Jose Maria Sison: Evidence shows Filipino government set up ghost non-profits that failed to service its most vulnerable citizens.
Interview with Prof. Jose Maria Sison, ILPS Chairperson on typhoon Haiyan by Jessica Desvarieux, TRNN Producer. The Real News Network is a television news and documentary network focused on providing independent and uncompromising journalism.
Prof. Jose Maria Sison is a Filipino patriot, a proletarian revolutionary and internationalist. He is a Filipino statesman, known for his experience in and knowledge of the people’s democratic government and revolutionary forces in the Philippines. He is sometimes consulted by high officials of foreign governments and by presidents, senators, congressmen and local officials of the Philippine reactionary government concerning peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and related matters. He is recognized as the the foremost thinker and leader of the Filipino people’s movement for national liberation and democracy in the last 50 years.
JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
Typhoon Haiyan has been dubbed the most powerful storm in history, hitting the Philippines over the weekend and killing at least 10,000 people.
With us to discuss this devastating storm and the relief effort is Jose Maria Sison. He is the chairperson of the International League of People's Struggle, and he joins us now from the Netherlands.
Thanks for being with us, Jose.
JOSE MARIA SISON, CHAIRPERSON, INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE OF PEOPLES' STRUGGLE: Good afternoon, Jessica.
DESVARIEUX: So, Jose, we are hearing of horrific scenes of corpses hanging from trees and bodies just on the sidewalks. You've been in touch with many people there on the ground. Can you just please describe for us the degree of devastation that has just taken place in the Philippines?
SISON: Fifteen million people at the least have been subjected to death and destruction of property and so on. And these are all--these are mainly in the central part of the Philippines.
The overview by planes and satellites show the wide swath of destruction in 35 provinces, that the storm, super typhoon, hit hard in the provinces of Leyte, Samar, Isabela, the two Negros provinces, Iloilo, Capiz, and Aklan, also Mindoro, the bigger provinces. So you have a lot of provinces hit hard. And I think more than 10,000 lives were lost in the super typhoon, and probably several scores of billions of property in pesos have been destroyed.
But the government, the corrupt government has been able to shell out only $1 billion, a little over $1 billion, and it's trying hard to raise, supposedly, $20 billion. And that's a small--that's a small part of what is needed.
And the problem is corruption has hit hard. The calamity fund that should be used, that should be accumulated to save people during these disasters--but the money has been used up. And so there is really a big demand for aid from various international sources.
Anyway, the rescue and relief operations are quite late and too little and too late in coming to the millions of people who are afflicted by the super typhoon.
DESVARIEUX: You mentioned the government and the level of corruption there. Can you just point us to some specific examples of how this government is corrupt, in your words?
SISON: In stealing public funds, they make a lot of lump sum appropriations. And it's only the president who has the discretion to spend the money. The Congressman, the members of Congress and the Senate, would beg the president to release the funds to them. And they have the system of taking cuts from contractors of projects.
And they have developed a new technique for stealing. They use paper NGOs or fake NGOs. They're ghost projects. And the money is given to the fake NGOs. And then it's a split between people in the executive and in the legislative branches. They have this neat trick, with the members of Congress supposedly in charge of the purse being able to dictate how the money is spent in specific ways. And the executive plays ball, agrees with the legislators in stealing the money and using various types of mechanisms for thievery.
DESVARIEUX: Okay. What about the relief effort right now? Can you just describe for us what's going on? And do you feel like it's being handled appropriately by the government?
SISON: There should be warehouses for relief in times of disaster in every province in every region. But warehouses are empty and the relief goods are not coming. The relief goods should include canned goods, water, medicine, clothing, and materials for shelter, like tents and so on. But these things are not going to the people.
And there should be a mechanism for the government to buy the things useful to the people that are in private stores and the supermarkets. But the government is not doing anything to buy these things for the people. Instead, they accuse the people of looting instead of the government immediately paying for things that the people can use in their period of disaster and extreme need.
DESVARIEUX: And it seems like this storm has really hit the most vulnerable populations there in the Philippines. We'll certainly keep on tracking this story. Thank you so much for joining us, Jose.
And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
Source:The Real news Network
ISSUE ANALYSIS No. 05, Series of 2013
By the Policy Study, Publication, and Advocacy
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
September 20, 2013
It appears that President Aquino instead of calling for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of combatants of both sides from Zamboanga City, and start negotiations seems more interested in prolonging the crisis, while blaming Nur Misuari or his “breakaway faction” for the crisis and sabotaging the Framework Agreement. Worse, PNoy aggravated the crisis when he tries to resolve the political problem using military force.
(This issue analysis was contributed by CenPEG Fellow Ben O. Lim. Lim, who wrote this analysis on Sept. 17, is a retired professor from the University of the Philippines and now teaches in the Ateneo de Manila University.)
What are Filipinos to do when the leadership at the highest level engages in dangerous brinkmanship and political grandstanding instead of speeding up the call for ceasefire or peace negotiation in the on-going Zamboanga City confrontation? What are Filipinos to do when their Vice-President, without authorization or instruction from the President, negotiated truce with Nur Misuari on his own, told Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and even announced on Friday night that a ceasefire between the military and the MNLF would take effect at midnight?
It appears that President Aquino instead of calling for an immediate ceasefire, the withdrawal of combatants of both sides from Zamboanga City, and start negotiations seems more interested in prolonging the crisis, while blaming Nur Misuari or his “breakaway faction” for the crisis and sabotaging the Framework Agreement. Worse, PNoy aggravated the crisis when he tries to resolve the political problem using military force.
Unfortunately his “calibrated” military solution has created other problems: the wounding and deaths not only of combatants from both sides but of civilians caught in the crossfire. It brought into being between 40,000 to 60,000 refugees who are sick and hungry and worse, worry whether their houses would be razed to the ground due to the fighting. Above all, it paralyzed the operations of the entire city turning it into a warzone which led to massive economic losses not only for Zamboanga but also for the whole country. Still PNoy and Interior Secretary Mar Roxas tried to assure the nation that they are working 24/7 for ways and means to resolve the crisis.
The inability of the government to end the crisis quickly and decisively has led people to ask: How big is Nur’s breakaway army and what hi-tech weaponry do the rebels possess that they are able hold the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippines National Police to a standoff for over a week? How come the Office of the President and the AFP with so much intelligence funds, have been unable to detect and cut off the advances of what it now considers as a mere fraction of the Moro National Liberation Front?
This inability has prompted some critics to charge that despite billions of pesos in financial support, the intelligence sectors of the AFP and the PNP are dysfunctional, while others suspect that the standoff is being deliberately prolonged by the Aquino administration for political reasons. PNoy, they charge, is using the tragedy that turned the residents into refugees as an opportunity to take the thunder out of the demands of the civil society to abolish all pork barrels and to demonstrate that his office needs to keep the emergency and other pork barrel-related funds and even the transfer of the congressional pork barrel into the President’s office in order for him to immediately and effectively meet this and other types of emergency, to relieve the refugees of their miseries. Secretary Dinky Soliman has already taken a census of those who lost their houses and property and promised to help them rehabilitate and reconstruct their losses. For most observers, this is a first time the Aquino administration has offered such an all-encompassing aid package which dwarfs the measly sum given through the conditional cash transfer program. And for some observers, this must be in anticipation of the transfer of pork barrel from the Congress to the President’s office. Indeed there could be some truths to all these speculations and charges that the politics of pork barrel is behind this new-found government benevolence, and it is beyond dispute that ideal solutions have been missing until now. Critics point to PNoy’s ambiguous and meandering position on the Zamboanga City standoff as the rationale that prolonged the crisis. It was only after one week that the half-hearted military decided to drop a few bombs and to wage an all out war. And even before the crisis is over they are now boasting that not only do they liberate the hostages from harm but are rehabilitating and rebuilding their traumatized lives.
But if public safety, peace and normalcy have been the PNoy administration’s overriding concern, he and his advisers would not allow Zamboanga City to fester as a warzone for a long time. As things turn out, it seems clear that Nur has been willing to talk peace from the very start.
Precisely because a political strategem is being added to the crisis to justify the consolidation of congressional pork barrel into the office of the President, Vice President Jejomar Binay decided to add one of his own – to upstage the President the way he staged a coup against candidate Mar Roxas within the Aquino camp during the last presidential elections. For Binay, power has been an acquired taste, the acquisition as intriguing as it was treacherous. Even now one still senses his triumphal outlook for his rough and tumble type of politicking. But this time, there is something amiss in the way he maneuvered the attempted coup against the President in the Zamboanga City crisis.
Binay, without authorization or instruction from President Aquino and the Commander-in-Chief of the AFP, negotiated a truce with Nur Misuari and announced that a ceasefire between the military and the MNLF would take effect at midnight. Binay told reporters that he had spoken to both Secretary Gazmin and Misuari about the ceasefire that the men on both sides would lay down the terms of the truce. Unfortunately for Binay, Gazmin did not recognize him as his Commander-in-Chief.
Worse, when the ceasefire did not materialize, Binay crowed in his press statement: “There was a good start. Both were for peaceful settlement. But the President did not accept the conditions Misuari set for a ceasefire.”
Binay while acknowledging that PNoy has the ultimate say on the crisis nonetheless blamed the President for rejecting the opportunity he created that could end the Zamboanga crisis - since Binay and Misuari “were for peaceful settlement.”
Clearly Binay not only took advantage of the prolonged crisis but decided to overshadow the President by showing that he could achieve peace faster and more effectively than President Aquino and Secretary Roxas. Throughout Binay’s justification of his move, he displayed a new- found pleasure in exposing the President’s meandering ways. “It’s a pity” Binay implied, the President is not for peace.
In this respect, President Aquino and Vice President Binay are only the latest in a string of Philippine leaders who have shown few limits to the harm they can inflict on the Filipino people by playing politics to serve their own ends. The country is still stuck with the same woeful, corrupt, selfish and divisive leadership that plunges the country’s economy to the brink and toward a civil war.
ISSUE ANALYSIS No. 04 Series of 2013
By the Policy Study, Publication, and Advocacy
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
September 20, 2013
Public trust is not just about government. It is about people trusting themselves to collectively devise the best government model they deserve.
Now is the best time to begin the process.
Public trust in government dived to its lowest as a result of the P10-bn pork barrel scam. It will not be restored – not in this generation.
For one, it will take long before the charges against the alleged operator of the criminal syndicate and accomplices/beneficiaries such as lawmakers, heads of agencies, and bogus NGOs are finally decided with convictions meted out to those found guilty. For another, the present scam involving the plunder of pork barrel and other special funds supposedly earmarked for poverty alleviation and other projects is just the tip of the iceberg that could unearth other similar syndicates. With the first set of plunder charges having been filed before her office, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has the daunting task of marshalling the much-politicized agency to support the investigation, weather political pressures, and prevent the cases from being dragged into a pro-administration agenda for the 2016 presidential election. Impartiality demands that the Ombudsman along with the justice department should also look into allegations of involvement by Aquino administration officials and allies.
People dramatized their outrage over this latest case of plunder of taxpayers’ money through spontaneous and organized rallies and other nationwide protest actions since August. There was sheer disbelief and shock that while people from all walks of life were being displaced by disasters like floods a scam headlined a few people awash with stolen money living in shameless profligacy while hobnobbing with high public officials in plush hotels.
In many respects, this latest case of corruption is unprecedented given the involvement of the high and mighty in Congress and the longevity of this alleged criminal operation – albeit reportedly known to many legislators – that dates back to 2004 until it was exposed by a whistleblower this year. It brings to mind how in the past 50 years modern-day corruption using power, authority, and secrecy looted the national treasury, foreign grants, investments, development projects, and other sources often leading to witnesses and whistleblowers being silenced. Corruption – among other alleged heinous crimes – led to the ouster of Ferdinand E. Marcos (1986) and Joseph E. Estrada (2001); likewise it almost led to the removal of Gloria M. Arroyo during her term. Yet, for all the evidences and testimonies of plunder and other cases involving other officials, politicians, and generals most perpetrators remained untouched while convictions gave way to political compromise or “reconciliation.” Corruption, indeed, thrives on opportunism.
Corruption weakens the state. Pork barrel, sugar-coated by the title “Priority Development Assistance Fund,” is just one among many sources of corruption. Still, it alone made Congress a rubber-stamp of Malacanang under a system of political patronage disabling its constitutional mandate as check and balance on the chief executive and made it less conducive for a viable political party system. The executive department, of course, has its own pork barrel amounting to several-fold more than that of Congress: Being lump sum and discretionary, the funds have never been subjected to real auditing.
Corruption and the patronage politics it engenders is at the core of dysfunctional institutions ranging from agencies that are tasked to deliver public goods and services to the criminal justice system. One of the reasons why corruption is unbridled is the absence of an effective rule of law and justice system particularly when powers that be are involved. Aggravating all these is a much-hyped but toothless system of transparency and accountability and a freedom of information act which many legislators loath of enacting. All these breed a culture of impunity that allows the commission not only of more graft and corrupt practices but also other crimes including human rights violations that involve the state’s powerful security forces against defenseless activists and other people.
Public trust, however, is built not only by credibility or integrity but also by government’s competence and responsiveness in measuring up to the nation’s social and economic expectations. Claims of economic growth will not cover up government’s failure to address the endemic poverty and the ever-widening income disparity that underscores the concentration of wealth in a few families including political dynasties. It also magnifies government’s pro-elite, exclusionary economic policy. When more people lose jobs and families are consigned to a life of hopelessness, public trust in government suffers.
In the first place, the justice department’s probe of the P10-bn pork barrel was prompted only by an expose of the whistleblower and media reports which thereafter unleashed the public outrage. More investigations and media stories also revealed the failure – if not complicity by some officials – of the oversight functions of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and other departments that were dragged into the mess as well as, more importantly, the Commission on Audit (COA).
It is a misperception to even think that the Aquino administration is devoid of any accountability with respect to the pork barrel scam. The reason is not only due to its reactive position on the case and the possible culpability of some administration officials as well as Aquino’s allies in Congress. The bigger reason is that the president himself since 2010 has officially prioritized and signed the automatic inclusion of PDAF as well as his own pork barrel funds in the national budget – aware that huge chunks of this taxpayers’ money end up in the politicians’ and criminal syndicates’ pockets.
To sum up, the pork barrel scam evinces the following: First, it is the result of a sinister deal long practiced by past and present governments particularly between the president and leaders of Congress to steal taxpayers’ money for personal aggrandizement in the guise of PDAF and other budget items, in short, legitimized plunder; second, an atrocious belief that the way to run a government is to ensure a quid pro quo partnership between Congress and the chief executive through patronage politics with pork barrel as one of the devices, i.e., a fellowship of crooks; third, big-time corruption undermines the system of transparency and accountability and is abetted by a weak oversight function at all levels of government; fourth, the scam shows the whole government machinery as one big business and a source of profits by traditional politicians and the political elite; and, fifth, the case underlines once more the institutional weaknesses of government encouraged no less by the present administration’s failure to adopt wide-ranging institutional reforms way beyond mere sloganeering.
A congruence of situations spells major challenges facing the administration today making it more uncertain whether it has the capability to govern competently. Poverty and unemployment is rising, despite claims of GDP growth – it remains a potential trigger for social unrest. New armed conflicts are emerging in the South, the peace process with the MILF is long delayed, while that with the leftist guerillas has been stalled and their armed struggle has intensified. Aquino is continuing a strong and onerous pro-U.S. policy allowing the country, through a bases access accord, as a new war front against China in the midst of territorial tensions. Aside from a renewed anti-bases movement, this development is fomenting new challenges on the accord’s constitutionality that can even be a potential material for impeachment.
The whole nation is now witness to the declining levels of a weak state that clearly spell out a total government failure. It all began 41 years ago with the declaration of martial law followed by the failure of succeeding regimes to lift the people from economic stagnation that is bringing the country to the bottom pit of human development among poor countries of the world. And one of the identifying marks of this regime failure is corruption and plunder involving mostly the political elite. The public trust rating in government as an institution is at its lowest and the state is at its terminal stage. It is time to move forward.
The public outrage generated by this latest case of plunder can be a potential tipping point – a defining moment toward a political transformation. Between now and the 2016 election is an opportunity for mass politicization toward empowering the people with alternative governance. Meantime, there can be more vigilant citizens’ watch on both the executive, Congress, Ombudsman, and other agencies and a final push for a real Freedom of Information Act that will also cover security and foreign policy transparency. Vigilance backed by political actions is empowering.
Public trust is not just about government. It is about people trusting themselves to collectively devise the best government model they deserve. Now is the best time to begin the process.
You know presidential mouthpieces have strayed into absurdia when even their close-in media have turned skeptic.
We’re talking about this morning’s Palace press briefing by Edwin @dawende Lacierda that was supposed to clear things up about Janet Lim-Napoles’ “surrender” to BS Aquino, but instead left, pardon the cliché, more questions than answers.
Lacierda was sweating a lot more than usual earlier today, getting a rare grilling from the Malacañang Press Corps, that pampered pack of reporters usually averse to adversarial reporting whoever’s sitting at the country’s center of power. Whether Gloria or BS, count on Palace media to ask the lamest of questions. Most of the time we had to bang our heads on the wall while watching Malacañang briefings. “Pale in comparison” does no justice when you compare these seemingly scripted and rehearsed Q-and-As to White House press briefings.
We could only watch in glee (and squirm, too) as Lacierda tried every spin in the book to justify why the Palace had to open its ornate doors to let The Most Hated Woman in this Part of the World walk the red carpet and turn herself in to BS Aquino, just hours after a P10-million bounty was placed on her head by the President himself. Lacierda even had a mini-lecture on why the term moro-moro should be erased from the lexicon to avoid offending Muslims.
The usually docile press corps had the audacity to ask if the outlandishly wealthy Napoles was a campaign donor to the Liberal Party in the 2010 and 2013 elections, given the kind of access she has to the President. Remember Napoles’ April 17 written complaint to BS, after which His All-Yellowness immediately directed authorities to investigate (which quite unexpectedly ended up blowing the lid off a P10-billion scam)? Palace journos even had the temerity to ask whether BS made sure Napoles would sing to his tune and not implicate any of his best buddies.
Can’t blame ‘em really, ‘coz it’s puzzling where BS found the energy to escort a certified scammer and accused kidnapper all the way to Camp Crame in Quezon City when he had already turned her over to media-shy Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP Chief Alan Purisima. This is the kind of president who’d rather not appear at evacuation sites to avoid being a “distraction” to relief workers. But when it comes to making sure Napoles is “safe” in the hands of the law, “damay-damay na tayo”!!!
Of course, Palace press conferences will not produce satisfactory answers to these kinds of questions. All we know now is that Napoles wanted to surrender to BS Aquino because, to quote the Napoles camp, “he’s the person that we trust.” K.
Lacierda was ridiculously well-prepared with his talking points, he even had historical background courtesy of Palace historian-in-residence Manolo Quezon. That’s not all! The BS Comgroup made sure our taxes worked for us with the timely production of a “Briefer on Wanted Individuals Who Personally Surrendered to the Presidents” and the “Timeline of the Surrender of Janet Napoles: Account of the Presidential Spokesperson.” Kina-reer!
But since USec Manolo’s references are mostly to his “lolo” Manuel L. Quezon’s bygone Commonwealth days, Palace minions seem to have forgotten how Gloria Arroyo once got flak just for shaking hands with that “brain-eating” Norberto Manero. And so presidents didn’t meet fugitives in the Palace until now.
It’s highly unusual for the presidential spokesman to play a major cloak-and-dagger role and finally end the “hunt” for the fugitive, even meeting up with Napoles in Taguig’s upscale necropolis, Heritage Park (that’s a police job). We wonder how terrified @dawende was at having come face-to-face with her in, of all dark places, a cemetery. Truly the stuff of Hardy Boys.
Even harder to believe was how Lacierda got wind of Napoles desire to surrender (via an ANC crawler!) and how he had never met Napoles lawyer Lorna Kapunan since leaving her law firm in the 1990s (despite knowing her mobile phone number).
We wonder, given the efficiency of Lacierda and the rest of the Comgroup at making themselves useful to the President, how they kill their spare time. Macbook-powered social-media trolling, perhaps? Let’s ask @lyndajumilla.
Source: The Spin Busters
Lino Celle, a Filipino anchor for RMN Radio Pinoy in New York, reported Janet Lim Napoles’ alleged location hours before she surrendered.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, August 28 at “0200hrs (2:00 a.m.) Manila Time,” Celle said an “anonymous source” from the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) told him that “NAPOLES is detained in UNDISCLOSED LOCATION in approximately 200 kilometers North of Manila.
”According to Celle, the source said Napoles “has offered to become a WHISTLEBLOWER for the State Prosecutors.” The news anchor added that justice secretary Leila De Lima was “silent” and the Palace “remains tight lip” on “NAPOLES whereabouts, at press time.”
When US-based veteran broadcast journalist Gel Santos Relos asked Celle if the news was confirmed and who his “credible source” was, he replied: “I can”t compromise the sources’ personal security. I believe the sources because they never missed in the past!”
At 9:37 p.m., Malacañang announced that Napoles surrendered to President Benigno Aquino III after the latter offered a P10 million bounty for her arrest.
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Source : coolbuster
"The new setup Aquino is envisioning will, in effect, not abolish pork but simply centralize the district funds—PDAF will likely just be given another name—under the executive department."
By YVONNE T. CHUA
August 23, 2013 PRESIDENT Benigno S. Aquino III announced Friday his administration is set to “abolish” the infamous Priority Development Assistance Fund, or PDAF. But “pork barrel,” in reality, is staying.
In Aquino’s own words, legislators will retain the discretion to “identify and suggest projects” for their districts under a new mechanism the budget department and Congress will hammer out.
The epitome of transactional politics, pork barrel, or simply pork, refers to appropriations and favors obtained by a representative for his or her district. The funds are discretionary in nature.
The new setup Aquino is envisioning will, in effect, not abolish pork but simply centralize the district funds—PDAF will likely just be given another name—under the executive department.
But, as important, what should be made clear is, PDAF is but one, albeit the most conspicuous, form of pork barrel.
Aquino’s speech is palpably silent on all other forms of pork barrel funds currently in the national budget that have likewise lent themselves to abuse and misuse: among others, the multi-billion-peso Public Works Fund (now called Various Infrastructure including Local Projects or VILP) in the Department of Public Works and Highways, those embedded in other government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, lump sum appropriations and other discretionary funds.
These will remain intact simply because they have not of late been at the center of mind-boggling Napoles-like scams.
In short, PDAF will be abolished, but not pork barrel.
Aquino has attributed the scandalous abuse of PDAF to the collusion among “a former President ready to trade favors just to remain in power, legislators, and members of the bureaucracy who were willing to conspire, enabled by a passive and indifferent citizenry.”
History has shown, however, that pork barrel allocations have been misused since they were first introduced in the country in 1922. No less than Aquino’s great-grandfather, Juan Sumulong, had assailed fellow lawmakers abusing this privilege. The year: 1925. (See “Pork by any name” for a brief history of pork barrel in the Philippines.)
But no amount of hue and cry over the decades from within and without the halls of Congress would move governments to get rid of pork barrel.
PDAF’s predecessor, the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), would, in fact, be introduced in 1990 by Aquino’s mother, then President Corazon Aquino, for “soft projects” in addition to the Public Works Funds and similar funds.
The Commission on Audit’s special audit on the 2007-2009 PDAF is by no means the first and only audit of pork barrel money. A string of special audits on the CDF more than a decade ago had also uncovered “scams” involving legislators and government agencies, and the demand to abolish pork had been resounding for years.
But these have had little impact. In 2000, then President Joseph Estrada turned back on his campaign pledge to abolish pork and simply converted the CDF into PDAF. His bureaucrats were quick to assure the public that safeguards against abuse and corruption would be put in place.
Obviously, the safeguards have failed.
On Monday, anti-pork Filipinos have vowed to gather a million people at Luneta to demand the scrapping of the “pork barrel system.” One can only hope that they will see through Malacanang’s doublespeak.
Source: Vera Files
Four years after the fall of Ferdinand Marcos and the return of democracy, President Corazon Aquino restored the pork barrel of members of Congress. But it was rechristened “Countrywide Development Fund” or CDF
By YVONNE T. CHUA and BOOMA B. CRUZ
(Note: The excerpt on the history of pork barrel in the Philippines was written by VERA Files trustees Yvonne T. Chua and Booma Cruz in 2004 for the book, The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy and Well-Born Dominate Congress.)
WHETHER they come in large or small amounts, pork barrel allocations have generated a lot of controversy since they were first introduced in the Philippines in 1922. In 1925, Senate Minority Leader Juan Sumulong stunned colleagues when, standing on a question of privilege, he charged that the ruling party had “misused public funds in the form of pork barrel appropriations.”
Legislators and citizens alike who have lobbied for the abolition — or at least the taming — of pork barrel over the years have proffered other reasons, ranging from the inequitable distribution of funds among the legislative districts and congressmen overstepping their mandate to make laws, to the failure of pork barrel-funded projects to respond to development needs, to the use of pork as a tool for political patronage.
But many have come to the defense of pork barrel legislation as well. Just like cholesterol, there is bad pork and good pork, they say. Without pork barrel, goes their argument, most of the countryside would have been neglected by the national government, being remote from the seat of power to wield much influence.
Pork barrel, or simply pork, refers to appropriations and favors obtained by a representative for his or her district. G. Luis Igaya of the Institute for Popular Democracy defines pork barrel legislation as “any attempt by Congress to divert national funds directly into their districts whether it be in the form of public works (such as highways or bridges), social services (such as education funds or public school buildings), or special projects (such as livelihood programs or community development projects).”
The difference between pork barrel and ordinary expenditures, explains Igaya, lies chiefly in the manner it is obtained. “Whereas the share of line agency budgets is based on annual financial reports,” he says, “pork barrel shares are based on lobbying efforts between and among members of Congress itself. Whoever can flex the strongest political muscle usually gets the largest share.”
The district funds are discretionary in nature. This means it is up to each congressman or senator to identify the projects of their pork barrel allocation and the beneficiaries. On too many occasions, however, lawmakers have exceeded their discretion, going as far as picking even the project contractors and suppliers.
Pork barrel has American origins. In 1823, the U.S. Congress enacted the first appropriation for rivers and harbors for the different states, promptly drawing criticisms from opponents that it was purely political in purpose. The measure was branded pork barrel legislation, supposedly after a pre-Civil War custom in the U.S. South in which landowners set aside a definite portion of pork salted in barrels for their black slaves. In 1919 a U.S political pundit wrote, “Oftentimes, the eagerness of the slaves would result in a rush upon the pork barrel, in which each would strive to grab as much as possible for himself. Members of Congress, in their rush to get their local appropriations…behaved so much like Negro slaves rushing to the pork barrel.” (Parreno 1998)
Other texts meantime suggest that the term “pork barrel” originated from a practice of American farmers who preserved pork in barrels in anticipation of the hardships of winter, when the pork is shared with their needy neighbors. A third version says the term simply comes from the old adage, “Bring home the bacon.”
By the time the notion of pork barrel rolled into the Philippines, it was already 1922. That was when a public works act separate from the general appropriations act (GAA) was first passed. It didn’t take long, however, before the Philippine version of the pork barrel acquired a sleazy sheen, no thanks to the shenanigans of legislators.
Act 3044, the first pork barrel appropriation, essentially divided public works projects into two types. The first type—national and other buildings, roads and bridges in provinces, and lighthouses, buoys and beacons, and necessary mechanical equipment of lighthouses—fell directly under the jurisdiction of the director of public works, for which his office received appropriations. The second group—police barracks, normal school and other public buildings, and certain types of roads and bridges, artesian wells, wharves, piers and other shore protection works, and cable, telegraph, and telephone lines—is the forerunner of the infamous pork barrel.
Although the projects falling under the second type were to be distributed at the discretion of the secretary of commerce and communications, he needed prior approval from a joint committee elected by the Senate and House of Representatives. The nod of either the joint committee or a committee member it had authorized was also required before the commerce and communications secretary could transfer unspent portions of one item to another item.
Pork barrel took on a somewhat different form in 1950. First, the public work act passed that year ended the practice of releasing the amount in lump sum, meaning the law did not specify projects. Second, it transferred the discretion of choosing projects from the secretary of commerce and communications to legislators. For the first time, the law carried a list of projects selected by members of Congress, they “being the representatives of the people, either on their own account or by consultation with local officials or civil leaders.”
In an apparent bid to make pork barrel more palatable, Congress also segregated the legislative-sponsored projects from other items in the public works act and christened them “community projects”— “miscellaneous community projects” for projects of congressmen and “nationwide selected projects” for those of the senators—and then “short-term rural progress projects under the socio-economic program.”
During this period, the pork barrel process began with local government councils, civil groups, and individuals asking congressmen or senators for projects through formal resolutions or verbal communications. Petitions that were accommodated formed part of a legislator’s allocation. The majority then convened a caucus, which determined the amount each legislator would get. The amount was built into the administration bill prepared by the Department of Public Works and Communications (DPWC), although the pork barrel section was left unfilled but for the words “to be inserted in the House…” The Senate and the House of Representatives then added their own provisions to the bill until it was signed into law, the Public Works Act, by the president.
Interest groups pushed for the funds’ release as soon as the law got approved, even though the president still got to decide when to release the money. When funds were approved for release, the budget commissioner transmitted an allotment advice to the DPWC, which in turn routed a sub-allotment advice to the city or district engineer. The engineer’s officer would then inspect the site, prepare a program of work, and schedule construction either by the department or private contractors or, in some cases, by barrio councils, parent-teacher associations, or civic organizations.
Public work acts lasted a good 50 years, interrupted only by the outbreak of war in 1942, and then in the mid-1960s, when stalemate between the House of Representatives and the Senate resulted in no pork barrel legislation getting passed. Martial law was another pork barrel legislation spoiler, pulling the plug on it, albeit only temporarily. By 1982, the Batasang Pambansa introduced a new item in the annual general appropriations act’s National Aid to Local Government Units: the Support for Local Development Projects or SLDP.
Journalist Belinda Olivarez-Cunanan would write three years later, “The SLDP is closest thing that today’s assemblymen have to the controversial pork barrel fund of the old glory days. In fact, the SLDP may be said to be truly one of the carryover practices from the old Congress, which contradicts the claim of the Batasan to being the parliamentary system based not on patronage, but on programs and principles.”
Each assemblyman received P500,000 in SLDP. But pork barrel items no longer just came under the form of public works projects, or “hard” projects as they are called these days. Sure, legislators still allocated their SLDP to capital outlays and infrastructure projects like schoolhouses, municipal buildings, roads, and the like. But they also used the money for what are now known as “soft projects”– the purchase of medicines, fertilizers, fumigants and insecticides, paints, and sports equipment, or for scholarships for constituents.
The SLDP worked this way: The assemblyman expressed his project preferences to the Ministry of Budget and Management, which had been delegated by the Office of the President to approve projects. The MBM, in turn, released the allocation papers to the Ministry of Local Governments, which would issue the checks to the city or municipal treasurers in the assemblyman’s constituency, who then paid project suppliers.
Enter Cory’s CDF
Four years after the fall of Ferdinand Marcos and the return of democracy, President Corazon Aquino restored the pork barrel of members of Congress. But it was rechristened “Countrywide Development Fund” or CDF. Pork was to go by that name for the next eight years.
As in pork’s initial years, the budget provided just a lump sum. Beginning 1992, however, amid widespread clamor among congressmen for equitable distribution, the General Appropriations Act (GAA) adopted the Batasang Pambansa’s practice of allocating members of Congress equal amounts. Initially, each congressman got P12.5 million and each senator P18 million.
Basically, no limitation was made on the legislators’ CDF-funded projects. A congressman or senator could identify any kind of project, from hard or infrastructure projects such as roads, bridges, and buildings to soft projects such as textbooks for schools, medicines to each household, scholarships for constituents and financial support to some seminar.
But the CDF was by no means the only type of pork the lawmakers could partake of. During his administration, Fidel V. Ramos, a minority president, fashioned other forms in an attempt to ensure continued support for his legislative agenda from Congress. Among these were the Public Works Fund, restored in 1996; School building Fund; Congressional Initiative Allocation or CIA; El Niño Fund; and the Poverty Alleviation Fund.
By and large, members of Congress do not acknowledge the School building Fund as pork barrel, but a special provision of the GAA clearly marks it as such: “The allocation of demountable school building shall be made upon prior consultation with the representative of the legislative district concerned.” Ramos restored the School building Program, which was administered by the education department during Aquino’s time, to the Department of PublicWorks and Highways in 1995 upon the strong lobbying of members of Congress. Close to P5 billion was appropriated that year for this purpose.
Congressional Initiative Allocations were not clearly provided in GAAs. Rather, they were items inserted to the budget of a government agency through the negotiations with the Speaker and the chairman of the appropriations committee. Legislators had the power to direct how, where, and when these particular appropriations were to be spent. Most of the funds were contained in the budgets of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Education, Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Health.
CIAs ran into billions of pesos as well. At one point, they even reached as much P28 billion, according to some accounts. But since they formed part and parcel of the budgets of executive departments, they were not easily identifiable and were thus harder to monitor. Those who knew the most about the insertions were the lawmakers themselves, the finance and budget officials of the implementing agency, and the Department of Budget and Management.
From CDF to PDAF
When he campaigned for the presidency, Joseph Estrada vowed to abolish pork barrel, which by then had been swirling in controversy after controversy. But once he got into office, the former action-film star did not entirely scrap the legislators’ discretionary funds. He simply changed the system, taking pains to remove only the CDF-type of pork barrel and retaining the rest, such as the School building Fund and the CIAs. He even added his own type of pork barrel, the Lingap para sa Mahirap Program.
Estrada at first sought to limit the use of district funds to only hard projects, and created the Rural Development Infrastructure Fund or RUDIF, a facility that was exactly the same creature as the Public Works Fund. Each congressman was supposed to receive P30 million, but the amount was merely a gentlemen’s agreement. The 1999 national budget carried no special provision that indicated the amount each congressman would get, leaving legislators at the mercy of the executive branch, namely Estrada.
Clamoring for the restoration of funds for soft projects, Congress successfully lobbied for a share of P2.5 billion Lingap para sa Mahirap Fund, which was supposed to be channeled to poor families in the form of a package of assistance, including food, nutrition and medical assistance; price support for rice and corn; protective services for children and youth; rural waterworks; socialized housing; and livelihood development. The congressmen gained two-thirds control of the fund for their so-called projects.
Then came the comeback of the CDF – or as then President Estrada preferred to call it, the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF. Given a ballooning budget deficit and rising criticism against pork at the time, though, a trade-off was inevitable: Legislators lost some of their discretionary power. Under the new system, at least on paper, congressmen would identify projects from a narrow set of project categories determined by the executive.
Today, the PDAF is still very much around. So are other special-purpose funds, especially the Public Works Fund and the School Building Fund.
Source: Vera Files
A file photo of Leonor Briones - Oxfam International.
"while Congress has its pork barrel, the President has
his beef barrel."
(Below is a slightly edited version of a piece originally entitled Speaking for Myself: The 2014 National Budget, Special Purpose Funds, Pork Barrel, at Iba Pa.)
I am often interviewed on TV, radio and print. To avoid the risk of one-line comments being misinterpreted, misquoted, or taken out of context, allow me to speak and write for myself on at least three topics: the 2014 national budget, special purpose funds, pork barrel and related topics.
I am the lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, which belongs to an international network of civil society organizations that reports to the United Nations, monitors the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, and conducts assessments of international issues related to poverty, unemployment, social protection, and the environment, among others.
In the Philippines, Social Watch Philippines monitors the MDG programs as implemented by the government. Its main advocacy is more government spending for health, education, agriculture, the environment, and for social protection for all. It has organized the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI) which proposes alternative budgets for these MDG-related expenditures.
For the record, Social Watch does not accept financial assistance from the national government. On a personal level, even as a candidate for Kaakbay Partylist in the last elections, I have stated publicly that I favor the abolition of pork barrel.
1) Special funds in the 2014 National Budget don't go through the same rigorous examination as those allotted for agencies and departments.
As a social development organization, Social Watch conducts briefings upon request. We have done this for senators, congressmen, civil society organizations, media, and the general public. We have already conducted several briefings based on public information from concerned government agencies. Our power point presentations are available to the public.
Our supposed public statements can be tested against our published documents. What are the vulnerabilities in the proposed 2014 budget? During the press briefing last year for the proposed 2013 budget, one member of the press angrily demanded, "why don't you say outright that the president is corrupt"?
I answered as patiently as I could that at that time, the 2013 budget was not even appropriated, so I could not make any claims of corruption. I could only talk of vulnerabilities.
This is the very word I use in all my power point presentations and briefings.
The National Expenditure Program (NEP) proposes "a total national expenditure program of P 2.268 trillion" composed of the following:
New General Appropriations: P 1,611,874,584;
Automatic Appropriations: P 796,029,175
Total Available Appropriations: P 2,407,903,759
Less: Unprogrammed Funds: P 139,903,759
Total Expenditure Program: P 2,268,000.000
The NEP further clarifies that the New General Appropriations is composed of P 1,161,922,924 in department and agency budgets plus Special Purpose Funds of P 449,951,660.
In turn, the Special Purpose Funds (see No. 2) is composed of Programmed Funds of P 310, 047,901 and unprogrammed funds of P 139,903,759. Thus, NEP states that the New General Appropriations is P 1.612 trillion as shown above.
Clearly, this amount includes unprogrammed funds of P 139.9 billion.
On the other hand, Section 1 of the draft General Appropriations Act clearly appropriates only P 1,471,970,825,000 and does not include the unprogrammed funds.
QUESTION: Does this mean that if and when the provisions for the expenditure of unprogrammed funds are fulfilled, these will have to be appropriated since these are not included in the draft General Appropriations Act? Which is the correct number for the "New General Appropriations"? P 1.612 trillion as claimed by NEP or P 1.472 trillion as provided for in the draft General Appropriations Act?
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE DIFFERENCE OF P 139.9 BILLION IN UNPROGRAMMED FUNDS IS VERY MATERIAL.
It will be recalled that the past administration availed of unprogrammed funds when the special purpose funds were not sufficient.
A) While the budgets of the departments and agencies amounting to P 1.162 trillion is spelled out in detail, P 449.952 billion in special purpose funds (programmed and unprogrammed) are composed only of one-line items.
QUESTION: SINCE THE LEGISLATURE IS EXPECTED TO PASS THE GENERAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT, SHOULDN'T THEY EXAMINE THE DETAILS OF P 450 BILLION EVEN AS THEY REVIEW THE DETAILED EXPENDITURES OF DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES?
B) In addition to the General Appropriations Act which Congress will approve, there are the automatic appropriations, or funds which are automatically considered approved by Congress.
These are the following:
Interest payments for debt service: P 352.7 billion
Net lending: P 24.9 billion
Internal revenue allotment: P 341.5 billion
Employees’ retirement and life insurance premiums: P 28.9 billion
Special accounts in the general fund: P 21.1 billion
Tax expenditures: P 26.9 billion
Total: P 796.0 billion
It must be noted that while these are automatic appropriations, Congress still has a duty to look into the details of these accounts, especially the interest payments for debt service.
C) IN SUMMARY.
Out of the total expenditure of Ph 2.268 trillion, only the budgets of the departments and agencies have details which can be examined lengthily by Congress, totaling P 1.162 trillion.
The balance composed of special purpose funds of P 310.047 billion (programmed) and P 796.02 billion--a total of P 1.106 trillion--don't go through the same rigorous examination as the departments and agencies.
Unprogrammed funds of P 139.9 billion is not included. The above explains why I consider this budget vulnerable.
Another source of vulnerability is the fact that the Constitution allows the President to transfer funds in "the office of the President."
The term "office" has been interpreted to mean the entire national government system, and not just the office of the President.
The former interpretation has led one leading member of Congress to observe that "while Congress has its pork barrel, the President has his beef barrel."
2) The Budget department has failed to submit a report on how it spent special purpose funds.
Since 2006, Social Watch Philippines has been calling for the reduction, if not the abolition of lump sum appropriations as exemplified by the Special Purpose Funds.
We have to bear in mind that this is not provided for in the Constitution. While there is mention of Special Funds, nothing is stated about Special Purpose Funds.
NONETHELESS, programmed special purpose funds are included in the proposed General Appropriations Act. The one-line items in this fund are expected to be approved by Congress along with the detailed budgets of departments and agencies.
In 2009, the Commission on Audit issued a report on Special Purpose Funds, pointing out abuses related to the utilization of these funds. In its 2010 Audit Report, COA advised DBM to" refrain from transferring funds from one lump-sum/special purpose fund (SPF) to another, or utilizing the appropriation of one Fund for purposes of another Fund, otherwise the intentions of the appropriation law will be circumvented."
Because of their vulnerability, the Department of Budget and Management is required to report quarterly to the House Committee on Appropriation and the Senate Committee on Finance, regarding releases from the Special Purpose Funds, Supplemental Appropriations, Continuing Appropriations, and Automatic Appropriations.
Last year, we inquired from the House Committee on Appropriations if this requirement was fulfilled. We received a negative answer.
In this year's proposed General Appropriations Act, this requirement is reiterated in Section 86. Again, another vulnerability.
3) The pork barrel distorts the constitutional definition of what a legislator and an executive official is.
At present, the most controversial item in the programmed Special Purpose Funds is the Priority Development Assistance Funds of P 25.240 billion.
While public protests about pork usually escalate during the budget season, the calls for abolition of the Fund are getting louder. At present, public disgust is at its highest and is exacerbated by the Janet Napoles and other related pork scandals. When I was eight years old, I used to read cartoon editorials in the Philippine Free Press excoriating members of Congress on the pork barrel.
Now, 65 years later, abuses have become more shameless and open, even as the public repeats its annual denunciations of pork during the budget season. Both the Executive and the Legislature have sung paeans and hosannas to the noble intentions of the pork barrel.
We all know by standard definition, that it is the use of national funds to benefit the constituency of a representative or a senator for patronage purposes.
We also know that we picked up this practice from the spoils system of the American government which has long abandoned it.
A) It takes two to tango.
While calls for its abolition are focused on congressmen and senators, it must not be forgotten that the pork barrel is beneficial both to the executive and the legislature. For the executive it is both carrot and stick which is utilized to reward cooperative legislators and punish those who are critical of the administration.
We all know how effectively this was used by the previous administration. Surely, many of us remember that when queried last year as to why some congressmen were not receiving their pork allocation; the answer of the DBM was "it is political."
For the legislator, the benefits are obvious--patronage for favored districts, local government units, and agencies. Many believe that Napoles is not alone. There are many of them out there, quietly operating for decades. A legislator can even do a Napoles by himself or herself.
There is talk of good pork and bad pork. It does not change the fact that it distorts and blurs the constitutional definition of what the role of the legislator is and what the role of the executive is.
Every child knows that the function of the legislature is to enact laws, the most important of which is the national budget, even as the function of the executive is to implement the law, while the judiciary settles legal disputes between the two.
Pork addicts are wailing, "What will happen to congressmen and senators if their pork is withdrawn? All of them have budgets for their salaries and those for their staff, travel, district offices, and consultants--the whole lot."
They have their perks for committee chairmanships and their usual bonuses. Their offices will not collapse. They will not be beholden to the executive if pork is abolished. They can examine the executive's budget proposal without being seduced by pork. They will not be besieged by contractors, suppliers, and other assorted hangers-on.
The Napoles investigations and other cases which are surfacing have clearly shown that these scams could not have happened without the participation of the executive, as shown in the fertilizer scam, and the current scandal in the Department of Agriculture.
I believe that considering the fact that pork is mutually "beneficial" to the executive and the legislature, they will not abolish it of their own volition.
It will take the combined outrage and anger of media, civil society, the various religious faiths, educational institutions, and the ordinary citizens to push these two branches of government into doing the right thing.
(Leonor Magtolis-Briones is a Professor Emeritus of the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance. Besides being the former president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, she has also served as the Philippines' national treasurer under then-President Joseph E. Estrada.)
By: Herbert Docena This report seeks to document and explain why and how the United States has been attempting to re-establish its military presence in the Philippines in the period beginning in 2001. Diverging from the common explanation attributing increased US military presence in the country to the so-called “global war on terror,” this report instead locates US actions in the Philippines and in the Asia-Pacific region in the larger context of the US’ objectives and strategy.
The self-avowed aim of the US is to perpetuate its position of being the world’s sole superpower in order to re-order the world. Its strategy to perpetuate its status is to prevent the rise of any rivals. To do this, it is seeking the capacity to deter and defeat potential enemies anywhere in the world by retaining and realigning its “global posture” or its ability to operate across the globe through its worldwide network of forward-deployed troops, bases, and access agreements. Today, the US believes that, of all its potential rivals, China poses the greatest threat and must therefore be contained before it becomes even more powerful.
To persuade China that it is better to submit to a US-dominated world order, the US is attempting to convince it that the alternative will be worse; that defeat will be inevitable. To make this threat credible, the US is attempting to enlist countries around China to take its side and to encircle China with bases and troops. Because of its strategic location, the Philippines is among the countries in which the US wants to establish bases, secure access agreements, and station troops. But apart from the Philippines, the US also wants the same in other countries in the region. The problem is, these other countries on whom it is relying for support do not want to go against China and are not necessarily willing to give the US what it needs, thereby posing problems for US strategy. Thus, because of its favorable disposition towards the US compared to other countries, the Philippines becomes even more critical to US military strategy in the region and in the world. Source: focusweb.org
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It has been common knowledge to anyone paying attention within the alternative news community for years, but once again the media is now admitting that the US military and intelligence agencies are indeed running massive propaganda campaigns that cover a vast array of online networks.
By Anthony Gucciardi
August 9, 2013
How many times now has such ‘conspiracy nonsense’ now been reported years later by the mega media as undeniable fact? In the case of the US intelligence propaganda machine that even the New York Times has covered in an article entitled ‘The Real War on Reality‘, we are seeing just that. The New York Times report goes on to detail information uncovered from hacked data regarding the military operation to stage ‘grassroots’ responses and organizations in order to deceive via psyop. Professor of philosophy Peter Ludlow writes for the Times:
“The hack also revealed evidence that Team Themis was developing a “persona management” system — a program, developed at the specific request of the United States Air Force, that allowed one user to control multiple online identities (“sock puppets”) for commenting in social media spaces, thus giving the appearance of grass roots support. The contract was eventually awarded to another private intelligence firm.”
This cyber warfare is clearly not just in the capacity of ‘improving international reputation’ as military commanders are claiming on record (just like there is ‘no such thing’ as domestic spying and it’s only for terrorists). Instead, we’re talking about running a major network of computers that are constantly running code specifically written to post to social media and news comment pages. Something that was revealed all the way back in 2011 by RawStory and brushed off in the name of national security by the military.
Intelligence Agencies Running Mass Number of Propaganda Accounts And remember, this is the same military that says political activists are terrorists and need to be targeted. At the highest levels, combating ‘terrorism’ simply means going after law-abiding citizens and journalists — especially so-called ‘leakers’. With propaganda scripts that run 24/7 and are intended to discredit people like Edward Snowden, top level intelligence agencies are teaming up with the military to combat whistleblowers through such phony means.
An excerpt from a particularly concerning summary of a recent German report on how political activists are targeted reads:
“The targets of these attacks are scientists… It does not stop at skirmishes in the scientific community. Hackers regularly target various web pages. Evaluations of IP log files show that not only Monsanto visits the pages regularly, but also various organizations of the U.S. government, including the military. These include the Navy Network Information Center, the Federal Aviation Administration and the United States Army Intelligence Center, an institution of the US Army, which trains soldiers with information gathering.”
Now admittedly the news is not getting nearly as much coverage as it should, especially when considering it highlights two essential points:
1. This means that the United States military and intelligence communities are highly afraid of alternative networks and the overall public perception when it comes to the United States government and the state of the corrupt political mafia at large.
2. This also means that the United States military and intelligence agencies are losing the informational battle, and the only way they can even fight back is to run a conglomerate of fake accounts attacking legitimate users and journalists. You know, the terrorists that dare to question anything.
Social media pages, comment systems on top news websites, and various other areas online are the targets of a pinpointed ‘cyber psyop’ by a government that simply can’t answer real questions. And instead of actually doing anything about the outrage, disinformation campaigns are of utmost priority.
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