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Bacolod City, Philippines Thursday, January 31, 2019
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with Benjamin Calderon

A vegetarian congress

Rock & Refuge

A vegetarian is a person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons. It would be theoretically ideal to have a vegetarian congress considering the continuing existence of pork allocation. These are lump sums given to legislators to fund specific projects that they themselves determine. A 1993 Supreme Court decision declared the Priority Development Assistance Fund, a pork barrel, unconstitutional. Why do our legislators continue with the practice of having a pork barrel when this practice is not authorized by the basic law of our land? This is one question we must ask the candidates for the post of legislator to determine his or her position. We need to start with someone who will sacrifice a legislative pork barrel rather than consider such an entitlement.

In a news article, Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., chair of the House appropriations committee, said on Tuesday that the Senate amendments were still considered “insertions” to the bill. “These are all amendments, whether you call it institutional or individual or agency-requested, these are all revisions or, in layman’s terms, insertions in the national budget,” said Andaya, who also heads the House panel on the conference committee. Lump-sum amendments introduced by the Senate exceeded P190 billion, while the House of Representatives’ proposals involved only P51 billion, Andaya told reporters. “Those were not their only amendments. We are talking about a bigger total,” he said. Andaya said the Senate amendments had not been broken down into specific items, and were thus lump sums.

So, another reality is that the legislators of the upper house have a bigger appetite for the pork barrel and expose themselves to a greater temptation, arising from the larger sums, of mishandling of public funds they themselves entrusted to themselves. In my opinion as the legal difficulties of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jingoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla related to the Napoles Pork Barrel scandal continue to be processed by our legal system, the untouched or lesson-not-learned legislators might as well hang a banner declaring “business usual”. We, as a voting population, need to start with our choices this coming national elections on Senators who will join the fight against pork barrel in the government’s budget.

On another matter, the deadly bombing of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu and the subsequent grenade attack on a mosque in Zamboanga City has turned the violence in the area another level up which, in my opinion, is an indicator of the weakness in the intelligence service of our law enforcement agencies. As of this writing it seems that our intelligence services where caught unaware of the plot to bomb the Cathedral in Jolo. This speculation is based on the belief that if the intelligence service had knowledge, but unfortunately failed to prevent the violent act, this level of intelligence is higher than that without knowledge gathered. With gathered intelligence, the next plan to bomb another place will hopefully be prevented.

Let us end with a joke that should encourage ourselves, as well as, our legislators to learn the important life lessons in a timely manner. A man had a parrot that could talk. Unfortunately, it swore a lot. In an effort to get the parrot to be quiet, he put him in a cupboard. The parrot continued swearing and after a while the man decided to put the bird in the freezer. After that, the parrot started swearing even more. After a few minutes, he suddenly became quiet. The man opened up the freezer and the parrot said, "I'm sorry, sir, it will never happen again." As the man took the bird out of the freezer, he wondered what the difference was between the cupboard and the freezer. Just then, the parrot said, “So, uh, what'd the chicken do?”*

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