TO EFFECTIVELY address the rampant and well-entrenched pork barrel scam, the multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund allotted yearly to senators and congressmen must be abolished, and a “citizens’ audit” must be convened and provided with sufficient powers and resources to thoroughly examine the PDAF – as well as the “pork-like funds” of the President and Vice President – and to help prosecute all the culprits.
The Alliance of Progressive Labor is proposing that this citizens’ initiative of an independent commission to investigate the pork scam be composed of representatives from genuine and reputable people’s organizations (POs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) – not the fly-by-night types that were involved in the scam – and highly regarded individuals from other sectors, who will work hand in hand with the Commission on Audit (COA). These individuals should be of unquestionable integrity and probity.
Hence, simultaneous with the scrapping of the pork barrel, investigation on the PDAF rip-off should be pursued relentlessly at all costs and not to become again simply a ningas cogon or routinary probes or endless “task forces” that eventually fizzle out when the issue dies down, and where the guilty usually remains scot-free.
APL also supports the call for the vast funds in PDAF to be placed instead in the national budget – and some to be added to the funds of local government units (LGUs) – and directly earmarked for social programs that would benefit the majority like job generation, education, health, housing, infrastructures, among others.
Legislative pork barrel
Last year both houses of Congress received a total of P24.2 billion in pork barrel funds, this year about P24.8 billion, and P27 billion PDAF in the proposed 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA) or in next year’s national budget.
Every year, each lower House representative is allocated P70 million while each upper House member gets P200 million. A congressman is supposedly allowed to spend P40 million on “hard” or infrastructure projects (roads, bridges, etc.) and P30 million on “soft” projects like education, health and other social services. Conversely, a senator may use P100 million each for hard and soft programs.
However, PDAF’s “hard” or public works projects have become ready and lucrative sources of corruption, while “soft” programs like medical and educational assistance have been used to instill allegiance or political patronage between the pork barrel “providers” and their “beneficiaries” or the politicians and their constituents.
Likewise, despite adamant denials of the past and present administrations, Malacañang – employing the classic carrot-and-stick strategy – has the power to release and withhold PDAF by discretely directing its wishes to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). Although recent COA reports also showed that during the impeachment trials of disgraced Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, extra pork was given not only to her allies but the “opposition” as well in Congress, which was obviously to influence their votes.
Executive pork barrel
The executive branch has also its own version of the pork barrel in the form of the “highly discretionary” special purpose funds (SPFs) and so-called lump sum funds, which, like the PDAF, are very vulnerable to abuse or prone to corruption.
When Benigno Aquino III began his term in 2010, he inherited from the Arroyo regime a budget where 57 percent of it was composed of SPFs and lump sums, and which was virtually repeated by the Aquino government starting from its first budget submitted to Congress in 2011.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) revealed that “SPFs and lump-sums constitute still over half” of the P2.006 trillion of the national budget for 2013. Likewise, other studies show that SPFs alone already account to a huge 22 percent of the planned P2.3-trillion national budget next year.
Some groups asserted that Aquino’s “pork barrel” last year allegedly reached to P24.8 billion and P34.5 billion this year. Identified as in effect the President’s massive “pork barrels” because of his discretionary powers on them are the President’s Social Fund (PSF), and the Office of the President’s intelligence funds, contingent funds, calamity funds, unprogrammed funds, e-government funds, support for infrastructure and social programs.
Leonor Briones, former National Treasurer, even claimed that Aquino practically has at least P1 trillion “pork” or about half of the proposed 2014 GAA, including P229 billion in SPFs and P139 billion in unprogrammed funds, which could only be released upon his approval.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, on the other hand, has his own annual pork kitty of P200 million aside from the regular budget of his office. He reportedly requested for this fund, and was endorsed by both administration and opposition senators in 2010.
Because of this, it is even said that Binay and his two “PDAF-endowed” children have an enormous annual pork funds of P470 million – his P200 million, the P200 million of his eldest child, Sen. Nancy Binay, and the P70 million of his younger daughter, Makati Rep. Abigail Binay – that could be used to advance his presidential ambition in the 2016 elections, which he does not hide.
The scam called PDAF
The APL even compared the conditional cash transfer (CCT) without job generation, the flagship “antipoverty” program of the Aquino government, which could breed dependency and mendicancy among the poor, to the pork barrel of politicians, which in turn has further institutionalized corruption and political patronage.
In fact, the APL believes that these two major state funding sources – that would supposedly address the perennial problems of widespread poverty and lack of basic services in the grassroots – actually abet in prolonging the vicious cycle of hardship and vulnerability of the majority.
In particular, the APL is one with the call for the abolition of pork barrel as it is a corrupt and corrupting practice, a “virus” that “infects” not only politicians from the legislative and the executive, but also employees in the implementing government agencies, as well as LGU officials, contractors, businessmen and ordinary people.
Aside from blind loyalty or political patronage that PDAF generates, huge amounts of pork barrel diverted or pocketed also ensure plenty of funds to finance the next election bid of a politician. The pork’s promise of riches and a tool to remain in power are actually the primary motivations for unscrupulous veteran and would-be politicians.
Worse, the PDAF virus has tarnished the image and reputation of civil society organizations (CSOs) by the fake NGOs and POs formed to act as “recipients” of pork barrels.
The recent exposé on the pork barrel scam is but a tip of the iceberg of the rampant fraud in the use of PDAF, which would make Janet Lim-Napoles’ alleged plunder of P10-billion a mere pittance. It has barely scratched the surface of the racket called PDAF.