The Pork Barrel and Legislative Role-A A +A
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
THE issue of pork barrel and its extreme abuse finally got its comeuppance not from those crusading as anti-corruption advocates but from ordinary folks fed up with the unfettered misuse of the peoples’ money. There is admittedly no easy way to disentangle the devious and myriad pathways through which the money of the people was cleverly siphoned off to benefit unscrupulous individuals and groups. This is actually the consequence when those in power are deluded into believing that the money entrusted to them by the people are theirs to do as they please and become a means to an end in expanding their political influence and perpetuate that much abhorred political patronage.
Now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, it behooves the president of the republic, our public servant PNoy to enforce in the strongest terms measures that would assuage the public and restore the trust reposed on his administration in particular and the government as a whole, because that is precisely what is needed right now.
Such measures to be implemented must not be perceived as placatory in nature as to merely calm the public but must be seen as a permanent solution to once and for all removed any doubt as to the sincerity of the Pnoy administration to obediently abide by its advocacy of ‘matuwid and daan’. In fact the public clamor is to totally and absolutely remove the pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as it is innocently called from the annual budget.
Is this possible?
Of course it is! It can be done by simply removing such title, designation or nomenclature from the proposed budget and the monies or appropriations attached to it converted or placed into another item that is twice removed from the discretionary power of the legislators. Come to think of it, the discretion to determine where specified amounts of the peoples’ money are to be coursed through and spent is a superfluity and a needless extension of the legislative power to appropriate funds for certain purposes. It well to remember, that in the appropriation of funds a pertinent law must be passed and enacted to establish the legitimacy of its purpose and thereby avoid any legal complications in its utilization. This is precisely one of the powers of Congress and its legislators. But to allow legislators the discretion to further direct the course and flow of such appropriated funds into projects and programs which they deem as priority and for the benefit of their constituencies is perhaps a bit beyond their power. While the idea might be noble and as explained by Pnoy a necessity in the dispensation of public service considering that the legislators are the representatives of the people and are ostensibly more in touch with the grassroots level within their respective constituencies, there is something inherently wrong with allowing those having the power to appropriate funds to further have the power to dispense these funds in the way they see it fit. This seems contrary to our policy of checks and balances under a democratic system of government as well as the principle of separation of powers.
As already exposed by several whistleblowers, the abuses committed on the so called ‘pork barrrel’ has badly damaged the reputation of our congressmen and senators as legislators.
It is time to sever and put a stop to this bad practice of providing discretionary funds to the legislators which has allowed unscrupulous individuals and groups, especially public officials to exploit, take advantage and systematically loot the coffers of the government at the expense of the people.
The president cannot simply suspend the implementation of the PDAF or ‘pork barrel’ but must exorcised it from the budget and allow the attached or designated funds to be returned to the general fund for its more judicious disbursement and to allow for accountability.
As to the argument of representation in the national level of government, the needs of the people can be conveyed through local government leaders which in turn can either be forwarded to the Department of Interior and Local Government (which is the arm of the national government in the local level), or the congressmen and senators which will be indorsed to the concerned national agencies for appropriate action. That must be the limit of the legislators role in indorsing these concerns. These national agencies shall then disburse the needed amounts out of their own budgets to address these concerns. If the local government can solve these concerns within their level then there is no more need to bring it to the attention of the national government. If however there is a request for the national government to intervene then it can do so through its various agencies and offices. The job then of the legislators is perhaps to bring these concerns to the attention of the national government by way of endorsement and thus secure the speedy action of the latter. This is the basic and ideal set-up devoid of any patronage, favoritism and selective dispensation. But of course we all know that nothing is as it seems in politics and therefore we must religiously keep our fingers crossed.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 29, 2013.