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Cardinal Tagle gets teary over 'heartbreaking' pork scam

August 14, 2013 10:00am

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle on Tuesday became emotional as he joined calls for a closer probe into an alleged multibillion-peso scam involving lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or so-called "pork barrel."

Speaking at a press conference at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Manila, Tagle branded the scam as "heartbreaking," the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said on its news site.

Last month, the misuse of the PDAF became a hot topic after bogus NGOs were reported to have been used as conduits for the "pork barrel" of some senators and House members to fund ghost projects worth an estimated P10 billion.

The CBCP said Tagle broke into tears when he dared politicians and other personalities linked to the “intricate web” of corruption to visit the poor and slum areas.

“Who will not be shocked with these reports and with the magnitude of money involved? ... It’s like your heart is broken into pieces. Can one really do this to one’s neighbor? Can one really stomach causing this kind of damage on the country?” he said.

Tagle said those accused should get a feel of how the poor live so that they would know how to spend the PDAF properly.

Tagle has been known to champion the interests of the poor and living simply. He did a highly publicized march with residents of Aurora protesting the APECO freeport in Casiguran.

The occasion at UST, where the main purpose was to announce a church event, was his first public statement on the pork barrel scam that has revealed an elaborate system for government funds to be siphoned away from the intended poor beneficiaries.

“My only appeal, not only to the politicians but to anyone involved in the controversy, is for them to visit the communities of informal settlers. Try walking there at night,” he said.

“On my own, I just think those that are doing such things are capable because the poor is absent in their lives. Maybe they cannot see them or they don’t want to see them,” he added. “But once they see them and even feel their suffering, maybe, they will at least be disheartened and moved by it,” he said.

Call for investigation
What the 'pork barrel' is
"Pork barrel" refers to congressional allocations such as the PDAF, financial subsidies to local government units (FSLGU), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) lump sum allocations for infrastructure projects identified by Congress. "Pork barrel" is the portion of the national budget that is widely left to the legislators’ discretion when it comes to how the funds are spent.Read more

Tagle said an investigation into the pork barrel scandal, as well as other scams, is "really necessary," lest they be "in danger of being forgotten.”

He noted, however, that the people involved in the scam still have the chance to reform their lives.

“I still believe that there is goodness in every person. You can be better than this. And you cannot deny it. There is goodness in you, which comes from God,” he said.

Meanwhile, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo pushed for the abolition of the pork barrel system, which he called a ”system of corruption.”

“The pork barrel only benefits people in authority. This is a system of corruption that has to be abolished,” he said in a report on the CBCP news site.

The prelate said it is best to abolish the fund to remove what he called a looming avenue for corruption in the government.

“Even if some lawmakers claim that they are not involved in the scam as they comprehensively and accurately report their PDAF expenses, it is still best to abolish a system of corruption such as this,” he said.

Meanwhile, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, said in a text message to reporters on Wednesday, "Let all citizens who love this country plead with the Senators if they indeed care for us and for the truth: 'Please call Janet Napoles to the Senate and face a thorough investigation like what they did to Angelo Reyes, Gen. Garcia & CJ Corona."

"Have it televised also so the public can be the  judge too. Or do they have something to be afraid of that Napoles might reveal? Why all of a sudden are they quiet on this 10 BILLION scam? NBI investigation  can be manipulated so it should be up to the Senate to open this plunder case! This is a heinous crime against our Filipino poor who could have benefitted from the PDAF!" Arguelles said. - with reports from Agatha Guidaben, Mark Merueñas, Amanda Fernandez/VVP/KG/HS, GMA News
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