Guarding the guardians


What we see today is the unraveling of the system of checks and balances we installed after Edsa 1. We restored Congress in 1987 precisely to check presidential abuse and corruption, but it was like letting the fox guard the chicken coop. Yet that is only the first of the many ironies that arise in the Napoles pork barrel scam.

The second is that it was in fact President Cory Aquino who restored the practice of giving pork barrel to the legislators after Edsa 1. We had the chance to rewrite the rules afresh after the 1986 People Power uprising, but we chose to restore the old pork barrel instead. The practice has flourished because it was good not just for the senators and congressmen but also for later presidents who found a new way to hold them by the neck.

The third is that the Supreme Court has stepped into the fray and frozen the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Malampaya funds via a temporary restraining order. Justice Diosdado Peralta the other day admitted that the TRO showed a prima facie finding that the PDAF is unconstitutional. Yet this same court has thrice upheld the pork barrel in the past, calling it “imaginative as it is innovative” because “individual members of Congress, far more than the President … are likely to be knowledgeable about the needs of their respective constituents.” It “make[s] equal the unequal” among “favored and less favored legislators, or those not in the good graces of a sitting President.” The court recognized the “yoke caused by graft and corruption” but still it invoked every rule in the book to validate pork: “Every presumption should be indulged in favor of the constitutionality ….”

And finally the Palace spokesman is justifying presidential discretion over special funds by invoking a Marcos-era presidential decree! It is the height of hypocrisy to excuse what has now been seen as presidential pork by saying Marcos did it first!

Pork violates the Constitution because Congress holds the proverbial “power of the purse” to allocate funds. Legislators can at best suggest specific projects to be included in the annual budget so long as they keep their hands off the actual spending. There are two powers at stake. The first is the power over policy—that is, to lay down government policy broadly through budget priorities. The second is the power of patronage—namely, to spend the money and choose the beneficiaries, the contractors and, in the Napoles business model, the NGO conduits.

The “absolutists” who will abolish pork altogether will give to Congress only the broad policy power and exclude it from the patronage power. Whenever we say “Abolish pork,” we confine the patronage power entirely to the president and exclude the legislators.

The first lesson here is that, after Edsa 1, we thought it was all about building institutions. Now we realize it’s about people, too, more specifically, the politicians we vote into power. The main solution we seek today—to abolish the pork barrel—will actually shift the patronage power to the president. We might be comfortable doing that with a President Benigno Aquino III, but would we have wanted it under a President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?

The second lesson is that it’s more than just about the officials we elect. It’s actually about the process of governance. The congressmen are correct. Their constituents vote them for their largesse, not for big questions of national policy. (This, by far, is the best argument for the abolition of Congress, proposed tongue-in-cheek by Senate President Franklin Drilon but taken rather seriously by some quarters.) But that concern is easily answered, because even after we abolish pork, there is nothing to stop legislators from suggesting specific projects for inclusion in the General Appropriations Act, so long as they have no say in the actual spending—that is to say, choosing the project implementers and approving their final payments.

Third, this only shows that the legislators need pork barrel to finance their reelection campaigns, but this merely confirms that pork money is illicit from the beginning, just a convenient cover for divert public moneys. Yet look at the flip side. This will leave the electoral field to candidates from the moneyed classes or their pawns. The campaign against pork must include the campaign for electoral reform.

Which brings us to the last point. Who will guard the guardians? Plato is supposed to have suggested that we train the guardians’ souls. In our post-Edsa democracy, it is “we the people” whose souls need to be transformed.

Get Inquirer updates while on the go, add us on these apps:

Inquirer Viber

Disclaimer: The comments uploaded on this site do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of management and owner of We reserve the right to exclude comments that we deem to be inconsistent with our editorial standards.

  • Guest

    Why wait a lifetime for reforms that will never materialize anyway?

    If you’re in the middle-class, chances are there won’t be any middle-class anymore in PH after 20 years. That’s because the poor are multiplying too fast, the rich are not paying enough taxes, the PH government is too corrupt and the middle-class are bearing the burden for all the freeloaders. In case you haven’t noticed, the anti-pork rally in Luneta last August 26 is a clear and unmistakable indication of how depleted the PH middle-class has become. If you’re a law-abiding and taxpaying middle-class citizen of PH, it’s about time to seriously consider some changes in your life. It’s also time to seriously think for yourself and your family. The situation in PH is deteriorating with each passing generation. The PH economy will never grow fast enough to support the population explosion. On top of that, government corruption is getting worse by the day. When push comes to shove, it’s always the silent middle-class that gets squeezed out, if not squeezed bone dry. If you’re paying 24% to 34% of your monthly income to the government as income tax, chances are you won’t see any of it working for you. Philhealth benefits are not comprehensive. The public education system sucks. SSS and GSIS pension sucks. Worst of all, the poor safety & security situation in PH can get you and your loved ones killed when you least expect it.

    The math is clear and the odds are stacked overwhelmingly against you in the middle-class. To survive, it’s time to migrate to CA, NZ, AU, US or UK. We need your talent, your brain, your energy and your investments. Most importantly, we need you.


      True. My son is preparing himself to work in Canada. I will be left alone here to expose the corrupts.

      • tra6Gpeche

        Good for your son! However, remind him that life in Canada is very much different from the Philippines. If he drives in Canada, pedestrians always have the right of way. He can’t bribe the policemen. No padrino, no palakasan, no nothing! On top of all, he will do all his chores. Walang katulong o alila. And earning money means working very hard. Anyway, good luck to your son!

      • TGM_ERICK

        Thanks. At least he would be disciplined there. The first culprit in his discipline is his loving MOM. Hehehe! We have not employed household helps i am the help and the bread winner. He can easily find his way there. Hehehe.:-)

      • tra6Gpeche

        Don’t take this the wrong way. That’s what i don’t like about Filipinos in the Philippines. They really, really, really spoiled their children. Almost, always, the children are dependent on their parents, especially the children of the politicians. The children never know the meaning of independence, mentally and physically. Di ba? In Canada, perhaps, all children are already independent from their parents at the age of 18. What a difference!

      • TGM_ERICK

        But I am one of those who never let go of my only child. He is 25 by now and I am confident that he would find his own place in the sun there. Thank you.

      • tra6Gpeche

        Kabayan, he will definitely find his own place in the Sun in Canada! I am not from Canada but I know that almost all 18 years old and over in Canada are already independent from their parents. That’s their culture.

  • Guest

    IN the light of everything Heridie should refute these.

    Recall that Heidi Mendoza, said to have been the “whistleblower” in the diversion of the United Nations funds for the Philippine peacekeepers going to the military officials and then Armed Forces of the Philippines comptroller, Carlos Garcia?
    Wasn’t it later found that what she had testified to was all false, since the UN denied her claims, as the money was intact?

    AS what happened to the pabaon?

    And wasn’t it the same Heidi who had come up with the analysis of the alleged hundreds of bank accounts of then Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial and together with the Ombudsman, claimed that Corona had some $12 million stashed in his bank accounts?
    The two were the laughing stock of the banking sectors, as the funds on the banks of Corona were invested and reinvestment, explaining the many claimed “bank accounts.”
    KITA KO iyan kaso iyong mga maraming bugok na Filipino di nakita ang investing scheme na ito.
    Ang dapat tiningnan ay end investment at hindi tinotal. Hehehe! Nasabi pang auditor. Pero si Ombudswoman, pinaniwaklaan lang kasi she came on strong and palaban. Pinagtakban ng angas niya ang kabobohan niya sa Math and bank accounting. Akong ordinaryo naintiundihan ko at ginamitan pa ng graph para lituhin ang madlang pipol. Alam ko alam ni Enrile iyan pero pinalusot niya. Di nakarma ka ngayon. Herhehe!

    And there she was again, together with Pulido-Tan, who, in connivance with Noynoy and budget chief Abad, came up with that biased and selective special audit, which was even presented to Noynoy two weeks in advance, no doubt to show Noynoy that they had done what he wanted: To ensure that his non-allies in the Senate — Senators Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla would look as guilty as hell, while Noynoy and his allies come off squeaky clean, through the simple expedient of withholding the pork data of his allies.

    Kita ko rin iyan mayroon pa nga pilit na dinadawit kahit kay Pnoy galing ang forgery. Ang 100 million fund ay di PDAF ni Marcos kundi tira ni GMA na ginamit ng office ni Pnoy kay Napoles. Hehehe. LAGOT KA RIYAN.

  • AllinLawisFair

    With personal financial gain the obvious ultimate objective goal of many politicians in this country, the question “Who will guard the guardians?” will find no easy answer. Most candidates for elective positions spend many times more than what they can legally earn as salaries even if they get elected to the maximum number of times (three terms for representatives, governors, mayors as well as their subordinates, two terms for senators and one for the president) in office.

    Their morality is too weak to resist the temptation to make themselves rich. Some have no sense of morality at all, like those who would resort to murder just to eliminate opposition.

    The moment these people sit in power they will think of nothing else but to recoup the money they spent and acquire many times more to gain by all means so that they will have more than enough to spend for the next elections.

    To them, the gauge of success is the maximum wealth they can gain in the shortest possible time.

    These are the scourge of the people, of the nation.

    The virtuous and the patriotic are a fast disappearing species.

  • tarikan

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Indeed, who will guard the guards? Now, my doubt was erased…Pres. Cory was a wide eyed know nothing simple house wife. Democracy icon, a very reluctant icon because she knew nothing and was no visionary leader. Joker Arroyo was correct of his assessment of her.

    • The Putrid Pekpek of Cory

      Check out my video.

      This says it all. It was made back in 1987, a year after EDSA revolution.

      youtube (dot) com/watch?v=rZEVYQ_Zeq0
      segment 4:03~4:34

  • talagalangha

    Arnold Clavio reveals Frank Drilon’s OWN pork scheme—thru the Fil Chi Chamber of Commerce…mas magaling pa ito kesa kay Napoles…

    Kaya pala mukhang nerbyoso lately at tahimik si Drilon…malapit na siyang makalabit ng mga imbestigador!

    This is the start of the downfall of the yellow presidency…after those Napoles pics surfaced…he has completely lost the people’s trust….hey yellows…time to jump ship!

    Pnoy is now the indefensible…so corrupt pala! Gone is the Aquino legacy, pooof!

  • $16256071

    It’s built-in actually. The system will guard the guardians. Help overhaul the system of governance. Help remove all seeds of graft and corruption in the current system. Dismantle “by those who can” the apparatus that breeds this malevolence in the system. Who will do that? You and I (even in our own way, daring and may really be risky). Well, as always, the people will (“…the voice of God.”). And it is again happening…We’re learning to use our right to voice our sentiments the right way…But let’s be forewarned! – that is, against those who play safe.

  • rom

    so many evils are connected to pork. I think our best hope is the Supreme Court to declare it unconstitutional.

To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.

Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:

c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City,Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94


editors' picks

May 29, 2015

Double standards