Get Real

‘Sleight of mind’

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Heading them off at the pass. That’s what they used to say in the old cowboy-injun movies to describe a move by one group to prevent another group from arriving at their desired destination. And that is what describes, at least as far as I am concerned, the announcement made yesterday (Friday) by President Aquino, flanked by Senate President Frank Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte. He/they are trying to head us off at the pass.

What are they trying to prevent, or more accurately, diffuse? The picnic-rallies set for Monday, of course. Isn’t it obvious? Duh. The ones to be held at the Luneta and at various other places all over the Philippines, the ones that everyone (including yours truly) and her brother are intending to attend, to show their great displeasure with the pork barrel and to demand, as the President’s “boss,” that it be abolished.

Am I being unduly suspicious or cynical? I don’t think so. Only consider that as recently as the last week or two, P-Noy was defending the pork barrel, declaring that the legislators were in the best position to know what was good for their districts. (But what about the senators?) As a matter of fact, in yesterday’s statement, P-Noy actually starts by affirming that “there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this policy,” and that enabling our representatives to identify projects for their communities that otherwise were not affordable was a “worthy goal.”

After the Commission on Audit (COA) report came out last Friday—which essentially showed that the extent of the pork barrel waste and cheating of the Filipino people was mind-boggling (75 percent of the audited “soft pork” releases were riddled with irregularities, which apparently made COA Chair Grace Tan cry and dwarfed the Napoles issue)—P-Noy made a move in the right direction: He ordered all PDAF releases to be suspended pending the results of the investigation. (Who was to do the investigation he didn’t say.)

But even as late as two days ago (Thursday morning), he was described in news reports as being “cool” to the idea of pork barrel abolition.

What happened between two days ago and yesterday that made him (seemingly) change his tune?  My guess is that while his people were totally cognizant of the critical views of the so-called “opinion-makers” or “opinion-shapers,” they realized only on Thursday night that they had grossly underestimated the power and magic of the Internet.

It was through the Internet that people who were outraged that their tax money was being diverted to the private pockets of individuals who were sworn to serve them and who were obviously not only acting in collusion with each other, but doing it with in-your-face impunity, found out that they were not alone in their anger. And by Thursday evening, it became glaringly obvious that the idea of a picnic/rally/get-together of these like-minded individuals had spread like wildfire and was being met with enthusiasm. I know that everyone I asked who was ambulatory indicated her intention of going to the Quirino Grandstand on Monday. And it looks like the same phenomenon was taking place in areas outside Metro Manila—e.g., Cebu, Davao, Baguio.

The Aquino administration was faced with the classic (from the 1976 movie “Network”): “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more” collective reaction.  Their countermove was to (pardon the metaphor mixing) try to head them off at the pass—in this case, to reduce the enthusiasm for, and therefore the attendance at, Monday’s rally.)

How? The President announced that “it is time to abolish the PDAF.”

Great? We don’t have to rally anymore? He is giving us what we want?

Not at all. There’s a sleight of mind going on here. Notice he didn’t say “abolish the pork barrel,” he said “abolish the PDAF”. The hope is that we will equate the two.

The PDAF will formally go. But the pork barrel stays. What will change is its presentation. No more lump sums for each legislator. Replacing it will be line items for projects—which is exactly the form that the pork barrel in the United States (which we copied but “improved”) takes. But you can be sure that these items will total P70 million times the number of Congress people plus P200 million times the number of senators.

The President tells us that this method, plus all the other reforms—he enumerates them—will no longer make the pork barrel “susceptible to abuse or corruption.”

Please. A lot of the reforms he enumerates are already in the books. They have been ignored, with impunity. What makes him think they will not be ignored in the future?

Moreover, as has been emphasized in the latest Philippine Human Development Report 2012/2013, even if the pork barrel were corruption-free (which is a very unlikely scenario),  this “divide-by-N syndrome”—“the mechanical and feckless dissipation of government funds across localities instead of their rational allocation to where these might have the most impact”—will still result in inefficiencies and inequities. At the same time, the work of local development councils and their own investment priorities, are passed over.

In other words, in this supposedly new, reformed, but still pork barrel system the President proposes, he will still be able to wield great power over Congress (he can veto any line item he wants); the legislators still can choose the projects they want and use them for reelection purposes; and the people will still be left holding the bag.

Who is the President kidding?

See you at the rally on Monday.

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  • gervi

    Mga kababayan, hanggang kelan pa ba tayo dapat magtiiis. Hangang kelan pa ba natin hahayaang pagharian tayo ng mga buwitre at buwaya.

    AUGUST 26, 2013, LUNETA!!!

    This is our time. Don’t waste it.

  • Mario Roberto Dalisay

    sakin lang, it’s a good thing that someone like PNOY is willing to open up issues like this, ilang administrasyon na ang lumipas tikom lang ang bibig sa PDAF na yan, maybe marami syang nakakabangga, maybe death threats, maybe kasi pati sya at si Bam mawawalan, pero most certainly kasi maraming magagalit sa kanya pag tinanggal ang pork in entirely, parang yosi lang, pag tinigil ng biglaan, masakit sa ulo, di rin maganda sa kalusugan. siguro tulad ng yosi, dapat dahan-dahan lang ang pagbubuwag sa pang-aabuso ng nakaraan, maybe give PNOY a chance, dapat nga yung rally sa Aug26 di laban sa kanya, dapat tulungan natin sya, kailangan nya ng kakampi para mabuwag ang pork barrel. and i believe he’s heading onto a good start, opening up this issue is good enough proof na he cares and he wants change.

    • lostRunes

      what? after using PDAF to influence 188 lawmakers to sign an impeachment complaint without reading it?

  • kingkongbundy

    He’s not kidding anyone mareng winnie..

    Sinalsal lang niya ang taongbayan.
    Baka lang sakaling maka-uto pa.

  • CommonSense

    The only REAL solution here is eliminate ALL the porks and give it back to the Filipino people by cutting our taxes. And the money that is already allotted for pork should be use to fix the flood problem and create roads and bridges to ease up traffic which will create JOBS. Enough with the handout and put them to work!

  • Rexsione McQuinto

    Now I realized that ang Daang Matuwid ay para sa mga Buwayang Dadaan … treat them well and they will not eat you …
    Dear President Pnoy we can only achieved corruption free society if you will sacrifice to accept being a traditional politician … THINK ABOUT THE MAJORITY POOR AND FORGET ABOUT THE PRIVILEGED FEW … dont worry you will not die for it like your father who dedicated his life just to prove that his stand is what is right for his country.
    I really believe that your father Ninoy is now looking at you at gigil na gigil na para bang sasabihin nya sana ako na lang ang nandyan dahil sayang ang opportunity to help this country achieved more. There is still time for you to turn around and be a unique President of all time who is not concerned about the dissatisfaction of his political allies but more concerned about the sentiments and satisfaction of his countrymen … now you can say … The Filipino is worth the sacrifice of letting go the privileged of being safely in power if this is the right thing to do to free the Filipino people from bandage of traditional corruption of his rights. IF ONLY YOU CAN PERFORM NOT AS A PERSON WITH GRATITUDE TO POLITICAL ALLIES BUT WITH MORE GRATITUDE TO THE FILIPINO PEOPLE WHOM YOUR DEAR FATHER DEDICATED HIS LIFE BELIEVING THAT THE FILIPINO IS WORTH DYING FOR ….

  • Jposadas

    Dear Mr. Monsod,

    I see that I have pricked you enough for you to comment on your wife’s column. Yes, I hope to see you on Monday and confront your hypocrisy.

    Let’s put the PIRMA initiative in context. You did not win the case. It was Chief Justice Panganiban who decided to change his mind. For the young generation who seem not to recollect that period or that case, GMA thought she had the case in the bag, she thought CJ Panganiban would vote in her favor until CJ changed his mind. You may have argued it before the SC and let me say I have seen you argue a number of times before the High Court and your arguments leave much to be desired.

    I don’t judge you just by one rally. I judge you by our overall silence in so many issues. Worst, you convinced the bishops and the hapless Cardinal Rosales not to support the Hyatt 10’s call for Gloria to resign. That was the beginning of the corruption of the bishops and the start of the Malacanang diocese. You perpetuated GMA’s stay for a few more years and yet in all those times of severe corruption, we never heard your voice. Your wife’s critical columns on GMA were far less then when there was widespread corruption emanating all the way from the top.

    • CSMonsod

      You have your facts wrong. CSMonsod

      • where_I_stand

        what a brilliant, crisp, concise and stunning rebuttal!

      • TGM_ERICK

        Nice to have you back, Friend.

      • where_I_stand

        thank you friend… basa man ko pirmi gihapon :)

      • TGM_ERICK

        ghapon lang? :-)

      • where_I_stand

        Nagbisaya pala ako. :) I’m a loyal reader of Inquirer. I refrained from posting comment because I lost my password. I didn’t know that my disqus account & password were saved in my document. So, I’m back. :)

  • John_Galt_II

    Mga kababayan kapag may makita kayong tongressman sa lunes sapukin kaagad sa mukha at sabay sigaw ng magnagnakaaawww, magnanakaaawww.
    Dapat kagaya ng mga ginagawa sa snatcher at holdaper. Bugbugin pag nahuli. Agawin ang baril ng mga magnanakaw din na bodyguard ng mga animal!
    Yun mga militanteng grupo kung gusto ninyong magkaroon ng simpatiya sa inyo ang mga tao dapat kayo ang sumapok sa mga tongressman!

  • mg_harrier

    kung napanood nyo interview ng balitang tanghali kay winnie monsod,sabi ni mareng winnie may gumagamit daw n mastermind kay benhur.kumakampi siya kay napoles yun ang pagkakaintindi ko,kung bganun na kampi siya sige nga ipaliwanag mo nga kagalang-galang na professor kung saan galing ang yaman niya.

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