CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 22 Aug) – On Monday, August 25, there will be a reprise of the outpouring of indignation about pork during last year’s Million People March at the Luneta.
Corruption attending the cavalier use, misuse, and abuse of pork continues to be a serious concern in increasingly incensed civil society circles, churches, and a public unhappy about unchecked venality.
Punctuating their concern is a general call for everyone to join in commemorating, reenacting, and re-echoing last year’s public disgust.
This mass action is entirely proper and fitting in light of revelations that have already landed three high-profile senators in jail.
The three of course are 1) Juan Ponce Enrile, former senate president and leading member of the tri-party opposition alliance; 2) Sen. Ramon Revilla II, head of the party in power during the Ramos and Arroyo administrations (LAKAS-NUCD-UMDP-KAMPI); and Jinggoy Estrada, scion of deposed president Erap, who until recently expected to be No. 2 in Jejomar Binay’s 2016 campaign slate.
The expectation that dozens more from the House of Representatives will be indicted and jailed lends greater traction to this issue’s unprecedented development.
Given the shocking details so far uncovered from the Janet Lim-Napoles case alone—whose trial hasn’t even begun—this issue promises to be a blockbuster.
It’s all the more momentous now as additional issues emerge with the ill-advised proposals for charter change and term extension, not to mention the contentious debate on the Supreme Court’s ruling on the constitutionality of Malacanang’s disbursement acceleration program (DAP).
Public anxiety is heightened further by expectations of more revelations about how previous pork barrel allocations were dwarfed by the humongous sums handed to palace favorites under the pork-like DAP.
Add to that the lurking fear that the purloined billions, stashed away or banked for timely use, will more thoroughly trash the electoral system and irremediably setback our society.
All this affects the social atmosphere in much the same way the aftermath of a nuclear disaster affects the environment: rife with fears of fallout, decay, and contamination.
Pork has poisoned public sensibility. It has shaken our confidence. Our conventional concept of government as well-meaning and protective of the common good is seriously damaged. It is making us more cynical, leery of the leadership class, sarcastic.
In the eyes of many, no congressional district today can claim to be free of graft and corruption and infectious venality.
And because the stench of corruption seems to hover above the heads of congressmen, senators, and the cabinet, more and more people believe rightly or wrongly that no one in Congress or the bureaucracy is clean or honest, that everyone is tainted.
It is a very negative perception, reinforced by the conspicuous failure of those who dispensed pork favors and projects to render a proper accounting of what, where, and how the funds were spent.
To top it all, public cynicism is deepened further by the ever-present relics of cavalier spending in our surroundings—vehicles, structures, and billboards with the names of epal pork handlers that no one dares to question or tear down because they’re in power.
These out-of-season campaign paraphernalia and billboards with epal contents ought really to be removed. They are the handiwork of incumbents with an eye for the 2016 elections.
To add injury to insult, their pork-funded projects are generally substandard: roads with no shoulder or curb, canals with no cover, streets with no drainage or pedestrian walkway, buildings and structures without maintenance.
The visibility of these substandard public works on the landscape is a constant reminder of rampant malfeasance—breeding distrust, if not loathing, in decent citizens.
It sours public perception of statecraft and lawmaking as something shameless, dirty, and corrupt—exacerbated by fresh revelations of mischief and the filing of cases that pile-up unresolved because the wheel of justice moves ever so slowly.
So an aura of impunity envelops officialdom—emboldening scofflaws all the more to exploit the slowness of justice and the dysfunctions of government, eroding public morality further.
The diminished respect towards government institutions and the erosion of public confidence are the most grievous fallout of pork-corrupted politics.
It is a reprehensible legacy of indulgent members of Congress. And it is not likely to be rectified anytime soon given the type of persons that cling parasitically to legislative walls on all levels—from Sangguniang Barangay to Municipal and City Councils, to Provincial Boards, and the top echelons.
[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asian Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Phil. Permanent Mission to the U.N.; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. [email protected]]