At the height of the typhoon season, “Spring” arrived in the Philippines. Like a bolt from the sky, the outrage over the plunder of the people’s money via the pork barrel system surprised everyone, including the administration of President Aquino. For the first time, P-Noy faces a formidable, if ironic, challenge to his anticorruption rhetoric.
With the success of the Million People March and with protests still accumulating momentum, P-Noy should heed the resounding cry of his bosses—Abolish, not just reform the pork barrel system. Reforming or renaming the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) will not placate citizens angered by the wanton theft of tax money.
Meanwhile, workers appeal to antipork protesters not to stop at abolition but to push for an alternative fund distribution system in which social services will be as accessible as a right and not subject to the patronage of politicians. The antipork protest should develop into a movement for universal social protection and also converge with the anti-epal, anti-trapo and anti-dynasty advocacies of the last elections. Such is a roadmap towards lasting political change in our country. Abolishing the pork barrel will open a gate leading to the weakening, if not the destruction, of patronage politics; and then to the building of a party system where politicians identify themselves with distinct platforms and policies.
Thus the Partido ng Manggagawa is advocating an “Apat na Dapat” set of demands to address the pork barrel scandal. First, abolish all forms of pork barrel, principally the PDAF, the Presidential Social Fund (PSF) and the special purpose funds which are all lump sum and discretionary. Second, transfer such funds to finance universal social protection like PhilHealth coverage, public employment, disaster relief and climate mitigation. Third, implement people’s participation in the budget process from identification of programs and projects to evaluation. And last, enact the Freedom of Information Law to enhance transparency and accountability in government spending.
The government’s budget for social services is less than the United Nations target of 6 percent of the gross domestic product. As an example, the proposed P25.2-billion PDAF in 2014 can pay for the annual PhilHealth premiums of 14 million Filipinos, a third of the adult population. The rest can be covered by funding their PhilHealth from funds freed by abolishing the PSF and other presidential pork. In this way, we can attain universal health insurance overnight.
Workers do not just want to curb corruption by abolishing the pork barrel. We also want to curtail patronage by removing the discretion of politicians in the delivery of social services. Public services must be accessible to all Filipinos as a right without the need to curry favor from politicians. The urban and rural poor have enough of begging from the trapo for measly guaranty letters. It is time to cut the dependency relations fostered by the pork barrel and patronage politics.
chair, Partido ng Manggagawa,