Scrapping the Pork Barrel Is Only the Beginning
Calls to scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or popularly known as the ‘pork barrel’ are mounting as more details are revealed in the latest scandal of its misuse—ten billion pesos in a span of ten years (2002-2012), involving past and present legislators (administration and opposition) as well as the executive pork barrel (this was during the time of then-President-now-Pampanga Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo).
Even President Aquino, wanting to temper the mounting public outrage recently came out and told the public that, with the help of Congress (‘porky’ legislators and all)
The prevalent consciousness and the patronage relations in our society stems from the stunted, backward character of the semi-feudal economy – the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few on one hand and the widespread backwardness, small scale and individualized production that doesn’t allow the advancement of the majority on the other hand. This system breeds the personal dependence on patrons of those without wealth and cultivates the patrons to institute domination through patronage relations.
The politics of a semifeudal setup is characterized by the entrenchment in power of the big bourgeoisie (big merchantile or trading and finance bourgeoisie) to operationalize their class rule. Such dominance extends to the politicians the capacity to control the dispensation of privileges (position, benefits) and the national coffers. From this position, the politicians can sustain and strengthen their political base that hinges on patronage relations.
Scandals and corruption are the immediate outcomes. The phenomenon of arbitrary dispensation of positions in the government to the most favored personnel (15/30 or “tilapia appointments”, ghost employees, consultancy, board membership in different agencies, granting of appointments (in the case of teachers) and contracts, dispensation of privileges in relation to social services (i.e. scholarships) are employed to strengthen the dependence of those without wealth, power and capacity for personal advancement on political families. On top of these is the accumulation of wealth by stealing the public fund to finance political patronage. It is the stolen public fund that sustains and strengthens the political base of a political family. The public fund stolen with ease which is used as private wealth make possible the procurement of private arms, the employment of thugs and hitmen, bribery of government officials and employees, financing of expensive electoral campaigns and vote buying.
The issue of the pork barrel confronts the Pnoy administration with its much touted “matuwid na daan). It did not come out in the open because of Pnoy’s “success” in his anti-corruption drive. It hugged the newspapers headlines because of conflicts between racketeers.
As the plot of the story on pork barrel thickens, it exposes the fact that Pnoy has also its own barrel. Pagcor documents showed that the President got P2.028 billion in pork barrel funds last year. The amount is pegged at P2.25 billion this year and is projected to increase to P2.5 billion in 2014.
Amidst the mounting anger of the people on the pork barrel and the spontaneous resolve of the people to join Occupy Luneta dubbed as “Million People March to Luneta), Pnoy is exposed as becoming one of the best defenders of the pork barrel. He found his scapegoat on Napoles and ordered the Department of Justice (DoJ) to immediately file criminal charges against Napoles. Napoles was only the conduit. The corruption started with the legislators dispensing their pork barrel. Expectedly, both houses opted not to pursue their investigation on the pork barrel, citing they cannot investigate their own colleagues. Last Friday, Pnoy issued the order of putting into place new mechanism for the PDAF in time for the passage of the 2014 General Appropriation Act. As one legistator said, it is still “an itemized pork”. Others added “that the supposed reform in the budget system would still lead to patronage politics."
Moreover, former government official has labeled Pnoy’s move as being “selective abolition of the pork barrel, exempting the President's share of the funds from being axed.” It is still a public fund that will be favorably “dispensed to allies and withheld from political opponents.”
The pork barrel will obviously be reincarnated. It has already its name in the past and increased through the years. All these are happening while several barangays and its puroks don’t have a source of clean drinking water, no electricity, no schools in far flung areas, no day care centers, no rural health units, and where patients compete for beds in the public hospitals. The systemic corruption or the stealing of public funds is added burden and destruction that victimizes the ordinary people. This has become a dreaded disease that denies assistance to the people in providing them the basic needs.
Let us continue to work for the scrapping of the pork barrel. More importantly, let us continue to struggle to change the system that has perpetuated and institutionalized corruption in all facets of its life.
August 26, 2013