CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 28 Aug) – Imagine what the billions Malacañang and Congress squandered on pork barrel allocations for congressmen and senators could have done. It could have empowered the people, institutionalized good governance, and stabilized our political system.
The money could have empowered the constituents of every community through orientation seminars and activities that exemplify positive citizen involvement and constructive acts.
It could have enabled the citizenry to make autonomy a reality, practice self-governance, and give meaning to the principle of subsidiarity.
And it could have helped them capitalize development, improve local productivity, increase livelihood, and expand the local economy.
Development could have been better focused—not just on the national economy, the gross domestic product (GDP), or the gross national product (GNP). It could have been balanced with the local components of the macro situation.
Barely mentioned or discussed today is the local counterpart of these macroeconomic concepts —the Gross Barangay Product which, if given due attention and nurtured, would enable people to create their own prosperity, and by extension the nation’s too.
Unfortunately Malacañang and Congress are more preoccupied with setting aside money for their own use and convenience, especially in view of the 2016 elections.
They ought to consider funneling some of the money directly to the community—just like what’s done with internal revenue allotments for barangays, towns, cities, and provinces.
It doesn’t occur to them that the billions handed out as pork allowances for individual politicians would yield more benefits if the community has a hand in determining their best uses.
A myriad of capability-building programs including organization development, livelihood promotion, and community development could have been incubated at the primal level of the Republic.
So many cooperatives, farming systems, industrial ideas, inventions, and developmental approaches or technologies lie unutilized today for lack of resources with which to develop, refine, or institutionalize them. And inequality persists because there are no equal-opportunity promotion programs, empowering initiatives, or leveling mechanisms.
In politics, the ideal of a level playing field remains elusive because of feudal practices like dynasty-building and anomalies like dysfunctional political parties. The abuses of pork barrel money have also skewed the distribution of power and resources all the more, making it more difficult to address inequality and institutional dysfunctions.
Problems wouldn’t have badly proliferated if the money were in the hands of the community, enabling it to mobilize and activate the diverse sectors for the reform agenda. And the democratic space would have widened, creating an environment conducive to harmony and collaboration among diverse sectors—awakening them, encouraging them towards constructive pursuits.
Money in the hands of the community would have enabled the constituents to determine its best uses, managing it as befits their capital for development. And they would have done so with a keen sense of responsibility and ownership. How empowering that would have been.
And it would have achieved what President Cory could only dream about but couldn’t realize.
She dreamed of making democracy flourish by empowering Filipinos in their own community—and from there bring about prosperity through the correct process of development, which starts from below.
She figured that local development thrives better under a regime of real autonomy—which was why she promulgated the Local Government Code.
The Code was meant to institutionalize people power as a positive, dynamic force for bottom-up development—the compelling reason for promulgating the Code.
It gave people power a legal, corporate personality—as the Barangay Assembly, the local parliament or legislative governing body. And it also gave it an official residence in the barangay compound.
But somehow her people in the administration missed the cue and failed to act accordingly, of which more later on.
[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected]]