By Federico D. Pascual Jr.
The Philippine Star
CLASS ACT: Japan’s Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday he would not collect his salary as head of government until the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant in northeastern Japan damaged by a monster quake and tsunami is over.
Speaking after some villagers in anti-radiation suits returned to their homes near the stricken plant to recover belongings, an apologetic Kan said that “along with the plant operator TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.), the government bears a great responsibility for the nuclear accident.”
Kan was giving up his 1.6 million yen (about $20,000) monthly wage as premier, but was to keep his lawmaker’s wage of nearly 800,000 yen ($10,000).
Before him, TEPCO said its president Masataka Shimizu and other directors would also return their pay “for the time being.”
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TAKE A HINT: Cannot senators and congressmen volunteer to forgo their pork barrel and stop holding meetings in luxury hotels and restaurants until the number of Filipinos below the poverty line drops by at least 3 percent from the present 33 percent?
Each of the 24 senators is allocated P200 million and each of more than 250 congressmen P70 million annually in pork barrel. But if some rare birds like Sen. Ping Lacson can totally give up their pork barrel, why cannot the rest do the same?
Listed euphemistically in the P1.6-trillion national budget as Priority Development Assistance Fund, “pork” is actually Executive (not legislative) funds assigned to the departments. But lawmakers routinely meddle in its use, giving rise to corruption.
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PORK STICK: Lawmakers are loudly complaining lately about the delay daw in the release by Malacañang of “their” pork barrel allocations.
Somebody should remind senators and congressmen that their job is lawmaking, not working out contracts and overseeing public works. This is an Executive function.
Of course political concerns enter the picture when the pork barrel carrot is used by Malacañang as a stick for making lawmakers more cooperative, if not docile, to the Palace.
Estimates have placed at an average of 30 percent the slice that graft-oriented legislators bite off their pork as they dictate projects and pick favored contractors.
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UNDERPAID: Back to the idea of key officials suspending collection of wages and allowances until they improve their performance or until workers are assured of a decent minimum living wage. We can start with the President.
For a Chief Executive on duty 24/7 being paid a salary of P107,000 a month, he is utterly underpaid. But while his basic pay is peanuts, the allowances and other funds at his disposal run into billions, all tax-free.
Since P107,000 is petty cash anyway, maybe President Aquino may want to announce (like the Japanese premier) that he is suspending collecting it until his approval rating goes up by at least 5 percentage points.
Or he can suspend collecting his pay until there is a marked improvement in the figures showing so many Filipinos going hungry.
Anyway, the President is a bachelor whose upkeep is fully paid by taxpayers. Then there are the billions in his intelligence and social funds, among other fat in the Executive pork barrel.
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NO WORK-NO PAY: Why should the general rule of “no work-no pay” apply only to lowly workers but not to government officials?
For instance, if Congress meets in regular session for x number of days only, senators and congressmen should collect salaries and allowances only for those x number of days.
Or, if we really have to crack the whip and count pesos, maybe lawmakers should be paid – and paid handsomely – only for every bill that they author or sponsor that gets enacted into law.
When they appear and perform for televised legislative inquisitions/inquiries, they should pay for airtime. The costly suits and dresses they order for such appearances should not be charged to taxpayers.
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FACELESS ACCUSERS: Many reader were aghast when graft accusations against Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez and former Internal Revenue and Customs Commissioner Guillermo Parayno were played up despite the accusers’ refusing to identify themselves.
There is something unfair when people with names and faces are maligned in public by anonymous detractors or by bloggers hiding behind aliases or cryptic usernames.
When contacted, Alvarez said he had not seen the charge sheet, if any, but denied the reported accusations.
On the alleged existence of extensive smuggling nationwide of used clothing known as ukay-ukay, he cited records that in the last 10 months, Customs has seized 20 containers of used clothing with an estimated retail value of P60 million.
On the alleged use of some 2,500 unqualified personnel to render official Customs functions, he cited Cesar Manuel and Andy Ong (among those named) as actual customs employees holding the positions of Executive Assistant and Clerk II, respectively.
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FALSE RAPS: Alvarez denied that E-Konek, an internet server, was providing electronic lodgment of import and export entries allegedly without any legal contract and no public bidding.
He cited records showing that E-Konek was accredited by the Bureau as a Value-Added Service Provider in October 2007, long before the assumption to office of the officials being denounced.
Accreditation means that E-Konek and two other Value-Added Service Providers (CDEC and Inter-Commerce) passed the criteria set by the bureau to provide services to the trading community. Alvarez said the contractual obligations of the firms are with the community, not the bureau.
He said that although he was formerly connected with the Lina Group of Companies, he had not given the Lina organization preferential treatment.
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