SO CONGRESS is reenacting the 2003 national budget for the second time. Big deal. We spend for mostly the same things every year anyway. Special projects get special funds, but aside from that, we have the usual appropriations for debt service, education, defense, etc.

But seriously, it is a big deal, one that smells rotten, too.

The 2005 budget, I read some time ago in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, would have been the first to be appropriated on a line-item basis, meaning the money would no longer be allotted in a lump sum covering a more-or-less general field. There, necessarily, would have been where the cuts in the pork barrel would be implemented, as projects would have to be specified to the detail before money is dispensed. The Inquirer article said, for examples, that the exact number of schoolhouses to be built, and the length of roads to be constructed, must be specified before they are considered.

Also, the 2005 budget would have been where those new tax measures, which Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo so sagely prescribed as the cure for our floundering national financial condition, would first be put into action, some at least if not all.

Senate President Franklin Drilon confirmed that deliberations on the budget will be soonest finished by February of next year, because of the new method of appropriation.

That stinks of insincerity and indolence. Of course, how could we expect our politicians to give up so easily their choice cut of the pork barrel? If, following the prophecy of financial doom, there was a single sincere word in those platitudinous statements of sacrifice and responsibility for country, as well as in the promise to forego with the pork barrel, or at least a substantial portion of it, why, pray tell, are our lawmakers taking so long in deliberating on the line item budget? No wonder they were suspiciously composed when they delivered their speeches of sacrifice; the very law which will put the reductions into effect would not be passed in time anyway. For our part, let us not be surprised—our Congress is known for the infinite bickering among its members, is it not? That has always been the delaying tactic.

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At least there are lawmakers who have quite amazingly done away with their pork, a diet that has earned both admiration and sarcasm over such “pagpapakamartir” (truly, we Pinoys are never pleased). Sadly, these lawmakers are not the majority. And so go on the endless debates, discussions, and disorienting waylays in Congress.

If we don’t get our acts together, what would hinder the brunt of the crash economists predict will come in, what, two years? Our lawmakers sure seem unruffled. Bahala na naman ba si Batman?

I do realize that I am not a lawmaker, that I know nothing of how the Senate or House of Representatives actually operate. This is but the ramblings of an insignificant fool. But consider what Mark Twain said: be thankful for fools; if not for them the rest of us would not succeed.

You may interpret that in any way.

***

Congratulations, first, to this year’s batch of Inkblots fellows. May you live the ideals and tenets you have just imbibed.

Second, to the winners of the National Campus Journalism Award: University of St. La Salle’s (Bacolod) The Spectrum and UST Journalism’s The Journalese. That award was a recognition of work very well done. Keep it up, even after you’ve left the school portals.

Last but not least, to the UST Singers, who continue to reap honors on the international stage. May your voices continue to uplift the Thomasian spirit.

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