It has been exactly a month after I wrote my last blog entry. I have not published my blog entries from then because of my more urgent academic priorities which I had to fulfill for my better long-term endeavors. For a short span of time of this year (merely a month), the country has been bombarded with issues that have shaken the credibility of “Daang Matuwid” initiatives of President Benigno Aquino III like eradicating systematic corruption problems in the government especially in the legislative branch for example.
What I am going to talk about is the issue of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or more known as Pork Barrel. At the start of the month, a certain anonymous blogger divulged that the Pork Barrels of several Representatives and Senators that were allocated to several bogus NGOs, went to a single person named Janet Lim-Napoles, the founder of these NGOs, which she used that money for her extravagant life like owning 28 houses in the country and the United States and her daughter enjoying a Hollywood-like lifestyle.
The misappropriation of Pork Barrel is not a new issue, but, it is just only this month that it become a serious political issue as the Aquino administration wants to eradicate corruption problem, however, the money allocated for Pork Barrel has increased not just in absolute numbers but also in percentage in relation to annual budget for the last three years of the administration, thus, it creates a hypocrisy within the administration of fighting corruption while at the same time, increasing the Pork Barrel allocation to unprecedented amounts.
Yesterday, the President announced that Pork Barrel is going to be scrapped, however, he added that instead of Pork Barrel to legislators, local governments have now to rely from his office through gaining the access of the President’s Social Fund, which for me not different from now-maligned Pork Barrel, only that the president has more discretion of allocating money to someone or somewhere else he/she want, which is still prone to misappropriation as he/she has to consider political considerations of the recipients of that money. What the president said was just like changing the tinfoil packaging of a roosted chicken. Mr. President, we are not that fool to believe with you.
We have to be real on why Pork Barrel exist in the first place. It is very simple, our presidential system of the 1987 constitution needs it in order for a president, not being a member of the legislative branch, to encourage legislators to support and pass his initiatives in the Congress through paying or bribing them in my terms with a solicitation money called PDAF or Pork Barrel where every representatives have to receive 70 million pesos per year and every senators 200 million per year. The appropriation cannot be assured if it goes to needy or not as these legislators can tell the COA or the Commission of Audit they spent the money to certain projects even through it were just fictitious. The appropriations may go to a certain person through a NGO like what happened right now with Napoles’ case. In short, Pork Barrel is prone to misappropriations.
Another thing, have you noticed that we do not have a cohesive political party system in our country where politicians especially legislators tend to change parties from one to another, usually to the president’s party? Well, the president has the total discretion who will receive and who will not, thus, the president has the right to withheld the PDAF to any legislators who never support him/her initiatives which created a pressure for legislators to change political parties from one to another in order to gain the president’s access for PDAF to be used for infrastructure projects of their constituents. That political turn coating culture has further bastardized the already fragile democratic system of our country as money prevails over political party discipline and principles of serving their constituents.