Pork barrel a throwback to Marcos’ martial law
A bribe, by any other name, is still a bribe. Call it “reward,” “incentive,” “bonus,” “gift” or some other name, it is the same banana.
Lawmakers and the Department of Budget and Management claim the extra P50 million given to senators who voted for the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona and the P15 million given to all the congressmen cannot be a bribe because it was given “after” the senators voted to convict Corona. A “bribe,” they claim, is given before the commission of an act. Wrong.
The law says a “bribe” can be given “before” or “after” an act or decision that the “gift” was intended to influence. In fact, most bribes are given before and after the act—one half before and the other half after lest the recipient reneges should he get the whole amount before he acts or decides.
People are asking: Is Budget Secretary Florencio Abad (and his Commander in Chief) not liable for bribery?
Yes, he is, said Congressmen Toby Tiangco and Nery Colmenares at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel. The alleged “bribe” and the hated pork barrel were the center of discussions at the Monday forum.
But while Tiangco of the United Nationalist Alliance, one of the recipients of the pork, defended it, Colmenares of partylist Bayan Muna condemned it as graft-ridden. Tiangco did the usual song-and-dance, claiming that the pork benefits students and medical patients. What will happen to our scholars and patients without the pork, he asked.
Answer: They will continue to receive their scholarships and medical assistance through the Department of Education and the Department of Health.
As for other projects, there are the local development councils mandated by the Local Government Code. These development councils—at the regional, provincial, city, municipal and even barangay levels—are composed of local government officials and representatives from the private sector. The congressmen are members of all these councils. The councils are tasked with formulating plans for the development of their communities. If a congressman or governor or mayor has a project, he can propose it to the council which will discuss it; and the council, if it finds the project meritorious, will endorse it to the proper government agency. This way, duplication of projects and wastage of taxpayer money is avoided.
There are times when the congressman and the governor or mayor has the same projects. In order to get credit (and votes) for the project, all of them will proceed with his or her own project, thus doubling or tripling expenses.
Tiangco said the councils will be effective if the congressman and the governor or the mayor belong to the same party. If not, neither of them will not give credit to their rivals in billboards announcing the project.
Solution: ban credit-grabbing billboards—they are out and out epals. Or give the credit to the development council, not to any individual politician. That way, every member of the council gets credit. Everybody happy.
Colmenares said the congressional pork barrel is only a small part of the total government pork. All lump-sum appropriation are pork, he said, because only one person in the hierarchy decides on how the money will be spent.
The total government pork, Colmenares said, amounts to P937 billion (that’s billions, almost a trillion pesos), of which President Aquino has the lion’s share. The President uses his pork to “bribe” lawmakers and other public officials, he said.
In fact, even the congressional pork is used by the President to “bribe” lawmakers. Although the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)—or the other names by which the pork was disguised: Congressional Initiative Allocation (CIA), and Countrywide Development Fund (CDF)—are supposed to be allocated to lawmakers, it is the President who decides how much to release to whom. The President uses it as a carrot-and-stick device to control Congress.
Cooperative lawmakers get their pork released promptly; uncooperative ones don’t.
Unheard of before, the new Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP)—that, in the words of former senator Joker Arroyo, Abad pulled out of his magic hat only a few days ago—is another form of pork. The P50 million for each senator and P15 million for each congressman given as “rewards” came from this pork. The fact that some cooperative lawmakers got them and others did not, proves that they are a form of “bribe.”
Colmenares said all lump-sum appropriations, with the exception of the President’s Calamity Fund, should be abolished.
Ironically, the lump-sum appropriation is a throwback to the martial law days. The Philippines always had line-item budgeting until Marcos introduced lump-sum appropriations with a presidential decree to give himself freedom to disburse funds.
Curiously President Corazon Aquino, who fought and ran against Marcos, and whose husband Ninoy fought the dictator to the death, continued the lump-sum appropriations that Marcos started. And now, in the unkindest cut of all, their son P-Noy is increasing lump-sum appropriations instead of abolishing them. This, despite the widespread anger of citizens at all forms of pork.
It would be easy for P-Noy to order Abad not to include lump-sum appropriations—including the congressional pork barrel in whatever disguise—in the proposed budget for 2014. But he doesn’t want to abolish the congressional pork because the lawmakers, in retaliation, can abolish his own pork.
It is becoming clear that instead of treading the “daang matuwid,” this administration is promoting bribery.