is permanent, he said.

“Let us take comfort in God’s promise that evil may succeed for a moment but goodness shall prevail for only the right born of righteousness has the power to rise and to prevail,” Puno said.

Plea to lift TRO

Malacañang on Sunday said it would not stop members of the House of Representatives from asking the Supreme Court to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) on the allocation of their pork barrel for poor students and indigent patients.

Should the lawmakers go ahead with the filing of the motion on Monday, it’s the call of the high court whether to grant it, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview.

“It’s not defiance. That’s different from disobeying a TRO. In effect, they’re bringing the side of the Lower House to the attention of the high court,” Valte said over government-run dzRB. “It’s up to the Supreme Court how to act on the move.”

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, vice chair of the appropriations committee, said the motion would specifically ask the high tribunal to free up pork barrel funds for scholarships and medical assistance programs.

The pork-barreling lawmaker said the Office of the Ombudsman had been furnished copies of affidavits of scholars and indigent patients who continued to depend on PDAF allocations. With the TRO, allocation for such programs has been stopped.

The high tribunal issued the TRO on Sept. 10 pending the resolution of a petition questioning the constitutionality of the PDAF.

P12.27B frozen

The high court stopped the Department of Budget and Management, national treasurer and executive secretary from releasing the remaining funds allocated to members of Congress under the General Appropriations Act of 2013.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said some P12.27 billion in PDAF for the second semester in 2013 had not been released.

After President Aquino announced the abolition of the PDAF in the national budget, a growing number of lawmakers have expressed concern over the possible discontinuation of assistance to students and patients in their congressional districts.

The abolition came in the face of public outrage over the P10-billion pork barrel scam, fanned by news and state auditors’ reports on the large-scale misuse of the PDAF over 10 years, especially during the Arroyo administration.

Valte also said Malacañang would look into reports that the PDAF allocations of certain senators had been channeled through Philippine Forest Corp. to questionable NGOs from 2010 to 2012.

“We will take a look at what Secretary (Ramon) Paje has found because I understand that from the onset of the administration, Secretary Paje has been asking that the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) be taken out of the menu of implementing agencies that could be identified as possible implementers of programs sourced from PDAF. If they found something, let’s see what it is that they found,” she said.

Originally posted: 10:03 pm | Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

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