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Commentary

Fighting evil

By

The pork barrel is the source of many of the worst evils in our society. Its bad effects overwhelmingly outweigh the good uses it may have. To abolish it is the right thing to do.

Let me cite some reasons why it should be abolished.

First, the pork barrel leads to much waste of public funds. According to Commission on Audit Chair Grace Pulido-Tan, of the P12.018-billion pork barrel of 371 lawmakers from 2007 to 2009, only 10-20 percent was actually spent on projects. This is separate from the P10-billion pork barrel scam, where at least 60 percent of the funds allegedly went to certain senators and congressmen and the rest to Janet Lim-Napoles and her gang through bogus NGOs. Nothing went to the intended projects or beneficiaries.

Second, the pork barrel is the biggest source of corruption in the country. Abolish it and perhaps 60 percent of corruption in the government will be removed.

Third, it has not resulted in poverty reduction, nor has it led to development despite the fact that it was once intended to be a Countrywide Development Fund. It involves insanely huge amounts of taxpayers’ money. And yet, last March the National Statistical Coordination Board reported that the poverty situation in the country has practically remained unchanged, with around 30 million Filipinos living in poverty, of whom around 10 million live in extreme poverty and are hungry every day. But SWS surveys show that the hungry poor in our country number not only 10 million but around 18 million. This, despite the GDP growth rates of 7.2 percent in 2007, 7.6 percent in 2010, and 6.8 percent in 2012.

Fourth, the pork barrel has not led to the passage of many good laws.

Fifth, the pork barrel system is beyond repair. When the abuse of the pork barrel was exposed in 1996, reforms were introduced. Its name was changed from Countrywide Development Fund to the present Priority Development Assistance Fund. The construction of basketball courts and waiting sheds was disallowed. The Department of Budget and Management listed on its website the list of projects of lawmakers for funding. But did these reforms stop the abuse of the pork barrel? Clearly not. It even got worse.

Sixth, we copied the system from the United States. But the Americans have already changed their own system and have discarded the use of pork barrel, precisely because they found it vulnerable to abuse.

Seventh, developed countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States do not have a pork barrel system for the members of their parliaments or legislature.

Eighth, as noted by Dean Tony La Viña of the Ateneo School of Government, providing pork to our lawmakers is unconstitutional. It violates the separation of powers between the executive and the legislative branches.

Ninth, it has created political monsters in our society. It has attracted many dark characters, criminals and unscrupulous businessmen, many of whom build political dynasties who keep private armies which, in turn, result in political killings in various areas nationwide.

What we need is to follow the system of Singapore, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Take away the pork barrel from lawmakers and put the funds in the hands of the appropriate departments and line agencies. Appoint honest, competent and patriotic leaders and managers of these departments and agencies. Then strengthen the COA, and recruit more auditors and investigators, so they can closely monitor the projects of these departments and agencies. Improve and fully implement the full-disclosure policy at all levels. Also, encourage private-sector participation by forming multisectoral watchdogs in every department to complement the COA’s work in monitoring how public funds are being used.

It is so much easier to monitor, and discipline, officials from the departments and agencies than lawmakers.

But it will take guts to abolish the pork barrel. It will need a great leader, a genuine reformist, to do it.

There is a lesson we can learn from Abraham Lincoln. When Lincoln won the US presidency in 1860, 13 states in the South refused to acknowledge him as president, withdrew their allegiance from the US government, and declared civil war, because of his campaign promise and decision to abolish slavery.

At that point, Lincoln faced a crucial dilemma: Should he abolish slavery? Should he fight this fight, or not? A group of advisers told him, “Mr. President, if the 13 states want to put up a new America where slavery is allowed, let them be. There is no need to go to war.” But a second group of advisers told him, “Mr. President, we cannot allow the country to be divided.”

Lincoln reflected deeply on the matter. Later he concluded: “We who are free must use our freedom so those who are not free may gain their own freedom.” He then issued the order to fight the 13 rebel states, to free those who are not free.

It was a profoundly beautiful way to use one’s freedom. But what is the lesson for us here? Lincoln fought the biggest evil in his society during his time—slavery. Ninoy Aquino fought the biggest evil in our society during his time—the Marcos dictatorship.

Will P-Noy fight the biggest evil in our society today?  Will we?

Alex Lacson (alexlacson12@gmail.com) is the founder of “Kabayanihan—Ang Kultura ng Pilipino,” which, he says, is based on “Kapatiran” (brotherhood) and “Bayanihan” (heroism).


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Tags: Alex Lacson , Benigno Aquino III , Commentary , Fighting evil , opinion , pork barrel , pork barrel scam

  • William Cervantes

    Pork Barrel as source of corruption is an information that we already knew for quite sometime. Surely PNoy had realized this but has not done anything about it while trumpeting his anti corruption slogan. Sayang, he should have announced this move to stop pork barrel in the last SONA but did not because he has already signed the proposed budget containing the pork for 2014. Now his image as ‘graft buster’ corruption met a snag.

    • 82hbf01

      PROOF THAT HIS MIND IS NOT FULLY DIFFUSED IN ALL GOVERNMENT WORKINGS. . SOMEBODY ELSE. . HE IS JUST A FRONT. .

  • http://jaoromero.com/ Jao Romero

    and Lincoln paid dearly for his fight. nearly lost it all too.

    if we want it gone, we must be ready to pay the price. it will be steep.

  • enrique119

    If Pnoy abolished the PDAF before the P10 billion scam broke out he would have been faced with a rebellious, obstructionist congress that would block his legislative programs and priorities and probably tried to impeach him for all kinds of reasons. The congress may even refuse to pass the national budget. His administration would have been paralyzed. But now, with the citizens outraged and vigilant, he may get congress to perform its duties more honestly instead of trying to extort from the treasury through the president.

  • tra6Gpeche

    Your seventh reason is good enough for me. It is no wonder why our country is still considered a third world country even if our government has a lot of money to use to modernize our infrastructure and upgrade our agriculture. The peoples’ money (pork barrel) only goes to the bank of our fake public servants, Senators and Congressmen. Abolish all kinds of pork barrel and definitely our country, Philippines, will become like Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan or even Germany and France. Mr. Aquino must do the right thing for the Filipinos. He is a fraud if he remains blind to the sufferings of the Filipinos and their children.

  • Eelap

    Public 9, Porking congress 0.

  • virgoyap

    Let P-Noy read this thought provoking article of Mr Alex Lacson.

  • chapopot

    This one of the best column i read here at PDI… well said, clear, and straight to the point. Kudos to you Mr. Lacson!

  • Alan Lucilo

    nice one Alex. I linked to to my fb

  • katabay1106

    Pnoy cannot justify abolishing the PDAF of the lawmakers while his pork barrel is intact. He should lead by example. Abolish the pork barrel. It is the reason why the country is still poor and third world.



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