Before you jump for joy at the alleged abolition by President Aquino of the hated pork barrel, look again. He did not abolish the pork barrel. What he abolished was only its official name, the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF. The pork is still there under a different name, another disguise.
The pork barrel has had name changes in the past in an effort to deodorize it. It was called the Countrywide Development Fund during the administration of President Cory Aquino who, ironically, started the practice of lump sum appropriations for the projects of members of Congress. Due to criticisms of corruption even then, the name was changed to PDAF during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The name change did not stop the corruption but, on the contrary, worsened it. The projected name change under P-Noy’s term will not eliminate corruption either. Neither would the alleged new rules and procedures that the Department of Budget and Management will make before the release of funds. Crooks will always find holes in the rules to go around them.
What the people, P-Noy’s bosses, want is for him to totally abolish the pork barrel in all its forms. Pork is any lump sum appropriation that can be spent for any purpose at the discretion of the President, the members of Congress, and the heads of executive departments. The appropriations for the PDAF in next year’s budget is P25.2 billion. The President’s listed Special Purpose Fund is P25 billion, but Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares told a press forum that, all told, the President’s own pork barrel can total P450 billion. Wow! That means the President can spend P450 billion of the people’s money anyway he desires.
What P-Noy said was “Panahon na para buwagin ang PDAF” (it is time to abolish the PDAF). Note that he did not say, “It is time to abolish the pork barrel.” It is only PDAF, the name, that is being abolished. Like a fearsome zombie, the pork barrel will rise again—under a different name, under a different disguise.
But what the people want is the scrapping of all forms of pork. While there is pork, there will always be corruption. The people are outraged by the massive theft of the people’s taxes through the pork barrel. That is why they are joining the “Million People March” at the Rizal Park this morning. I urge readers to go to the Luneta beginning 9 a.m. today and join the march to show your support for the movement and show your anger at the theft of your money. Bring your relatives, friends, and neighbors with you. I am going there myself. The Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel this morning has been cancelled to allow the journalists who attend it to join the protest march.
I urge students to go there. It is a holiday today, no classes, so go there and let your voice be heard. Your future depends on it.
P-Noy is afraid of that antipork protest march that, he knows, can snowball into another People Power revolt that already ousted two presidents (Marcos and Erap) and can also oust him. That’s how angry the people are at the corruption-ridden pork barrel.
That is why he tried to preempt that protest march by announcing the alleged abolition of the PDAF. But P-Noy is not fooling anybody. He only made the people angrier. The President whom they used to trust completely is trying to fool them. His announcement is merely a play on words, like a sleight of hand by magicians and pickpockets. PDAF the name is gone, but the pork is still there.
In fact, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad confirmed this when he said the other day that the P25.2 billion allocation for the PDAF would still be in the proposed P2.268 trillion (that’s trillion) national budget for 2014. But its use would be subject to the alleged guidelines and limitations set by the President, said Abad, a former congressman who also benefited from the pork barrel.
So the pork barrel is still alive and kicking, contrary to what P-Noy tried to make the people believe with his statement that the PDAF was being abolished.
What are these limitations? Members of Congress will now have to go to him and beg that their projects be included in the budget, and he himself will decide whether or not to include a lawmaker’s project in the budget. In other words, P-Noy will be the only dispenser of pork. Which will make him so powerful as to stultify democracy and freedom of speech. This will silence the opposition in Congress as they will now have to kowtow to him. Cooperative lawmakers will have their projects included while those of the uncooperative ones won’t.
Let me make this clear to lawmakers: Their job is to make laws, not to initiate projects. The latter is the responsibility of the executive department. The construction and the repair of roads and bridges are the responsibility of the Department of Public Works and Highways. The construction of schools and the production of textbooks are the responsibility of the Department of Education. The construction of health centers and the provision of medicines and health assistance to those who need them are the responsibility of the Department of Health. The giving of assistance to indigent families is the responsibility of the Department of Social Welfare and Development… and so on. For every need, there is a corresponding executive department tasked to attend to it. The lawmakers’ responsibility is to make laws. Read the Constitution.
What will happen to our scholars, legislators ask. Give your list of scholars to the DepEd and it will continue the scholarship program. What will happen to our indigent patients, they also ask. Give your list to the DOH through the local government units or the health centers. Concentrate your efforts on lawmaking.