CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 06 July) — The fondness for pork (PDAF), now paired with PNoy’s newly-minted DAP (disbursement acceleration program)—is well documented and now declared unconstitutional.
Let’s honor the Supreme Court ruling and entertain no more such schemes—and let the politicos get the message in no uncertain terms!
Let us ever be on guard though, because politicians—and PNoy is proving to be a big trapo!—do not willingly part with privilege, profit, or the power of the purse; not especially one entailing no investment of money, time, or talent.
This enduring fixation for public funds, intensified by its being tax-free, requiring minimal or no reporting or accountability, is a mighty temptation for non-statesmen—meaning, unscrupulous. It is an entitlement that serves as a convenient cover for any number of illicit or aggrandizing activity such as money-laundering, gambling, hostage-taking, smuggling, or drug-dealing.
However it is justified, this craving for gratuitous largesse is reprehensible and unbecoming to a man or woman who purports to be a leader or statesman. Opportunism or abuse of public goods are unbecoming for a putative statesman.
Not only that, it denigrates the role of a legislator. It makes a travesty of elections, whose outcomes are determined by the quantum of funds poured into the precincts. And it is appalling that the stain of abuse and misuse of public funds bothers no one in the public service anymore.
No trapo feels guilty about being in office or about creating a dynasty using pork or patronage, so long as he gets to be addressed as“The Honorable this” or “His Excellency that”without regard to integrity. Where is the honor in freeloading, or excellence in living off the fat of society?
The trapos claim that doing away with pork deprives districts of development funds. On the contrary, funds would be freed from their arbitrary control and be better managed by the community through its Local Development Council. Releasing the funds to them will awaken and mobilize citizen participation, promote autonomy, and stop corruption. It will also stop the unfit from seeking office in order to become an overnight millionaire while spending tax monies.
It is no coincidence that corruption at the grassroots intensified when lawmakers started serving as conduits for development funds. No coincidence either that the caliber of legislators nose-dived when they became mere handlers and shameless dispensers of dole-out or patronage. They spawned the culture of corruption and impunity!
We would all be better off releasing the amount of what would have been for pork and DAP to communities pro rata: letting every community—barangay, municipality, city, or province—identify the projects to be funded or determine best uses of the fund. Congressmen and senators will then focus on legislation or get out of Congress. They are lawmakers, not dispensers of taxpayer funds or executors of development projects.
They have no business arrogating the role of the executive branch. No longer should they assume executive functions, supervising infrastructure, badgering executive departments for projects. No longer should they violate the separation of powers. And no more EPAL behavior!
For his part, the President should no longer connive or let himself be the handmaid of congressional mischief by using pork or DAP as instruments of governance.
Thus, even as we ask Congress to clear the slate and abstain from pork, let us ask the President to stop allotting it. He is makin his Daang Matuwid slippery andprone to abuse!If we are indeed his Boss, he should listen as we say: Enough is enough. Tama na!
Instead,please use a more effective facility and conduit for channeling the money: the community itself. Put that legally ordained Local Development Council (LDC) to good use—by doing precisely the purposes cited by congressmen to justify getting funds from line departments.
The law ordains this LDC to serve as the planning, implementing, and quality-control mechanism for development at every level—barangay, municipal, city, province. No senator or congressman can claim to know the development needs and requirements of the community than this LDC—whose members reside in it.
All that is needed is to see that these LDCs are organized and constituted according to law—i.e. all sectors represented in its functional committees (Sec 106-115, R.A. 7160).
The neglect of these LDCs and the sloppy way they are organized and constituted are the reasons why local facilities are substandard, amenities are lacking or non-existent, and services are poor.
How much better, efficient, pleasing, and more progressive our localities would be if these LDCs are functional, with the best local talents and technocrats as members—as provided by law! Through them, the expertise, style, and standards of the local professionals would be reflected in its development.
Today these professionals are prevented from contributing their ideas and expertise because self-serving lawmakers insist on imposing their own ideas or steal the scene by grandstanding. In the process, they waste funds, line their pockets, feed their vanity, and politicize local development.
The neglect of these LDCs has prevented our communities from benefiting from the technology and contributions of their own architects, engineers, designers, educators, accountants, lawyers, sanitation, health professionals, what-have-you.
Let them do their part now. It will empower their community and make autonomy a reality. And tell congressmen and senators to focus on lawmaking so they can keep away from the temptations of PDAF and DAP! (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa 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. [email protected])