CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/29 March) — Numerous candidates today are spending or overspending to gain congressional seats. It’s a gamble for many of them, just like jueteng or masiao, and only a few will win cash credits and other bonanza. This novel gambling game is being played not only in regular congressional districts but also among Party-List constituencies.
And it’s not only the right-wing or trapo or capitalist sectors that are into it. The left-wingers are into it also…in a big way! Can anyone list them? Communist, Maoist, Socialist, whatever? Even the faith-based, born-again, and evangelicals are doing it. And they’re doing so with a vengeance… what if the well runs dry soon?—goes the folk wisdom. It’s really political entrepreneurship.
Campaigns are costly investments of money and logistics, time and energy. But considering the prospect of an ROI in the tens of millions at the end of the rainbow, it’s worth the gamble. This is windfall money with no repayment schedule to worry about. Whoever heard of a Pork Barrel being replenished by its dispenser? But just in case someone complains, don’t call it that; call it Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)! Wise guys, those trapos, I tell you.
Calling it PDAF of course dilutes the coarseness of the scam, and camouflages the egregious intent of these discretionary allowances that they give themselves. The irony here is that it’s done in partnership with Malacanang, from whence the money slithers its way along the smoothed surface of matuwid na daan.
Pork has been ballooning year after year since President Cory reinstituted it after EDSA 1, starting at P10 million per lawmaker per year. As the gratuity grew, so did the line of congressional wannabes filing certificates of candidacy at Comelec offices. Hopeful faces like the ones hovering over Lotto counters!
Thousands of political careers today hang on the hope of receiving this windfall for at least three (3) years: P70 million yearly for a congressman, P220 million for a senator, plus God knows how much else in other gratuities and gifts.
Remember how the senate president, erstwhile Martial Law Administrator, caused a ruckus by gifting his favorite senators P1.6 million each (but only P250,000 to non-favorites) last Christmas? He explained it away by saying it was the traditional practice before him.
Spoken like a true-blue traditional politico, or trapo!
How much did Joe aishonest nd Migz make from Pork?
How about Nene and Koko?
Unfortunately, no one, not even Romulo Neri when he headed Congress’s Budget Office, ever attempted to figure out what honest-to-goodness benefits accrue from these give-aways to congresspersons. Have the billions improved amenities, services, infrastructure, or quality of life?
That’s a question everyone should be asking and answering starting today till May 13 (Election Day). Is Pork an instrument of development or a tool for getting reelected? Come on, be honest even if others are not, even if others cannot, even if others will not!
Let’s face it: dishonesty is now the hallmark of Pinoy politics. Let him who is not/has not been dishonest be the first to stone me!
Pork started out as an accommodation to lawmakers who insisted that, like the President, they also need funds to finance projects at home. It seemed like a reasonable request at first. But as each set of new Congressmen and senators got elected, the scheme began to draw mixed reviews, because both houses began to resemble a stock exchange or casino filled with high rollers.
Moreover, a pattern was clearly emerging: siblings got to sit side by side in the same chamber sharing Pork like chips while watching TV at home, spouses and other family members too, plus relatives and cronies feasting atop their own Barrels. Before long, with no one the wiser save its dispensers, Pork became legalized plunder. And if it seemed shameless to some, it was big enough to assuage any feeling of guilt when dispensing it or indulging in its sinful uses.
How much do you think Migz Zubiri skimmed off from the P800 million he was granted during the four years he occupied senate seat he had no right to claim? And how much do you think Koko Pimentel gets to pocket from the remaining P400 million left for him to dispense? And how many years did Joe and Nene serve with no questions asked about their humongous pork allotments? Did they ever volunteer information on where the money went?
This sordid affair and many others continue to be play out in full view of Filipinos and in defiance of all that is decent and fair in a society whose Constitution invokes the guidance of Divine Providence. The Pork Barrel rolls round and round and down the bureaucracy to feed corruption-prone neighborhoods of the barangays where the precincts are located. And there, like poisoned wells, corrupted votes collect, overflow, and produce putrid currents that carry our society’s venal and conscienceless leaders to the doorsteps of Congress and the rest of the bureaucracy.
With elections so near, and as we observe the season of Lent—period of repentance and self-abnegation—let us resolve now to do away with the culture of impunity and corruption. A good start would be to make Pork Barrel and the abuses
it fosters an election issue.
This will get us going on the road to reforms. And this will help stop the parade of greedy, incompetent, and corrupt candidates that is now heading to Congress like bees to honey.
Some will say, “Ay sayang na man…who will concrete our roads, build our bridges, or sponsor circumcisions, mass weddings, and feeding programs?” Well, it’s time to lift the veil of innocence and naivete and ignorance: Tell them that these are illusions and sleight-of-hand gimmicks by unworthy public servants who turn public service into self-service! A lawmaker job is lawmaking, making wise policies for government and farsighted directions for our society.
Pork Barrel projects impinge upon the work of the Executive Branch, for which lawmakers are not elected. Let them no longer bastardize our political system. Let’s no longer allow them to build substandard infrastructure when in fact they’re really building their own careers and setting up their dynasties using our money.
Let us kiss good bye to these trapos now and show them the door. And let’s agree: No more Pork allowances! No vote for Pork-addicted candidates! And no dynasties either!
Let’s go deeper into these issues next time. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. ([email protected])