Hated pork barrel still in new budgetBy Neal H. Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It’s still there! The Department of Budget and Management has submitted to Congress the administration’s proposed budget for next year, and the hated and corruption-ridden pork barrel, politely called the Priority Development Assistance Fund, is still there, all of P27 billion. Because of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam involving five senators and 23 congressmen, a shadowy firm called JLN Corp., and a number of ghost nongovernment organizations, optimists had hoped that President Aquino, who promised to stamp out corruption, would heed the people’s clamor and abolish the pork barrel (a primary source of corruption). They hoped in vain.
Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said that “only Congress can abolish the pork barrel.” False. Not true at all. He himself, as budget secretary, can abolish it by simply not including any appropriation for the PDAF in the national budget. It is as simple and easy as that.
Congress cannot put it there. It has no power under the Constitution to do that. Congress can reduce, adjust, or cancel any appropriation, but never add to what the executive branch has proposed. So if there is no appropriation for the PDAF in the budget proposal, that’s the end of it. The people will sing “Alleluiah!” and put the photographs of P-Noy and Butch Abad on their altars and thank them every time they say their prayers.
Defenders of the pork barrel claim that it funds the projects and helps the constituents of the legislators. What are these projects? Usually, roads and bridges, schoolhouses, textbooks, health centers, barangay halls, basketball courts, waiting sheds, etc.
But these projects are already being handled by the executive branch. The Department of Public Works and Highways builds the roads and bridges; the Department of Education builds the schools and prints the textbooks; the Department of Health builds the health centers. The barangay halls, basketball courts, and waiting sheds are covered by the governors and mayors.
The members of Congress are duplicating and usurping the functions of the departments of the executive branch. The job of legislators is to make laws, not to be imitation DPWH, DepEd, DOH, etc. That is why they are called legislators. Read the Constitution and find out the duties and responsibilities of members of Congress. It doesn’t say anything about duplicating the responsibilities of the executive branch.
Because of this duplication, billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money are lost. It is estimated that at least 40 percent of the budget of any project is lost to corruption. Only 60 percent or less goes to the project itself. That is why most government projects are substandard. Contractors have to make do with what little money is left to them after paying off the parasites from the government.
In the case of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, nothing went to any project at all, not even a peso. Half of the pork barrel went to the legislators and the other half went to JLN, according to witnesses.
The usual excuse of legislators is that the pork barrel goes straight, not to them, but to the implementing agency, and from there to the individual beneficiaries. Another lie. A legislator chooses the contractor for his/her project. The contractor is supposed to be chosen through public bidding, but this is only for show. The bidders agree among themselves that the lawmaker’s contractor will win the bidding. They will all bid higher than him/her. The contractors take turns in winning. The loser today will be tomorrow’s winner.
Contractors kick back to lawmakers 30-50 percent of the budget for each project. They give some more to the engineers who will certify that the work on the project is okay, to the treasurers who will release the checks, and to many more government factotums who handle the red tape.
After paying off all the leeches and parasites, contractors are left with probably 30 percent of the budget with which to finish the project. So they cheat to make ends meet: They dilute the concrete mix; instead of surfacing the road with four inches of concrete, as the contract stipulates, they make it only three or two inches. Sometimes they do not finish the project at all—either they run out of money or they run away with the money.
That’s why most government projects are substandard and do not last long. Then we will go through the whole “bidding” process again. Who is to blame? The pork barrel system and the officials who allow it, most of all the president and the budget secretary.
What will happen to our projects? the lawmakers wail. There are regional development councils, as well as provincial, city, and municipal councils. Congressmen are members of these councils. They can propose their projects to the councils, which will then endorse them to the proper government agencies such as the DPWH, DepEd, DOH, etc. These councils were created precisely to avoid duplication and wastage of precious money.
We will not be reelected if we don’t have projects, the lawmakers weep. Still another lie.
There was no pork barrel before. The system is a fairly recent invention. The senators and congressmen then were reelected without any project. Former senators Panfilo Lacson and Joker Arroyo did not collect their pork barrel allotments and therefore had no projects, but they were reelected and were better respected than those who had projects.
P-Noy, and Abad, too, will be better respected if they choose the “daang matuwid” and abolish the pork barrel system.
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