P-Noy’s pa-consuelo de bobo-A A +A
Monday, August 26, 2013
PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino is not really firm on his decision to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also known as pork barrel, of members of Congress, which is now a subject of a public outcry by the Filipino people. For me, it’s a half-baked decision and a sort of pa-consuelo de bobo to appease the public’s outcry that might lead to a political crisis.
Why did I say this? Because he still allows lawmakers to have access to the budget for their priority development projects in their congressional district through line budgeting. Meaning, lawmakers will still identify the priority projects and submit these before Congress deliberates the annual budget so that these will be carried in the appropriations of the implementing department.
If he is really firm on his decision, he should scrap it altogether. What I mean is, do not allow legislators to have access to the budget. Leave it entirely to the executive. They should focus on drafting and crafting laws. They shouldn’t be allowed to play the role of the executive in project implementations.
Morag binayot ning desisyona ni P-Noy. There is no difference under this new setup. As the saying goes, “the same dog but with a different collar.” Before, pork barrel was called the Countryside Development Assistance Fund. Under this new setup, graft and corruption cannot be eliminated. There will still be SOPs, kickbacks and commissions.
Consider this. If a congressman succeeds in getting a budget for his priority projects, let us say, infrastructure, then these will be included in the Department of Public Works and Highways’ budget and the agency is supposed to implement these. Do you think the congressman responsible for that project will not poke his finger once the project is implemented? He can call the regional director or even the secretary of the agency “requesting” that the project be given to his “favored” contractor. And mind you, people from the executive department are always afraid of the politicians because the latter are powerful and they can end up being transferred if they don’t accommodate the politicians’ demand or request.
The public wants the pork barrel abolished because it is the source of graft and corruption. The funds have been abused by lawmakers by means of kickbacks and commissions and to promote their political agenda. Even if they don’t participate in the deliberations of pending bills in Congress or have not filed a single bill but as long as they can present tangible projects to their constituents, they are already assured of their reelection.
Some of these lawmakers treat their pork barrel as their personal funds. The anomalies that have been recently unearthed find them linking with dubious and fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs). Some of them even organized their own NGOs where their relatives or even themselves sit as incorporators and siphoned their own pork barrel funds. Kana bang pabaga na lang gyud sa ilang nawong ba.
But again, I have to maintain my stand that if properly used, the pork barrel is good. Because this cuts short the bureaucratic red tape in securing funding. Local government unit officials or even barangay captains can directly ask for financial assistance from their congressmen for minor projects like construction of a barangay hall, a sports complex or vehicles. Under this new setup, it is now difficult for these local officials to ask for financial assistance because it will depend on priorities and being included in the line budgeting.
But in fairness to lawmakers’ soft projects, there are legitimate organizations that have benefitted from their financial assistance like medical assistance and the scholarship program for poor but deserving students. The medical assistance of Cebu City North District Rep. Raul del Mar at the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center is very successful. Many of his poor constituents have availed themselves of it.
Raul has also been helping Cebu media projects like the Cebu Newspapers Workers Foundation, the Media Medical Aid Fund and the construction of a media museum and library at the University of the Philippines Cebu campus. Del Mar’s projects have been successful because he is linking with legitimate organizations with real and honest to goodness advocacies. Mao pod nay nakanindot usahay. But if the pork barrel will be scrapped, then scrap it altogether. Pagnilaki Noy.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 26, 2013.