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Legalized Corruption

"Tuwid na Daan" boasted of 2012 as the year for public accountability through the first-ever removal of a Chief Justice. And the impeachment was doggedly pursued by no less than the President of the Philippines, using all the forces of government at his disposal like the BIR.

But early on in the New Year 2013,  the annual practice of multi-million peso Christmas cash gifts by the Senate President to all the senators from senate "savings" was outed. Enrile playing Santa Claus to his peers, a "tradition" of the senate allegedly since the time of Quezon, would have normally gone unnoticed except that four unhappy "naughty kids" complained about the "small" amount of Php250 thousand each that was given them.

Then suddenly, senators were all agog over the "honor and dignity" of the senate. But in the end, no less than "Santa Claus" and one "naughty" boy engaged in a petty word war in full session. Both protested their own innocence, not wanting to go to the "gutters", even as they hurled brickbats at each other.

Mind you, this is our Senate of the Philippines!

Nevertheless, what is clear now is that the greatest challenge actually to "Tuwid na Daan" is not the commission of plunder and other corruption crimes, but what I call "legalized corruption." It is the misuse of public money sanctioned by law.

Senate President Enrile defended his action to be in full compliance with the General Appropriations Act passed by Congress and signed into law by the President. The Commission on Audit also confirmed his position. Furthermore, the amounts to be given to each senator was left by law to the discretion of the senate president. And the four naughty kids know this or at least are charged with full knowledge of such law---they are legislators after all--as to make their "pagmalinis" (to project oneself as pure) protestations as nothing but noisy "sour graping."

Simply put, government spending is money for public use as intended by the people.

In turn, "savings" must be understood by its plain meaning. For example, you have real savings when the senate pays less than the budgeted amount for electricity by the use of energy-efficient air-conditioning or lighting.

And common sense tells us that money intended for an office like a senate seat that has become vacant is not a saving. It is unspent money. For sure the people did not intend that the other senators would then rapaciously feast on this amount under the guise of "savings".

To further illustrate, money allocated for a road is not a saving if not spent therefor for whatever reason, which amount the DPWH officials can then distribute among themselves as "cash gifts."  We want our road, period. Any other spending would be a misuse, and if sanctioned by law, a clear case of legalized corruption.

"Tuwid na Daan" has been suddenly silent, however.