Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably well aware of the growing sentiment among the general populace to Congress’ misuse (to put it mildly) of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, colloquially called the pork barrel, which basically resulted in billions (BILLIONS!) of taxpayers’ money going to private pockets. Janet Lim-Napoles, a “businesswoman” engaged in the “business” of transferring public money to her own bank account, along with a lot of congressmen and senators, has become the public face of this scandal, and kickstarted the growing public outrage.
Enter the Million People March, a social media initiative that aims to let the government know that we have had enough, and that we are tired of corrupt politicians dipping their hands into money that they do not own, and which should have been used to propel national progress and alleviate the plight of our poorer countrymen. It has been likened to the Arab Spring, and rightly so, because the event aims to remind the President of the Republic that, as he always says, “tayo ang boss”.
And this time, his “bosses” are telling him to scrap the pork barrel and admit that it is a failed experiment at decentralizing government expenditure of public funds. This article aims to provide a list of reasons (we came up with five) why the pork barrel should be scrapped, and why you should support the Million People March in any way you can.
Congressmen, senators, and politically connected people have been using the pork barrel as a personal piggy bank. Representative Ome Candazo, who blew the cover over the corruption plaguing the pork barrel system as far back as 1996, pointed out that congressmen and senators routinely get kickbacks from their pet projects with going rates from as “low” as 19% to as high as 52%. Then comes the Commission on Audit’s (COA) report on the pork barrel (read it and weep) where at least 10 NGO’s with links to Napoles have received a grand total of Php2.157 billion.
That’s two billion pesos which could have funded the education of poor schoolchildren, or built houses, or kickstarted a flood control program, and which instead funded this travesty.
The pork barrel system is a system conducive to thievery and corruption. It has been so since 1996, and it remains so today. Its abolition is the only thing that makes sense at this point.
The President uses it as a carrot to make sure that Congress does what he/she wants. Ideally, the legislature (Congress) should be separate from the executive (the Office of the President and every agency underneath him) under the principle that one branch serves as a check on the other. Except they really aren’t separate, because the President has the power to dangle (that is, release) the pork barrel over our congressmen and senators’ noses as a way to make them do what he wants. So the so-called ‘separation of powers’ is an illusion in this case. If the President wants something badly enough, he uses the pork barrel to get his way.
Imagine a corrupt President with this power. Imagine what he can do with that power. Horrified yet? Now think about it some more. This is basically martial law, except the President uses economic strong-arm tactics, not the military.
Congress is tasked with making laws, not spearheading costly projects. Congressmen and senators aren’t voted into office because they can spearhead national and local projects. They were voted into their office because they represent specific areas, groups, and policies that need representation in discussions when crafting laws. They need to focus on their job.
The pork barrel gives incumbent politicians an unfair advantage during elections. Enter the “honorable” representative/actress Lani Mercado, wife of the equally “honorable” Senator Bong Revilla, who, in a classic foot-in-mouth example, publicly stated that the scrapping of the pork barrel is only okay if the poor and downtrodden stop asking their congressmen for money. She said that her constituents can’t and shouldn’t expect her to use her own money to help, because, she says, that’s their money which they need to spend for themselves.
So yea, aside from telling everyone to basically fuck off, she just admitted to using her pork barrel to unethically, if not illegally, “bribe” her constituency. Good job. With defenders of the pork barrel like her, who needs enemies?
Abolishing the pork barrel, theoretically, would result in a cleaner, much less corrupt Congress. Without the possibility of earning cash through the corrupt pork barrel system, Congress will most likely attract people who are actually in it for public service, not thieves or pigs dressed up in expensive clothes.
President Noynoy Aquino’s administration, which has proven itself capable of combatting corruption and leaving corrupt bureaucrats out to dry, is at a tipping point, and it needs to realize this. He has made a lot of headway into his anti-corruption drive, and though he should be commended for this, it is not enough. Abolishing the pork barrel system, if he does so, may be his most important triumph yet.
For more information on the Million People March, please go here.