Public Lives

Can pork be good?

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Rather than heed the growing public clamor to scrap the pork barrel portion in the current national budget, President Aquino has justified retaining it while calling for tighter control over its use.  He argues that the system of reserving funds for projects identified by legislators has the advantage of benefiting communities and addressing needs often neglected by the national government.  He cites his own experience as a former representative of Tarlac province.

There is no question that honest and conscientious legislators can put their pork barrel to good use.  By the same token, they may also be tempted by its sheer availability into pocketing it. The issue is: Is the pork barrel system the most rational way of spotting social needs that escape the notice of the national government?  Bear in mind that this is a system explicitly invented to accommodate politicians in their role as patrons, a mechanism that everywhere has been proven to be susceptible to widespread abuse.  Can anyone honestly think that effective controls may be built into the system without removing the one basic feature that defines it—personal discretion by politicians over the expenditure of public funds?

We all know this is not how government in a democracy is supposed to work. The work of legislators, insofar as the budget is concerned, is confined to reviewing the budgetary proposal submitted by the executive, scrutinizing and debating its general thrusts and priorities, and disallowing intended appropriations that cannot be justified.  This political power does not give congressmen and senators the discretion to allot money for their pet projects.  And, much less does it include the privilege of naming contractors and suppliers, and recommending designated beneficiaries.

Asked if he would give in to the public clamor to abolish the pork barrel, P-Noy was supposed to have retorted, “And then change it to what?”  I think the reasonable reply to that would be: “Just take it out—it is a superfluity.”  The administration of funds is not a legislative function. If the national government wants to make sure that underserved communities are attended to, all it needs to do is listen to the local development councils at all levels through the various government agencies on the ground.

There is a simple logical reason for keeping administration separate from politics.  The politicians who have the power to examine the budget might be more objective if they were not given a role in the actual administration of public money.  In turn, those in charge of the funds might be more conscientious in approving fund releases, bidding out contracts, monitoring projects, and auditing expenditures if they did not have to deal with politicians.  These are principles of modern governance that are embodied in our system of laws.

There is, of course, no guarantee that public funds would be better spent if the pork barrel system was abolished.  But the legislature might be in a better position to call the executive to task if its members were not in some way involved in executive functions. It may compel legislators to focus more on their core function—lawmaking and participation in parliamentary debates—to be assessed by voters on the basis of their parliamentary activity rather than on their patronal generosity.  At the very least, getting rid of the pork barrel is a direct way of removing one of the biggest sources of corruption in our society.

But I can understand why the average president of our country would want to retain the pork barrel system.  In the absence of a strong political party system, the power to release or to withhold Priority Development Assistance Fund allotments offers the executive strong leverage in its dealings with Congress.  We may also presume that every president could, if he asked for it, obtain a dossier on PDAF misuse by particular politicians, a weapon against political foes that is too good to give up.

Why is the clamor for the abolition of the pork barrel being addressed to P-Noy rather than to Congress?  It’s because we expect much from him. We expect him to be different—to be a modern, not just a moral, President.  We want him not just to set the example of honest leadership, but to change the system that corrupts even the best of our leaders.  We look up to him to use his popularity to initiate enduring reforms in governance and political practice, knowing he has little time left before he is replaced by another president.

It is regrettable that P-Noy does not appear to appreciate the depth of public disaffection over the pork barrel scam.  It took him more than a month to make a declaration on the pork barrel controversy, and all he could manage is to defend it as a neutral tool of governance.  He seems to believe that it can be regulated and its loopholes plugged, forgetting that it was not any branch or agency of government that exposed the scam but a couple of whistle-blowers.  If the Napoles group of bogus nongovernment organizations had not imploded, it is doubtful if the public would have known about the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

My hunch is that when the Commission on Audit completes its review of PDAF utilization, it will be found that at least half of the members of Congress were engaged in one form of irregularity or another.  Many routinely took kickbacks.  They knowingly channeled millions of their PDAF to shell NGOs whose performance they had no interest in monitoring.  Others lost all sense of shame and created their own NGOs, fattening these with their annual PDAF.  All contrary to law.

Can pork be good after it is cured?  Not in a political system dominated by insatiable swine.

public.lives@gmail.com

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  • TheGUM

    Swimming against the tide (By Dr. Diokno, BusinessWorld, Aug 20, 2013)

    THAT’S HOW one might characterize the position of President Benigno Aquino III on the people’sgrowing discontent with the multi-billion presidential and congressional pork. He may choose to ignore the strong, gathering force for the pork barrel’s
    abolition at his own peril. The President should support an unpopular move if
    he’s convinced that he’s on the right side of history; that’s strong leadership.
    But knowingly defending a broken, corrupt, and wasteful pork barrel system is,
    to put it mildly, mindless.

    But is there a serious, doable solution to the pork barrel mess? And is the yet
    popular and honest President up to the challenge? The reality is that for all
    the hysteria and hoopla concerning the current “pork barrel” controversy, its
    bold solution stops at the presidential desk.

    GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY — SEIZE OR SQUANDER?

    The morally repulsive pork barrel system gives President Aquino a golden
    opportunity to change the course of Philippine history — by improving the way
    government resources are allocated and spent and in keeping with the “nice”
    principles of separation of powers and fiscal responsibility that are enshrined
    in the 1987 constitution.

    He has two options. He can sit idly by and let this corrupt, convoluted, and
    weak republic muddle through. Or he can make a bold move and leave behind a
    legacy of strong political institutions that would help strengthen Philippine
    democracy in the years ahead.

    If he chooses option two, his place in Philippine history will be secure. True,
    it carries political risks, but they are lower than the social benefits. In
    addition, the second option requires that he should be forward looking,
    persevering, and willing to use up his still huge political capital.

    Mr. Aquino could have embraced option two much earlier in the year as the pork
    barrel controversy was brewing. After all, he was sent an advanced copy of the
    now famous Commission on Audit report on pork barrel from 2007 to 2009.

    He could have sent to Congress a budget proposal for fiscal year 2014 without
    the “pork” (the Presidential Assistance Development Fund worth P25.2 billion —
    P8.8 billion for senators and party-list representatives, and P16.4 billion for
    district representatives).

    With zero appropriation for PDAF, Congress cannot, on its own, create one, and
    therefore that’s the end of it. And even if such a fund is inserted, the
    President, assuming he has the political guts and the interest of the general
    public in mind, could simply “line-item” veto the congressional insertion. End
    of the story.

    Of course, the bold solution to the pork barrel mess in particular, and the
    “corrupt” political system in general is much more complicated than the above.
    It requires total cleansing. Adjustments at the margin won’t work.

    Here are some inconvenient truths. First, Philippine elections are excessively
    expensive. It takes tons of money to get elected to key positions in
    government. It is estimated that it takes more than 2 to 3 billion pesos to
    have a realistic chance of getting elected President. For a senator, it could
    take several hundred millions, and for a congressman, tens of millions to a
    hundred million pesos. Hence, with few exceptions, one does not get elected
    without spending many times more than what one expects to be compensated for.

    Second, there is no real party system in the Philippines. As a result,
    political candidates have to raise their own campaign funds. Unless one is
    independently wealthy, a candidate for public office will be indebted to his
    political financiers, who expect to be paid, one way or another, once the
    candidate gets elected. The payback could be in the form of tax concessions,
    appointment in lucrative posts in government, and through the congressional
    “pork.”

    In sum, election spending has to be recouped — by hook or by crook. That’s how
    the President controls the House leadership. It’s an open secret that one can’t
    be elected Speaker without the backing of the President. The Senate Presidency
    is a little bit more complicated, but most Senators are under the political
    influence of the President too, through the “pork barrel” system and other
    forms of political patronage.

    Meanwhile, the convoluted and corrupt political structure lives on. Political
    institutions remain weak. Both the President and the legislators continue to
    enjoy their respective “pork.” In the meantime, the President sees no
    compelling reason to rock the “politically stable” boat.

    If political institutions were strong, real political parties would exist and
    they would be held accountable for their performance during their watch.

    Under the present weak system, political parties of past presidents wither as
    presidents leave office, hence, there is no accountability. The Filipino people
    cannot punish bad performance or reward a good one. Political parties fade away
    as soon as Presidents exit. President Ramos’ Lakas-NUCD is now just a shadow of
    its old past. Mrs. Arroyo’s KAMPI Party faded as she exited in disrepute.

    On the other hand, if political institutions were strong and functioning, the
    assignment of powers under the Constitution will hold. The President proposes
    the budget, Congress authorizes it, and then the Executive Branch (headed by
    the President) implements it. The budget is implemented according to the wishes
    of the holder of the power of the purse — Congress.

    Under the present weak political institutions, the President submits the
    budget, Congress approves it with little scrutiny, aided by the promise of lots
    of pork, and then the President implements the budget any way he wants it. He
    can slice and dice the budget, cherry pick what to release or not to release,
    and then release funds to agencies and local government units for programs not
    even approved by Congress.

    But it doesn’t have to be this way. A President who is committed to good
    governance, fiscal transparency and public accountability should not let this
    rotten, corrupt, and opaque system to continue.

    ELEMENTS OF A BOLD SOLUTION

    Here are the key elements of a bold solution to the current political mess.
    First, abolish the PDAF. The Filipino people are mad and they are getting
    madder every day. PDAF’s continued existence in the face of mounting evidence
    of corruption, misuse, and abuse of public funds is proof that Mr. Aquino’s Daang
    Matuwid rhetoric is farcical. Banish PDAF and his political credibility
    will soar to new heights.

    Second, pass the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill now. Mr. Aquino supported it
    during the presidential campaign. That was three years ago. There is no reason
    why he should not support it now. The FOI bill is a solid foundation for the
    openness and accountability in public service that he advocates.

    Third, put all the multi-billion off-budget funds (the PAGCOR social fund, the
    PCSO social fund, and the Malampaya Fund) under the control of the Treasury. By
    doing this, he would have differentiated himself from all Philippine presidents
    who recently preceded him. This move is consistent with the best practices in
    the world — the one-fund concept. Moreover, it will go a long way in assuring
    long-term fiscal sustainability.

    Fourth, pass the Budget Impoundment Act. Admittedly, this measure will reduce
    the power of the Presidency. But he should see it as a forward-looking move.
    Future presidents may not be as incorruptible and un-power-hungry as he is. It
    will make honest the budget preparation and congressional budget review
    process. But at the same time, it will make the President more serious about
    the use of his formidable line-item veto power. Mr. Aquino supported this bill
    when he was Senator. And so did Senator Teofisto Guingona III, a close
    political ally, when he was congressman.

    In effect, by doing all of the above, President Aquino would willingly weaker
    the awesome presidential powers right now. But, in exchange, it will
    effectively tie the hands of his future successors to do the right things. The
    payoff is very high as it would strengthen political institutions and would
    limit abuses in the use of public funds.

    Such bold moves will require sacrifices on the part of President Aquino. But
    such historic acts are not new. His mother, the late President Cory Aquino,
    gave up her “dictatorial” powers under the Freedom Constitution (some say
    prematurely), which powers she used well for the common good, in order to hasten
    the restoration of democracy in the Philippines.

    Is the son capable of following his mother’s noble deed?

    Dr. Diokno is Professor of Economics at the University of the Philippines
    School of Economics and former Secretary of Budget and Management.

  • John Fereira

    Not a single project that this Congressman have ever done or implemented that has real benefit for the people. Does any Congressman read this line and answer me your project and I will tell you the problem.

    1. Scholarship – they only legalize vote buying dahil all of the scholars they have are obligated to vote for them including the family members. Pag kalaban ka never you will get this Scholarship.

    2. Roads – lahat naman putol putol not a single and real all weather road, at the end of term sira na rin.

    3. Medicine – Almost all medicine na galing kay Cong or Senator are just selected ones kung saan malaki ang % yun ang available yung mga medicine na kailangan talaga ay wala so at the end of the expiration date those medicine provided ay masisira lang so walang pakinabang.Marami pa dyan antibiotic capsules 500 mg. ang laman pala ay gawgaw lang at alam ng mga hospital administrators na ganoon but dahil ang supplier ay relative ni politico so close eyes na lang si dept head, or pabayaan na lang na mabulok sa storage.

    Real scenario of this PDAF greed.

    • Eustaquio Joven

      Bakit mo alam ito?

  • AlzheimersC

    “The work of legislators, insofar as the budget is concerned, is confined to reviewing the budgetary proposal submitted by the executive”

    Iyan na nga ang pinagmulan ng pork barrel eh, dahil pinagdedebatehan ng mga congresista ang mga pagkakagastusan ng gobyerno, eh sabi ng isang kongresista kailangan kong makumbinsi ang ibang kongresista para ma-prioritize ang bayan ko…ganun din ang sabi ng isa na sa kalaunan eh NAGTATAGAL lang ang debatehan sa budget allocation ng mga proyekto…so naisip nila na bakit hindi na lang paglaanan ng FIX budget ang bawat probinsiya ng sa gayon e wala ng maraming debatehan kung sino o ALING PROJECT ang dapat i-prioritize…

    Besides kung ang susunod na presidente ay kagaya ni MARCOS, malamang itatayo niya lang ito ng BATAAN NUCLEAR POWER PLANT na hindi naman nagagamit sa ngayon at NABAON lang sa utang ang ating gobyerno…

    At ang masaklap ay dahil si Marcos o ang presidente ang may major control ng budget…hayun kaya NATANGAY palabas ang pera ng bayan ng IILANG tao lang na KAGAYA ni MARCOS…

    Akala ko pa naman ay may natutunan na si CDQ at si sir Randy David sa panahon ni Marcos…

    At saka maawa naman kayo sa ating presidente at sa mga susunod pa kasi lahat na lang ay kailangan nilang GAWIN kahit tambak na para mapagsilbihan ang bawat Pilipino.

    Parusa lang ang katapat niyan sa mga kurap para madala…na hindi pa natin nasusubukan…iyong kay Gloria eh tingin ko e parang kurot lang kaya iyong iba hindi man lang siguro natakot.

  • Eustaquio Joven

    I don’t know why we are so agitated with JLN and the P10B PDAF scam. It’s peanuts compared to what Dinky Soliman’s CODE-NGO did to the PEACE Bonds issued by then President GMA. For this scheme, on October 16, 2011 the government had to pay P35B in interests alone. But… This is just the tail of an elephant: the CCT.

  • dailymanila

    The reasoning lawmakers use why they want to keep the PDAF is flimsy at best. The real intention is to utilize the PDAF for their patronage-type politics. It also does not benefit the country. Even with the billions and billions of pesos utilized for PDAF, the countryside is still the same — poor as ever.

    • AlzheimersC

      E bakit gumanda ang Iloilo sa PDAF ni senator Drilon? although hindi ko rin sigurado kung magkano ang kinupit niya? hehe

      • dailymanila

        Sa PDAF lang ba talaga galing lahat yan? Remember maraming fund sources — may IRA, may PDAF, loans, at may mga external sources (e.g. other countries).

      • AlzheimersC

        OO, dahil sa PDAF ni senator Drilon eh ginanahan din ang local executives na ibuhos din ang pera ng IRA etc para sa ikagaganda ng Iloilo kahit iyong job generating industries ng Iloilo eh MALAYO kumpara sa Cebu…!

      • Eustaquio Joven

        Kung ang isang basong gatas ay kinalunuran ng isang langaw, di ba ito’y itinatapon na natin? Sa isang banda, hindi na ba natin lilipulin ang isang pulutong na langaw dahil sa panghihinayang sa ilang patak na gatas na pumatak doon? This, of course, assumes that Drilon is a clean drop of milk…

      • AlzheimersC

        Pwede mong itapon iyong isang baso ng gatas na nalunuran ng langaw pero iyong lata ng powdered milk kung saan ka kumuha ng pinamtimpla mo ng gatas e itatapon mo rin ba?

        Takpan iyong “lata” ng gatas para hindi langawin or masira ng humidity at mga bacteria di ba? Ganun din ang pork barrel…

      • Eustaquio Joven

        Nakakatamad na… paulit-ulit… kung sino-sino ang nagsasabi, Pero, talaga yatang ganyan pag ang isang tao’y may sakit na pangmatanda. PDAF is inherently evil. Ang ibig sabihin, mabaho na sa pasimula pa lang. Kaya nga nagbilang ng taon nang walang nakaamoy dahil tinatakpan para hindi sumingaw, hindi para huwag masira. PDAF lang ba ang makakapagpaganda sa Iloilo?

      • AlzheimersC

        Matanong ko lang, PDAF din ba ang ninakaw ni Marcos? E bakit umabot ng Trillion ang utang natin? At saka hindi pa natin naitapon iyong “nasirang gatas”(legislators na nagnakaw ng PDAF) kaya hayun sinisira nila ang buong institusyon dahil hindi sila “naituwid” o “tinanggal” itong mga bulok na legislators…

        Ilan na bang legislators ang naparusahan? di ba wala? bakit hindi rin tayo kumilos para gumawa ang gobyerno natin na LINISIN ang kanilang hanay sa pagpaparusa ng mga nagkasala.

        PDAF, IRA, etc pagsasamahin nyo sa bayan nyo para mapaunlad din especially kung tama din ang mga ibinoto nyo…at syempre dapat mapagmasid din kayo…palitan ang mga hindi karapat-dapat.

  • Mayu04

    MILLION PEOPLE MARCH on 26 August

  • Isko

    Support the Million People March!

    • magiting78

      If these million of people will march towards batasan and will burn these corrupt tongressman and senatong I’ll join….

      • isidro c. valencia

        Magiting ka talaga. You know what the real issue is.

        Men in barong, hoodlum in barong are the beneficiaries of this PDAF. Of course, there are still some good congressmen who are really qualified to wear that national wardrobe.

        The focus of attention should be to these bastards, idiots, thieves, kapalmuks, insensitive, moronic Congressmen and Senators who are involved in scam.

        Meantime, I suggest P-NOY to hold the release or scrap all PDAF pending the investigations. The bulk of loots was during GLORIA’s terms. We can also say that some, if not most, or all of P-Noy allies are also doing scam or misused, abused PDAF. Let us wait for COA’s reports, and results of NBI investigations.

        A new mechanism should be further studied to avoid the recurrence of P10B+ scam. Senators and Congressmen should be barred to avail of these funds.

        1M People March should march going to the Hall of Fall (CONGRESS) and Senate. Let us shift our sense of direction.

  • 82hbf01

    I WISH TO REITERATE HERE . . AGAIN . .FOR THE SECOND TIME.. ..ONCE MORE. . THE SUGGESTION . .

    . . .THAT THE 60% OF THE PORK BARREL THAT IS JUST BEING POCKETED BY THE POLITICIANS (WHO ARE BECOMING SUPER-RICH WITHOUT BEING
    SUPER BUSINESSMEN OR INDUSTRIALIST. . .OR ARE JUST RECOVERING THEIR CAMPAIGN .. PLUS THE 1% THEY ARE GIVING TO THEIR CONSTITUENTS . . FUNDS W/ PROFIT. ..THUS NOT CONTRIBUTING TO THE PROGRESS OF THE NATION)

    . . BE USED . . TO

    (1) . . SOLVE THE SUPER-TRAFFIC IN METRO MANILA. . BY CONSTRUCTING
    INFRASTRUCTURES. . SECOND AND THIRD FLOORS OF THE MAIN STREETS
    HERE IN MM. . WITH CONDOS ON BOTH SIDES AS TOLL BRIDGE WHOSE 2-3 FLOORS ARE RELEGATED TO REDIRECTING TRAFFIC TO WHERE THERE IS NONE. . AND SOME ROADS IN THE SKY. . TO DECREASE THE CAR-TO-ROAD RATIO. . .HINDI NATIN MA-SOSOLVE ITO BY ‘UTO-UTOS’ LANG NG MMDA SA MGA MOTORISTA NA 3 X / WEEK LANG KAYO PUEDENG GUMAMIT NG EDSA. .WE NEED MONEY TO SOLVE THIS. . PORK BARREL IS THE KEY. .

    (2) . .. SOLVE THE FLOOD IN MM USING ROBERT MARIN’S INVENTION OF LOWERING THE LEVEL OF MANILA BAY WATER WHERE ALL THE FLOODS
    WILL GO. . .BY HIS INFRASTRUCTURE WALL AND HUGE PUMPS INSTALLED AT THE OPENING OF MANILA BAY. . THUS PROTECTING MANILA FROM THE ON-GOING INCREASE OR RISING OF THE SEA-LEVELS CAUSED BY THE ON-GOING MELTING OF THE ICECAPS.

    (3) . . TO SOLVE THE WATER POLLUTION PROBLEMS USING HARRY FREIRES’ INVENTION OF CONSTRUCTING “THE GREAT WALL OF PASIG RIVER” 2-METERS ON EACH SIDE (24-KILOMETER LONG) SEPARATING THE CLEAN WATER AT THE CENTER (THE SPRINGS OF SIERRA MADRE MOUNTAIN
    RANGE) . . GOING TO MANILA BAY . . AND THE DIRTY SEPTIC WATER ON SIDE
    CONVERTING THEM IN EACH CITY TO POTABLE WATER (RECYCLING. .TO SOLVE ITS SCARCITY), FUEL TO REPLACE THE DWINDLING CRUDE OIL (2016 IS AN OIL CRISIS. .NO MORE CRUDE OIL IN ARAMCO, SAUDI ARABIA. . PRICES WILL INCREASE. .FREIRES’ INVENTION CALLED “PROTIUM SPLITTER MACHINE” WILL SOLVE THIS), AND TO ELECTRICITY (POWER PLANTS RUN ON HYDROGEN FROM WATER IN PASIG RIVER).. .MANILA BAY WILL
    ALSO BE CLEANED BY THIS WAY AS WELL AS THE LAGUNA LAKE. . .

    . . .AND LET THE PHILIPPINES BE THE CENTER OF HUMAN CIVILIZATION GLOBALLY. .
    .

    . . THE KEY IS THE UTILIZATION OF THE ‘POCKETED’ PORK BARREL FOR NATIONAL INTEREST, , ,

    . . WE HAVE NO MORE TIME. ..

    I HAVE NEVER HEARD THESE POLITICIANS SHOUTING OF NOBLE IDEAS FOR THE PROGRESS OF OUR BELOVED COUNTRY. . .THEY ARE JUST BEING BLOWN BY THE WIND WHEN THE PEOPLE GET ANGRY SO THAT THEY’LL BE ELECTED AGAIN FOR THE SECOND TIME ONCE MORE. .WHEREIN THEY SHOULD BE SUPERIOR ENOUGH IN THE FIRST PLACE. . TO HAVE KNOWN THE ETHICS OF THEIR PROFESSION LONG TIME AGO. . NO TO DO IT. .

    . . THEY ARE JUST QUIETLY DOING THEIR MEAGER WORK. . POCKETING THE PORK BARREL QUIETLY.
    .
    ALWAYS INVESTIGATING THEIR ACTS. . LIKE A ‘SARSUELA’. .

    . . WHAT A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY. . OF THE PEOPLE. . WHAT A LIABILITY INSTEAD OF BEING ASSETS TO GUIDE US TO THE PROPER WAY. . THE PEOPLE ITSELF . . .W/O COMPENSATION . . ARE GUIDING THEM. .

  • Eustaquio Joven

    “Why is the clamor for the abolition of the pork barrel being addressed to P-Noy rather than to Congress?” Because he can do it all by himself… because he is expected to follow the orders of his boss. Sino nga pala ang boss niya?

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