Pork barrel is not bad per see-A A +A
Sunday, October 10, 2010
HOUSE of Representatives members have doubled their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) under the proposed P1.645-trillion national budget for 2011. From P70 million for each of 278 congressmen annually, the controversial PDAF or pork barrel has been increased to as much as P145 million. The House leadership decided to give each congressman an additional P50 million to be taken from the P90.9-billion budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
All congressmen, except for party-list representatives, will also get as much as P25 million each as their share of the Road User’s Tax, which is collected annually from owners of private and public vehicles as motor vehicle user’s charge.
The congressman’s pork barrel has two approaches: P40 million is spent for hard projects, such as infrastructure like the construction of school buildings, barangay halls, sports complexes, bridges and road concreting. The P30 million is for soft projects like medical and burial financial assistance, and assistance to victims of calamities like fire, typhoon and demolition. Some congressmen channel their funding to charitable institutions and foundations closely monitored by implementing agencies.
There have been calls to abolish the pork barrel, as others perceive this as the source of graft and corruption. They say the money is used to advance the political interest of legislators. But Congress’ leadership has ignored them. Even the President cannot abolish the pork barrel because of the separation of powers. Congress will decide as far as the national budget is concerned. Malacañang is always held hostage by Congress when it comes to the budget. If pork barrel is abolished, I think fewer people will run for Congress.
The pork barrel issue has its pros and cons. If the money is spent right by congressmen, there will be developments in terms of projects in various congressional districts. Each district has its own fair share and project implementation is decentralized. It will eliminate bureaucracy in our government setup.
A barangay captain, mayor or governor can directly approach their congressman for funding and projects. If requests are channeled to the executive department, let’s say, public works and highways, it will take too long before the request is approved. If the amount of the project is too big, I understand it will go all the way to the department secretary or even to Malacañang. It is not easy for the requesting party to go to Manila for follow-ups. And what if the requesting party is not a political ally with the powers that be? Do you think the request will be granted?
In fairness to congressmen, they cannot hold their pork barrel in cold cash because funding is channeled to the implementing agency. For example, if the project is infrastructure, it is channeled through the DPWH. Soft projects are usually channeled and closely monitored by the Department of Social Welfare and Development. The congressman will just inform the Department of Budget and Management for the release of a special allotment release order intended for a specific project chargeable to his pork barrel.
There have been reports of some congressmen who allegedly demand commissions and kickbacks from contractors. We cannot dismiss that. Even barangay captains demand commissions. That’s where people’s vigilance comes into play. Watch and monitor your congressman.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on October 11, 2010.