CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 27 Aug) – Pork Barrel of course was the much-abused fund that fed the vanity of unscrupulous lawmakers who felt insecure unless they could upstage executive officials and grab credit for projects and programs they had no business claiming as their own.
They insisted on personally assigning and dispensing funds and projects, justifying it by claiming that no one knew the needs of the community better and that it was best to have them decide where funds should go or how to spend it.
Actually they were just a bunch of hypocrites and they were wrong. For their monumental wrong-headedness, we are stuck with plunderers afflicted with the Janet Lim-Napoles syndrome.
What’s strange is that no one disputed their claim of being knowledgeable about the community’s needs. No one pointed out that the community itself is best positioned to define, identify, and prioritize programs or projects that are needed in its neighborhoods.
And inexplicably, no one, not even the department of the interior and local government (DILG), bothered to explain that in fact there’s a mechanism that enables every community to cope with its needs effectively without external intervention: its local development council (LDC).
Neither did the DILG explain that the membership of this LDC at every level or jurisdiction includes the congressman or his proxy—a membership that congressmen (to their eternal discredit) belittle, ignore, and boycott.
Perhaps they feared having their fakery exposed in front of the community, or maybe they didn’t want to risk being upstaged by knowledgeable members of the community, or what if they were prevented from claiming personal credit for the LDC’s projects. Shameful, especially if it’s all of the above!
In any case, they got away with it. They escaped embarrassment because no one questioned their habitual absence and failure to attend LDC meetings. And no one dared to denounce them for sabotaging the LDC, or for making it inutile.
But in a very real sense, it’s those pork-addicted lawmakers who bastardized the local development process of every community—by dictating their preferences on what projects are to be done, by which contractor, and where these are to be located.
As everyone knows, location is essential for maximum exposure, impact, and revenues. This is as true for advertising and marketing a commodity as for promoting a candidate.
It’s why an overpass, bus or jeepney terminal, waiting shed, or multi-purpose pavement is a popular trapo project; they’re highly-visible and are within visual reach of all voters.
In any case, since decisions on pork-funded projects are made by pork-bearing congressmen and senators, the local development council became redundant as the community and conniving officials left everything to their discretion. And that’s how development programs got bastardized and politicized.
You see, lawmakers are not geared for project planning or implementation. They just want a project done so they can get credit for it—preferably with a photo opportunity and a certificate of appreciation during a publicized turnover ceremony. Virtually irrelevant to them are technical standards, esthetic design, or quality of work.
That’s why it’s better to do away with pork or funds whose release is contingent upon the discretion of one person. To retain it is to accept that political self-interest or vanity matters more than social responsibility or genuine development
So what’s better than pork? Answer: Entrust the funds to the community—through its duly-constituted local development council, which is its official planning and implementing body.
This can be done readily by distributing pro rata the P70 million previously allocated for every congressman and the P200 million for every senator to the LDCs. The formula used for computing the internal revenue allotment (IRA) of every jurisdiction will serve the purpose.
Too long have Malacañang and members of Congress stymied this official planning and implementing body of the community by allowing vanity-seeking members of Congress to substitute it with their whimsies, preferences, and abuses.
To ensure transparency and tighter accountability, the department of the interior and local government (DILG) and the Local Government Finance bureau should see that this LDC is properly organized and operational as per R.A. 7160 (Sec. 106-115) or Article 182 of its Implementing Rules and regulations.
This places the funds effectively under the management and care of the community—awakening its autonomy, activating its neglected role of overseeing local development, and fulfilling the state policy of autonomy in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity.
Now, isn’t this better than giving away pork, deploying funds that are arbitrarily used, misused, and abused by venal representatives of the people?
Let the people perform their role in local development so that no unscrupulous senator or congressman can co-opt their role or grab credit for the good things in their community!
[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]]