A story of greed and abuse of power
Numbers can tell the most fascinating stories, and this one has to do with greed and abuse of power: the servants of the people conspiring with each other to steal from their masters in even greater, mind-boggling magnitudes.
Start with P720 million. That is the total amount of the first pork barrel in the form of the Mindanao Development Fund (P480 million) and the Visayas Development Fund (P240 million). Established in 1989 by President Cory Aquino, who finally gave in to the importuning (I have personal knowledge of this) of politicians.
Continue with P2.3 billion. This is the increase in the pork barrel in 1990, one year later. It is now called the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), because the Luzon politicians also wanted to partake of the pork. Note, Reader, that hardly had President Cory offered a hand of help to the legislators than they reached for her whole arm (and seemed to have gotten it). Between one year and the next, the pork barrel more than tripled.
Fast forward to 1996, when this newspaper came out with an exposé detailing how members of both the legislative and executive branches were dividing the pork among themselves, with the people, for whom the “D” in “CDF” was intended, allegedly getting, in the form of actual cost of the project, as little as 7 percent and at most 40 percent of the funds intended for them. The rest—from 60 to 93 percent—was apparently being divided among the legislators (12-40 percent), the implementing agencies, the pre-bids and awards committees (plus the resident auditor), and the local government units. Everybody had their hand in that pork barrel. As it turns out, the “Deep Throat,” the supplier of the information, was the sitting congressman from Marikina, Romeo Candazo, who apparently could not stomach the situation.
At this point, it is appropriate to compare the pork-sharing system then and in the recent past, assuming that so-called whistle-blower Benhur Luy’s testimony is as unimpeachable as Candazo’s was 17 years ago: The numbers show that a) the legislators’ share (although Luy was referring only to senators, because it was the Senate blue ribbon committee holding the hearing) of the pork has gone up from 40 percent at most to a definite 50 percent, not including the share of their chiefs of staff at 5 percent; b) the rest of the gang (implementing agencies, executive agencies) get 10 percent; and c) the “NGOs” and/or their mastermind get 35 percent. Which means that all the foregoing got the priority with respect to assistance, while the objects of development got absolutely zero.
There’s more to come. There of course was public outrage and public outcry then (as there is now). And the government “listened” then, as it seems to be listening now. Apparently, reforms were promised, but when that was not enough, the CDF was abolished in 2000. Does that sound familiar?
But, it was replaced. By the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The same dog—oops, pig—with a different collar, supposedly tighter, in the form of much-ballyhooed safeguards with regard to type of projects, bidding, monitoring, vetting of NGOs, procedures, financial and liquidation requirements, etc., etc. The same safeguards enumerated in the recent Commission on Audit report.
But it would seem that, not content with PDAF, the legislators also introduced other forms of pork: The Various Infrastructure including Local Projects (VILP, also known as “hard” pork, to distinguish it from the PDAF’s “soft” pork) came into being. The VILP, by the way, was more than double the PDAF, which means the pork barrel tripled in amount.
Still not content with that, some legislators in the Arroyo administration realized that by reducing the assumed exchange rate for converting foreign debt service into pesos, a lot of additional funds could be made available for congressional reallocation. Thus was born the
Congressional Insertions (CI), which was more than double the VILP, and five times the PDAF.
Now go to P83 billion. That was the amount of the pork barrel in 2009, which marks the 20th year of the pork barrel, and the almost-end of the Arroyo administration. The pork was composed of the PDAF appropriations of P10 billion; VILP, P23 billion; and CI, P50 billion.
Now compare the 1989 and 2009 numbers: 1989, P720 million; 2009, P83 billion. The pork barrel had increased by a factor of One Hundred Fifteen (115, i.e., 83 billion is 115 times 720 million). Now bring in another statistic: the increase in the general level of prices between 1989 and 2009. Prices in 2009 were, on the average, four times those of prices in 1989.
In other words, while the general level of prices went up fourfold, the pork barrel ballooned to 115 times its original level. How’s that for greed? Note, Reader, that the legislators were getting a much larger share of a humongously larger pork barrel.
Actually, the CI for 2010 amounted to an even larger P64 billion, but Gloria Arroyo gave a “conditional veto”—she vetoed it unless funds other than the supposed savings from foreign exchange rates could be found. In spite of that, by the time the Aquino administration came in, at least one-third of the CI had been spent.
It is to the credit of the present administration that it put a stop to the CI. It also folded the VILP into the PDAF for greater control (besides which Public Works’ Babes Singson didn’t want the VILP in his budget—so he must have known the kind of hanky-panky that could take place). Unfortunately, this action was deliberately or unintentionally misunderstood, and P-Noy was accused of more than doubling the PDAF compared to Arroyo. See how statistics can be misinterpreted?
The good news is that from a high of P83 billion in 2009, the pork barrel plummeted to about P25 billion in 2012 (alas, the hanky-panky continues). And it will be zero for 2014. But as we have seen, the PDAF is not the pork barrel. Until P-Noy says that he is abolishing the pork barrel, I will not be satisfied, and neither should anybody else. We’ve been hoodwinked enough. Abolish the pork barrel. Not just the PDAF. Now.