Not the pork-A A +A
Saturday, September 7, 2013
AT the outset, let me say I am just as outraged as many of you about the pork barrel scandal. The overwhelming reaction to this catastrophic systemic scam has been a call to abolish pork. Well, I’m not all that hot on pork either. Still, I would like to take a more sober look at the issue of pork.
The original purpose of pork was to be an equalizer. The national treasury cannot all be placed in the hands of the executive branch. And not all needs can be itemized or addressed in the national budget.
And it is not altogether true that members of Congress should stick to making laws. In fact, they would do their constituents a disservice if all they did was lawmaking. Congress should rightly exercise the power of the purse for if they are to be true to the positions entrusted to them, they should provide for the needs of the people and the districts they represent.
Pork is not bad. Unfortunately, pork is in the hands of a lot of bad people. That’s the real problem. So if pork is in the hands of a lot of bad people, doesn't it make sense to simply abolish it? It would seem so.
However, it is not enough to simply propose to abolish pork. We should ask ourselves, after we abolish pork, then what? What do we do with the pork? Do we take it out of the 2014 budget altogether? If we do, how do we serve the needs that pork was supposed to serve? Or do we allocate the P27B allotted in the 2014 budget for pork to the executive branches of government? Wouldn’t this simply be moving pork from one set of dirty hands to another?
Of course, there is the other option of not abolishing pork at all but reforming the pork barrel system instead. This might be the ideal scenario for several reasons. First, pork is not intrinsically bad. Second, pork serves a purpose. Third, pork cannot really be abolished; it can simply be renamed.
Fourth, we’re barking at the wrong tree. Pork is not really the issue.
In theory, the pork barrel system is good. In practice, however, it has probably done more bad than good. If we must trash pork, let’s not do so without first digging more deeply into the issue. It is true that the pork barrel system can be effective with greater accountability and transparency.
But it is also true that no system is foolproof against the collusion of gazillions of people without integrity.
The pork barrel scam could not have flourished without the collusion of so many people from different levels and sectors who looked the other way—too scared, too indifferent or too greedy to care. Is it the abolition of pork we should call for? Or the development of moral courage?
Look in the mirror. Have you helped yourself to some pork lately? You may not be a lawmaker, but if you are in government, do you regularly receive your 10%? If you are in the private sector, do you regularly give your 10% to those in government?
So before you go to the next million people march demanding for pork to be abolished, ask yourself if you are any better than the Janet Napoleses of this country or the corrupt members of Congress.
It’s not the pork. It’s us—the people. We’ve simply run out of integrity in this country.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 08, 2013.