Preferential treatment-A A +A
Slice of Life
Sunday, November 7, 2010
While five Congress representatives have zero allocation, former President and now Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has P2.2 billion in infrastructure funds for her district in the proposed national budget for 2011.
The preferential treatment was all too glaring under the present administration where the banner campaign of "tuwid na daan" seems to remain simply as a slogan.
While hearing the budget, the House of Representatives discovered that P2.2 billion was allocated for Arroyo's district in the P90-billion proposed budget for 2011 of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). In contrast, five House members have zero allocation in their districts, while others have less than P50 million.
Malacañang and a House of Representatives committee agreed to tap P1.2 billion in lump sums in the proposed DPWH budget to bring to at least P50 million the infrastructure fund for each congressional district.
The P50 million is on top of the P70 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), pork barrel allotted annually to members of the House. Senators are each entitled to P200 million in PDAF.
Party-list representatives are entitled to the PDAF, but not to the additional P50 million and to the road users' tax, which are available to district lawmakers.
Congress has the power of the purse and appropriation. Inadvertently, almost half of the appropriated funds for projects end up in the personal pockets of officials in connivance with unethical business groups. This results to substandard work condoned by contractors and government representatives.
It is not only Congress which has pork barrel. Each of the 24 senators receives twice the amount. The executive branch has a larger allocation in its intelligence, confidential and representation projects and controls the releasing of the fund. Cooperate, and legislators get to have their pork barrel. Oppose and you get nothing.
The 2009 Philippine Human Development Report blames the executive branch for the spread and encouragement of graft and corruption but the people know better that both branches are guilty of dipping their dirty hands into the pork barrel.
Some of the funds are intended for priority development projects, such as health care, clean water, and poverty alleviation. Most of the allocations are poured for basketball courts and waiting sheds or anything where national and local officials are able to tout for free campaign advertising.
Corruption seeps in the bidding of the project and its implementation. The provision of the pork barrel could have benefited the poorer populace, if done right. But in a political environment where everything is done wrong, it has become an immoral practice.
Most especially because while a large number of the populace are unable to fend for their needs, much less claim their right to basic services, public representatives are profiteering from their impoverishment. But who will complain? While there is hardly any occasion for social and physical infrastructures not to be tainted with corruption, there is no effective mechanism for the public to question the system.
The original name of this system Pork Barrel insinuates the derisive tradition of its American origin of unbridled patronage or spoils of political wars.
In the local level, Davao City councilors have announced that they do not mind having a slashed Annual Development Fund for the next year. Yet, when Mayor Sara Duterte decided to cut their pork from P3 million to P2 million, they grumbled and lobbied for the retention of their original ADF. "Its two million or nothing," the Mayor told the lawmakers.
Lawmakers ought to understand that their primary responsibility is to legislate laws and not to implement projects in preparation for their next electoral position. Systems have to be improved to ensure greater transparency and public accountability in the deliberation and eventually, in the utilization of public funds.
The nation needs a leader who knows his definite position and track in governance. Like the Davao City Mayor, the President could also learn how to stand on his own and be grounded on local realities. The public still wait the time when the slogan, "sa daang matuwid", would become a reality. Email comments to email@example.com
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on November 08, 2010.