CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Dec) — Pork barrel allocations have been such an effective instrument of congressional longevity and presidential manipulation that some people wonder what effect its absence will have on politics—if PNoy indeed cleanses the system by obeying the Supreme Court.
Naturally, one would hope for positive effects from such a move such as: clean politics to attract more sincere, honest, and intelligent aspirants and candidates, or honest elections, less money-driven and more issues-oriented. But it’s too soon to be hopeful; no clear assurance there won’t be pork.
Too many political fortunes were built with the use, misuse, and abuse of pork and other gratuitous allowances. They flourished, richly, and are still in power. So it’s unrealistic to expect they’ll just fold their tents like the Arabs and as silently steal away. Not in da Pilipins!
It was mainly pork which enabled traditional politicians, trapos, to corner choice positions in government, keep a hammerlock on politics, and control the key to the treasury.
Staying in power, manipulating humongous sums they skimmed from pork, enabled them to multiply the allocations they pocketed many times over, affording them fabulous life-styles. They’re not likely to yield without a fight; who knows what mutant strains of pork they’ve lined-up, just in case.
Remember how it started as CIA (congressional initiative allocation)? Then came CDF (countryside development fund); then PDAF (priority development assistance fund)—which, roundly booed, was slain by the Court, and thought to be the end of that.
But—lo and behold!—a mutant strain materialized seemingly out of nowhere: DAP (disbursement acceleration program) which, luckily, the Supreme Court also struck down. But who’s to say what other mutants the super ninja turtles of Malacanang or Congress have lined up to stick its ugly neck out next?
History tells us how pork fueled the ambitions of mediocre politicos, how it enabled them to establish political dynasties. From the lucrative politics of their jurisdictions, economic empires emerged, bestowing honor and respectability to them, their spouses, children, relations, or cronies. It assured them never-ending reign.
Thus did otherwise mediocre public “servants” get treated as masters and overlords, making them wealthy, powerful, and in effective control. Hypocrisy and corruption gained them social prominence and seats of honor in exclusive circles.
These traditional politicians, trapos, are the nouveau riche and power brokers of our society today—Filipinos who took over the colony of Spain and America and turned it into their own.
We’re a trapo-dominated country. They’re firmly ensconced, bulging pockets and all; so much so that these pork-fattened oligarchs, now in full charge of government, can hang on indefinitely even if you remove the pork.
Even if PNoy turns off the spigot now, the money and privileges will still flow; that’s how the trapos programmed it. The billions PNoy released in past years are already invested safely in high-yielding portfolios, deployed to earn large dividends in cash, goods, and political goodwill.
Take the case of PNoy’s favorite vice president and housing czar: how much have the father-mother-son-daughter serial earners of pork in Makati stashed away for their past, present, and future election campaigns?
Elsewhere, has anyone worked out the arithmetic in the countless other cases of family tandems that siphoned away huge funds from our treasury over the years?
All the billions, maybe trillions, they amassed from pork and the like are like blue-chip stocks that yield endless dividends timed for use during elections. Think of those who made it to the senate in 2013; it cost everyone of them P50 to P100 million! Not all of it was pork money, but the mystique of pork—and proximity to the center of power—have a lot to do with motivating campaign contributors.
That’s why pork is a fatal attraction to ambitious trapos. It feeds ill-deserved ambition and fills government with misfits that accommodate other pretentious trapos, scions of political dynasties, preening playboys, and poseurs of questionable integrity.
As if this isn’t bad enough, just outside is a procession of relatives, clones, and proxies awaiting their turn at the Wheel of Fortune—eager to take over at every level, biding their time, readying the money, awaiting their turn.
Meanwhile, will PNoy really do away with pork? Who knows?
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindNews. 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 Govt’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org)