Former Pres. Estrada abolished the ‘pork barrel’-A A +A
Meet the Countryside
Monday, August 26, 2013
WHEN Estrada was up for the presidential election then, he promised to abolish CDF (Countryside Development Fund) – the “pork barrel.”
As a matter of fact, he did by changing the name of CDF to PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund). And, thus, the CDF is no more, but the pork barrel has remained. It is only in the Philippines where the President, Vice-President, and Congress (both Senate and the House of Representatives) do not mind the derogatory inferences of the graft-ridden pork barrel. For our country has now become the dominion of the new pork barrel-based political leaders and clans.
Dictionary.reference.com defines pork barrel as “a government appropriation… funds for local improvements designed to ingratiate legislators with their constituents.” Yes, with the President and VP, even the definition of pork barrel has been corrupted in this country. And, Cardinal Tagle would shed more tears when he learns that PDAF is only one of them: Congress has two other sources of pork barrel funds – the Congressional Allocation (CA) and Congressional Initiatives (CI). Each of these three congressional handout funds may roughly involve the same staggering amounts from the national coffers.
The devolution of LGUs, although a significant milestone in the history of our governance, initially brought about so much unfunded national mandates. And, so, the national agencies continued to package, finance and even implement devolved programs and projects. Not to be outdone, Congress has come into play with its own brand of assistance. True, the congressional funds or pork barrel can well serve a relevant purpose in funding the LGUs mandates. But, more often than not, it has tarnished the integrity of the overall government structure. Many congressional initiatives are inconsistent with local development plans and are not a product of prior consultation with LGUs and communities.
PDAF, CA and CI have effectively increased the role of Congress in devolved activities, which clearly contradicts the intention of the law, the Local Government Code. That is shifting the role of central agencies to policy-making, research and monitoring and technical assistance for LGUs. With the growing number of congressional programs and projects, the transition of LGUs and national agencies to their new roles have taken an unfortunate extended period of time, which is the grievous consequence of pork barrel – undermine the capacity of the LGUs; muddle the local leadership; and, to emphasize, stall the process of local development.
The fiscal effects of such policy have also been exerting pressure on the national budget like a double-edged sword as budgetary requirements have been growing for both national line agencies and LGUs for the same set of functions and sectoral objectives; and exacerbated by the rapidly increasing congressional funds. Furthermore, as the pork barrel mostly has local applications, it is in many ways; except that it is nationally funded, which have different policies and rules in play vis-à-vis the locally funded projects. The national policies and rules are inherently ineffective in local procurement and/or implementation – and this makes the congressional funds most vulnerable to graft and corruption.
PNOY has announced the abolition of the PDAF; to craft a new fund appropriation system with the help of Congress; and to put in place his 7-point system to deter corruption. That is not at all abolishing PDAF and the other congressional funds.
Obviously, PNOY is just doing an ERAP, especially now that pork barrel ordinances have trickled down the municipal/city council and provincial board nationwide. And, for sure, the barangay councils shall follow having their handout pork barrel legislation, too.
Briefly, if the pork barrel is not totally scrapped, Congress’ appropriations for more and more handouts shall become our standard in governance. We will be a country run by pork barrel. Bringing the “bacon” home shall be the measure of political success – at the rate things are going.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 26, 2013.