Aquino, Abad, solons: Are you listening?By Neal H. Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Filipinos who gathered at the Rizal Park and in other cities of the Philippines and the world said it loud and clear: “No more pork barrel. No more corruption. No more fooling us with a play on words.”
Our public officials, starting with President Aquino and Congress, better listen. There will be more rallies, getting progressively bigger, if they do not listen to the voice of the people, their bosses: “Abolish the pork barrel in all its forms completely.”
As we have seen in the two previous People Power revolts that already toppled two presidents, protest rallies get bigger and bigger as the people get angrier when our public officials do not listen to their complaints. P-Noy may suffer the same fate if he continues to dance around the issue and tries to fool the people with double talk that only infuriates them.
He said “it’s time to abolish the PDAF,” but he abolished only the name, not the pork.
There will still be a fund for the projects of senators and congressmen. The only change is that the lawmakers will now have to ask P-Noy and their colleagues to include their projects in the budget. And of course their colleagues will grant their wishes. Congress is a big Mafia-like syndicate that preys on the people. You scratch my back and I scratch yours.
“We might as well abolish Congress then” (if the pork barrel is abolished), said Senate President Franklin Drilon.
Yes, why not? That’s a good idea. Good riddance. Does Drilon think Congress exists only for the pork barrel? Without the pork we would save billions of pesos that otherwise go to line the pockets of lawmakers. We have too many laws already so that many lawyers, judges and even justices can’t remember them all. Many of them are not enforced anyway.
“Congress has the power of the purse,” said Drilon, echoed by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad (a former congressman who undoubtedly collected his pork barrel) and other lawmakers. Yes, but it does not mean they also have the power to steal from that purse.
It only means that Congress has the power to pass the national budget proposed by the Executive. It can reduce or even remove proposed budget allocations, but it cannot add new allocations. It cannot put in a fund for the pork barrel if the DBM did not put it there in the first place. Which puts in doubt P-Noy’s proposal for lawmakers to have their projects inserted in the budget during the congressional deliberations. That is the Congressional Insertions anomaly legalized.
(In the Congressional Insertions anomaly—which is still going on—a lawmaker, perhaps a member of the appropriations committee, strikes a deal with the Cabinet secretary whose budget is being scrutinized. In exchange for passing his department’s budget, the lawmaker will demand the insertion of his project in that budget. The lawmaker will have the power to choose who the contractor will be, the same as if the fund involved were his pork barrel.)
The proper thing to do is for the lawmaker to go to the proper department and request that his project be included in the department’s proposed budget. The secretary will then order the regional office to verify if the project is meritorious. If it is, then he will include it as an item in his proposed budget. But there should be no fund exclusively for the projects of lawmakers. That would be the pork barrel all over again in a different disguise.
And why don’t we use the development councils? These are councils in the regional, provincial, city and municipal levels tasked to discuss and approve proposed projects. They were set up to prevent duplication of projects, or unmeritorious ones, and save the people’s money. Congressmen are members of all these councils, as well as local government officials. The congressman can propose his project in that body, which will then discuss it and, if meritorious, endorse it to the proper department.
But lawmakers are fighting tooth and nail for their beloved pork barrel, arguing that if they have no projects they would not get reelected. False.
Recto, Laurel, Sumulong, Tañada, Diokno, Pelaez, Salonga and other outstanding senators had no pork barrel allocations but they kept being reelected. And they are now the most respected of our legislators. So are former senators Panfilo Lacson and Joker Arroyo, and former senator and mayor Alfredo Lim. They all did not use their pork barrel allocations although they were entitled to them. But they were reelected again and again. In the case of Lim, he was elected mayor of Manila with an overwhelming majority over his reelectionist rival, Lito Atienza.
Lawmakers are reelected not because of their pork-funded projects but because of their performance in Congress. Their job is to make laws, not to usurp the functions of executive departments.
If we have no pork, where will we get the money to give to constituents who come to us? they ask.
Answer: Don’t give them any if you cannot afford it.
It is this ritual giving of handouts that is propagating the mendicant mentality in our society. There are people who go from one politician to another to ask for handouts, showing dog-eared doctor’s prescriptions for medicine. There are those who have relatives who die every month and need funeral expenses. There are fake journalists (as bogus as the bogus NGOs of Napoles) who follow politicians to comfort rooms and ask for “something for the boys.” By not giving in to these subtle extortions, our politicians will teach our people to have self-respect and not to beg.
The politicians are, technically, buying votes. They hand out money to constituents because they want the “extortionists” to vote for them come election time. Enough of that. Now is the time for change.
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