THE WORM’S EYEVIEW: Pork ballooned with the rise of trapos and the decay of the party system

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 24 May) – Poor Janet Lim-Napoles: her name has become a Black Hole in which to dump all the dirt and dishonesty cooked up or committed by so-called lawmakers, public servants who mislead instead of lead their constituents, misrepresenting instead of representing them.

The pork barrel scam isn’t even a novel one. It’s been going on ever since trapos (traditional politicians) took Manuel Quezon’s famous campaign rhetoric as their mantra: “I’d rather have a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos than like heaven by Americans!”

With so many ambitious scumbags seeking political gain and economic profit from politics, the mantra took hold and brought public service to where it is today: in a virtual hell!

Their early schemes were penny-ante and almost imperceptible, skimming off a few thousands here, doubling it next time, then getting bolder to an occasional million, and so on—just so it wouldn’t be noticed in the voluminous General Appropriations Act.

Eventually, greed took the upper hand and the congressional dealmakers devised a game of “you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours” with Malacañang.

This had been going on for decades, interrupted only by Marcos who took over the whole scheme for himself, his cronies, and his fascist military enforcers whom he fattened with entitlements to keep them docile.

People Power scuttled the sordid game in 1986—but only momentarily as the scumbags scrambled for cover and hide their loot.

Everyone hoped at the time that the Cory Government would overhaul and sanitize the corrupt operating system and replace it with a new motherboard. But no such thing happened.

So the joke was on us; they merely revised the terminology and dressed it up as—surprised?—Priority Development Assistance Fund.

The Yellow Forces who took charge were themselves veterans of pre-Martial Law shenanigans and were out to recover lost ground. They staged a show that purportedly threw out the rascals, only for us to learn that the replacements, long-starved of power, were just as rapacious, wily gamers itching to take over for the “funds” of it.

Worse, the party system was dismembered and mixed in with a stew of micro-interests involving “party-list” representatives from groups that are neither a party nor listed by real parties.

This party-list scheme sliced up our communities into tiny slivers of vested interest ranging from far left to far right, each one salivating for a share of pork.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the so-called mainstream parties sacrificed the party system, including their own party, on the altar of greed and cupidity.

Check them out: with neither members (certainly none of the dues-paying variety) nor nominating processes that can be deemed as democratic institutions, we have a hell of a party system! Name any party today that is not in the pocket of its “leader” and whose slate isn’t picked by him!

These alleged parties are a travesty of what ought to be our democracy’s quality control mechanism—providing process and legitimacy for fielding honest, worthy leaders instead of misleaders.

They bastardized the party system and induced the greatest surge in pork barrel entitlements ever, thereby inducing a feeding frenzy around pork, driving corruption to heights of shamelessness, and instituting the culture of impunity that now condemns the political system to perdition.

Contrary to the claims of these barefaced dealmakers, pork was never really an instrument for local development except marginally. It has always been a tool for self-enrichment and political dominance; a ploy to disguise the rerouting of public funds to private pockets.

Thus, for the trapos, the emergence of Janet Lim-Napoles is a god-send. Heaping all the pork-related corruption on her head deflects the spotlight away from their handiwork.

In fact, she merely rode the crest of rising corruption and impunity created by our top officials. There are enough details in her expose (and Ben Hur Luy’s) to inform and educate everybody on the mechanics and nuances of the pork scam; certainly enough to justify slaying the vampires and scumbags who infest the corridors of power in our society today.

[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, South East Asian Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Permanent Mission to the United Nations; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel; and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist.]