CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/29 July) — What matuwid na daan is Pnoy talking about?
It’s hard to reconcile the concept of a forthright or straight-forward brand of governance with the use, misuse, or abuse of public funds.
The huge pork barrel allocations Pnoy places at the disposal of people elected to the Legislative Branch of Government—who then insist on doing what properly belongs to Pnoy’s Executive Branch (e.g. infrastructure, social services) violates the separation-of-powers ordained by the Constitution.
No matter what Pnoy and his mouthpieces say, no matter what they or the recipient lawmakers do to justify Pork Barrel allocations, it is still misuse of taxpayer money. It is bad Governance! Why would they allocate P200 million per senator per year, and same amount for the vice-president, plus P70 million per congressman and party-list representative per year—in addition to their salaries and operating budgets for their offices? Billions are eaten up by these patronage allowances while millions of Filipinos hardly eat or survive because of the rampant corruption engendered by these patronizing trapo practices.
“Patronage” means support or favor given by a patron. Why would a president—any president—want to turn all congressmen and senators and the vice president into patrons of Filipinos they’re to be the servants of? Why would he want sovereign citizens (from whom he derives his power and authority) reduced to beggary, beholden to people who are supposed to be at their beck and call?
To dispense government funds and official favors to the electorate is in a real sense to turn public resources into private goods and benefits to serve personal interests.
It is BAD GOVERNANCE in a real sense. Is this what MATUWID NA DAAN is all about?
Why would anyone want to transmogrify the idea of public service into a sinecure and a nesting place of oligarchs and plutocrats? This misplaced generosity to elected officials accounts for the spiraling number of political wannabes that run for office on all levels. Even as I write this, truckloads of youngsters, 15-20 years old, are being bused to Comelec registration centers so they will vote for the Pork-favored candidates during the barangay elections in October. It is an obscene spectacle at the base of our Republic, the grassroots.
No less than the president of the senate, Senator Franklin Drilon, is on record that the Pork Barrel, and its alias, Priority Development Assistance Fund, should be scrapped. But Pnoy would rather heed the siren song of House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte—who is a consummate user of Pork to achieve his ends. Like Jose de Venecia before him, He knows how much more powerful money is in the art and craft of political persuasion.
Belmonte knows how much easier it is to dispense allowances in order to forge alliances—especially the unholy sort—than to win hearts and minds over to a worthy cause. He gained mastery over this Machiavellian skill way back when he was still Lord Mayor of Quezon City—where he made great use of patronage for his own purposes and for the purposes of his allies in the QC Council. (For an idea of how he did this, walk or drive around Quezon City today and behold the markings on sidewalks and street signs where his name and his favored councilors’ are emblazoned as if they owned them.)
It is flabbergasting that the president himself gives away the taxpayers’ money to congressmen and senators—and to the vice president—for them to use as capital for their personal agendas and political objectives. Is this the good governance envisaged by MATUWID NA DAAN? It is bad governance to keep such people in office at the expense of the taxpayers regardless of their competence, motives, or sense of duty.
Much of this money is used to advance the fortunes and political stock of ambitious family members. Thus the Pork not only supports the rise of political dynasties but entrenches them more firmly as they rule indefinitely. Check out the Binays of Makati, Belmonte’s daughter in QC, and the family members in office in the dynasty-plagued administrations throughout our archipelago. Dynasties suck out and weaken our citizenry’s political will as they feed parasitically on its resources.
Would Bam Aquino become a senator without the money and campaign support of Pnoy and his clan? Would the Cayetanos be able to play the Game of Thrones in Taguig City without their humongous pork barrel allowances? Ditto for the Macapagal-Arroyos in Pampanga and Camarines and the Ejercito-Estradas in the senate and San Juan and now Manila.
That’s how obscene Pork Barrel Politics has become. That’s how insidious a subterfuge the so-called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) is! (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at email@example.com.)