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How the PDAF scam kills poor people
By Elson T. Elizaga

I received an angry email this month from ma'm Loreta Rafisura, a nurse who went to the United States but returned to Salay, Misamis Oriental to work for the poor. In 1987, in response to widespread poverty and hunger in Salay, she and her husband founded a development group that became the Salay Handmade Paper Industries, Inc. (SHAPII). Later, the organization formed a foundation and a cooperative to provide more services to the community.

Ma’m Loreta’s email starts with a Facebook status from her niece, Dr. Albee Marie P. Capistrano:

“While the Senate is busy investigating the PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] scam, I was attending a patient who was having chest pain and shortness of breath in a government hospital. It is frustrating [to be aware] as a physician, that you know how to treat a patient but every time you order a medicine – including emergency drug that should be available in all hospitals -- the patient's watcher has to run to the nearest pharmacy or hospital to buy it. What little time we have to save the patient's life is lost while waiting for that watcher to arrive. And most of the time it is too late when the watcher arrives.

“I can only imagine: If a portion of billions of pesos lost in that PDAF scam was allotted to all government hospitals we could have saved more lives. But like [Janet-Lim] Napoles who is now lost, we have lost many lives of our patients. I hope that one of the politicians involved in this scam will have chest pain and be brought to a government hospital with no medicine, even aspirin or oxygen or, worst, walay doctor og nurse kay nag-resign kay walay sweldo ...."

Ma’m Loreta explains:

“Elson, this is a post by my niece, which I think is really an expression of her disgust over the Napoles case. [She is] so right. Can you help publicize this? Dapat moabut sab ni sa mga politicians. Intawon si Dr. Albee, she served in Talisayan General Hospital and now has a clinic in Gingoog, trying to reach out to the poor.”

I asked ma’m Loreta to share more of her thoughts on the subject. She replied:

“Thanks Elson. I think it's nice to hear from idealistic youths like Dr. Albee. Our job as elders is to encourage our youth. I also cry for this: That our youth are so discouraged and disgusted at what they see is going on. This is the bigger crime, I think.

“How can we inspire them to serve in our country when the very leaders we have voted to manage our country, to make our laws, to administer our wealth, etc., put the money in their pockets instead while our citizenry wallow in poverty? Is it any wonder that we try so hard to work for the development of our country, in our own turf, hoping that in this way we can contribute to an overall effort, as we partner with the government, and yet we move only inch by inch?

Grabe kalisud. Ok lang unta if lisud kay lisud man. But it seems nga lisud kay all the resources are siphoned to personal gains by our officials in cohorts with people like Napoles and others! Ang kapal! This really makes me cry!

“And how come that we have agencies like the PCNC (Philippine Council for NGO's )  who are quite strict in granting us accreditation as an NGO but all these NGO's of Napoles get away with being fake? Doesn’t the government – the senators and congressmen -- require the NGOs to be authenticated before they are given grants? Or are the grants fake, too?

“We have undergone levels of accreditation in SHAPII Foundation, yet we never got a single centavo of help from the government in the form of grants! We ran after one such support once, for a P50,000.00 project on organic agriculture but were shuttled from one person to another. We wasted our meager resources running after a congressman until we got tired.  It seemed our shortcoming was we did not have the right connection pala! Help finally came from a private donor. Like a miracle a letter came to me offering some funding. Alleluia!!

“Elson, you may or may not publish this and all my ranting (sorry ha!). I am just ventilating my rage! No wonder my son does not want to work here in our country. He was an SK [Sangguniang Kabataan] officer when he was 18. He received awards for his writings on love of country while in school. But when he observed the shenanigans of politicians first-hand all his idealism flew out of the window! What a tragedy!

“Another good Filipino has become an OCW [overseas contract worker]. I am so afraid that this may happen with Dr Albee, that she may not be able to resist the temptation to look for a ‘better life’ in other countries. Better? The fact is we have a wonderful country and the blessings of rich natural resources. It is only our system in the government and the culture of corruption that make our life in the Philippines nakakaiyak! I pray President P-noy, in his sincerity will continue to value the lessons his parents left. I pray we, all, will soon live with love for our country every day. Kana bang ‘Yes the Filipino Can!’ Kaya baya nato ni basta di lang ta greedy baya!


Published in Mindanao Goldstar Daily Aug. 28, 2013. Published here Sept. 1, 2013.