CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/20 July)–There’s nothing new about the interest and excitement being generated by the P10 billion expose’ of late about Pork Barrel on the front pages. It’s a scam that’s been going on almost as soon as Pork allowances were made to balloon during Jose de Venecia’s term as Speaker of the House.
The Lakas-NUCD coalition is virtually a dead horse now; but it cannot escape the blame for having husbanded the greatest rise in congressional entitlements ever—and the consequent spread of corruption in a political system that is still gasping for survival to this day.
Corrupt ab initio
Contrary to its original conception and justification, and unlike the hype with which the so-called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was inaugurated, the Pork Barrel has never been a useful scheme or instrument for local development. In reality, it is a tool for self-enrichment and political dominance as well as a convenient workshop for incubating corrupt practices. There are enough details in the JLN expose to familiarize or educate everybody on the mechanics and nuances of this scheme.
In the beginning, before the trapos (traditional politicos) wised up to its many-splendored potential, PDAF or Pork did some good in some places. But not really very much. Roads built were substandard. Services funded were politically loaded, redeemable at election time. Other projects were make-work or make-shift sorts that did nothing for real welfare, employment, or livelihood.
To this day, Pork projects do not help expand productivity or the gross barangay product, which is the micro-component of the Gross National Product.
At the outset, in practically no time after the ballooning of these personal entitlements, the trapos invented all sorts of schemes and bogus programs that were designed (1) to suck out and exhaust the budgets of line agencies and (2) to shovel kickbacks and commissions into their pockets and bank accounts.
Doing so was the secret to their firm control of power on various levels over the years. It was no secret how they became instant millionaires, financing their re-election campaigns, expanding their dynasties, raking-in fabulous amounts, and enjoying the good life while everyone croaked and groaned and agonized.
Formidable dissenting voices
Now that there is a great outcry to rid the system of this wellspring of abuse and corruption, formidable voices are being raised to defeat the move. All sorts of specious reasons are being cited to retain the Pork. And because corruption has so permeated the system, chances are that they will prevail, never mind that it is an imperative for maintaining a matuwid na daan.
No less than the incumbent speaker favors retaining the Pork. It is understandable, of course, as he has been one of the most relentless practitioner of the craft of Pork Barrel politics. He’s had lots of practice in using and abusing Pork—starting with when he was mayor of Quezon City when even the concreted footpaths of sidewalks were engraved with his name and even city councilors were allotted quotas for followers to include in the payrolls.
Even the President has been hemming and hawing on the issue, as if it can be justified after all the dirt that has been uncovered around it. But who can deny that it is reprehensible, shameless, and downright abhorrent to Filipino sensibility and sense of propriety if not of morality?
To be fixated on Pork or its euphemism—Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)—is understandable in people with questionable values or morals. Such people do not willingly part with profit or privilege, especially one that entails no investment of money, time, talent, or energy. The fixation becomes even more intense and enduring if it is tax-free and requires minimal or no reporting—meaning, no transparency or accountability,
A fondness for this political largesse is also understandable in unscrupulous, criminally-susceptible people. Being entitled to huge Pork allowances gives one a convenient facility for covering-up any number of illicit or aggrandizing activity such as money-laundering, gambling, hostage-taking, or drug-dealing.
However one may explain or justify it, this craving for gratuitous political largesse is reprehensible and unbecoming of a man or woman who purports to be a leader or statesman. It would be ridiculous to expect opportunists and abusers of taxpayers and public finance to be statesmen. The very thought denigrates the concept of what a legislator or lawmaker is. It demeans the person and trivializes the office he holds. But the prevailing ethos in politics seems to be: So what and who the hell cares!
And so, never mind if this corrupt entitlement makes a travesty of elections, whose outcomes are determined by the amount or number of Pork-funded projects poured into a district. And never mind if it spreads corruption and immorality throughout the body politic.
There is a saying about loose money: Easy come, Easy go! Yes, and a great waste! (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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)