CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/15 August)– It’s budget time in Congress, time for backroom deals, horse-trading, and such. Whatever happens, don’t let the pork issue disappear from your reform agenda just yet, not until politics and the budget process is really, verifiably rid of it.
There are still many stragglers from the glory days of pork and, like gambling or drug addicts suddenly deprived of supply or opportunity, pork-addicted trapos will not give up devising schemes to restore it in some form or under a new label.
As the saying goes, if there’s a will, there’s a way. Everyone had better be alert and vigilant. Keep in mind that the initiators may well be your favorite senator or congressman—in which case, they better hear from you and your neighbors.
Just keep in mind that pork refers to allocations set aside for a senator’s or a congressman’s pet projects, which he approves and funds at his discretion.
In other words, pork is public money used as a private endowment to give bragging rights and campaign advantages to its dispenser. It’s the great conditioner of Epal or credit-grabbing.
It enables the offending dispenser to get credit for public works and services that he has no business claiming as his own. It’s dishonest but it gets him re-elected at public expense.
Community awareness programs ought to be undertaken to sustain a high level of what watchfulness, what to do if the problem recurs, and how to confront the offending lawmaker.
In fact, there should be a campaign to remind congressmen and senators to keep away from pork and work closely with the community instead.
They may also need reminding that legislation is their job, that lawmaking is their area of concern, and that they should be focused on it. For example, do they bother to hold a meeting or public hearing to discuss a law they are proposing?
They shouldn’t be fooling around with infrastructure projects, identifying or prioritizing them, claiming credit for doing so. That’s the task of the executive department.
If lawmaking isn’t challenging enough, let them find another calling. Don’t let them waste time or energy on it, or tax the patience of constituents with their incompetence.
Some congressmen actually complain that without pork, there’s nothing they can do! They should be the first to get rid of; if they insist, let go of them anyway; society doesn’t need them, and neither does your community or district.
If they insist on justifying pork, all the more reason to keep them away from it. Either they get rid of it and all forms of discretionary spending or get out! Their craving for it only proves how irresistible and corrupting pork can be.
Some may insist that pork produces benefits, but that is like saying “the end justifies the means.” Using pork brings out the worst patronage practices, which attracts more of their kind to run and fill Congress with more misfits.
Pork offers the prospect of becoming an instant millionaire, plus the added bonus of being officially inscribed in the roster of “Honorable” persons no matter how dishonorable one might be.
Pork also tempts an incumbent to engage in graft and corruption with impunity, providing official cover for what is essentially corrupt. It’s “official” so it gives the spender the illusion of honesty and fair-dealing in dispensing it.
With little or no transparency, with minimal accountability, pork disguises any number of financial mayhem including big-time gambling, money-laundering, and drug-dealing.
And because it is useful in these and other ways, unscrupulous politicians will always find ways and means to keep it in hidden, deceptive forms. Remember how they renamed it CDF (countryside development fund) at first?
When that game was up because people got wise to their gimmicks, they changed it to PDAF (priority development assistance) which, thanks to Ben Hur Luy, blew up in their faces.
Manny among others is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Pane; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected]