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RICH AND POOR, all countries across the globe face the universal scourge of corruption, “a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies.”

But corruption is not a victim-less crime; it hurts the poor most disproportionately.

Even worse, corruption threatens “democracy and the rule of law, leads to human rights violations, distorts markets, erodes quality of life and allows organized crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish.” Instability, poverty, and even state failure, often follow in its wake.

Indeed, “no country, region or community is immune from corruption.”

On Monday, December 9, the world will mark “International Anti-Corruption Day” with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) at the forefront.

“Zero Corruption, 100% Development” is the theme of the global campaign that focuses on how corruption hinders efforts to achieve the internationally agreed upon Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with adverse impact on education, health, justice, democracy, prosperity and development.

For the 2013 campaign, the UNDP and UNODC have partnered with 44 national organizations to lead simultaneous country-focused activities to mark International Anti-Corruption Day.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) was chosen to organize the Philippine event, a public forum on the theme “Pork & Other Perks: The Citizens’ To-Do Tasks for 2014 & Beyond.”

The forum hopes to kick-start sustained and focused activities by journalists, Netizens, civil society organizations, and citizens to monitor the use and disbursement of pork barrel funds or congressional earmarks by Philippine legislators.

The PCIJ will also launch at the forum databases on pork barrel spending by members of the 15th Congress, pork-funded public works projects, public works projects awarded by government from 2001 to April 2013, and audit reports on pork-funded projects. These databases are new entries on the PCIJ’s Money Politics Online website.

This monitoring project becomes all the more relevant in light of “new mechanisms”for spending congressional earmarks (in lieu of the supposed abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF) in the 2014 national budget, and the Supreme Court’s recent ruling declaring pork barrel as unconstitutional.

Over the last three months, media exposes of alleged corruption in the use of pork barrel funds by senators and congressmen had triggered protest actions and vigorous online discussions. The public outrage has been directed at the abolition of pork barrel.

The Congress, however, has opted only to scrap pork barrel under its present name, PDAF. The fund has been transferred, however, to the budgets of six line departments, with lawmakers still allowed to identify their pet infrastructure projects as well as their chosen beneficiaries for livelihood, health, and scholarship assistance, under the 2014 national budget.

The PCIJ forum to mark International Anti-Corruption Day will be held on Monday, December 9, from 9 am to 5 pm, in Quezon City.

The forum sessions and resource speakers follow:

* Pork, Semi-Pork, Pork-Like Funds: How the 2014 Budget is Shaping Up
By DR. BENJAMIN DIOKNO, UP School of Economics

* In Lieu of Pork: Urgent, Alternative Budget Priorities for 2014 and Beyond
By PROF. LEONOR MAGTOLIS-BRIONES, Convenor, Social Watch Philippines

*
The Supreme Court’s Ruling: Mandatory or Illusory Ban on Pork?
By PROF. DANTE B. GATMAYTAN, Associate Professor, UP College of Law

* Auditing Pork and Lump-Sum Funds: Red Flags, Disallowances, Adverse Findings
By COMMISSIONER HEIDI MENDOZA, Commission on Audit

* Tracking Pork in the 2014 Budget: PCIJ’s Money Politics Online Databases
By KAROL ILAGAN, PCIJ Research Director

* Pork Watch: Netizens, Citizens as Pork-Busters: A Panel Discussion
By ED LINGAO, PCIJ Multimedia Director; Ms. NOEMI DADO, Blogwatch; JUNED SONIDO, blogger; and RED TANI, Filipino Freethinkers

* Pork & Other Perks: The Citizens’ To-Do Tasks for 2014 & Beyond: A Workshop

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