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Palace FOI bill wont require pork barrel info

By Norman Bordadora Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:25 am | Sunday, February 5th, 2012

MANILA, PhilippinesHow lawmakers utilize their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel isnt on the list of public interest documents required to be disclosed on the Aquino administrations version of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a member of the good governance cluster of the Cabinet, said this was because the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) was already disclosing PDAF-related information of House members on its website. Abad nonetheless said the administration would welcome an amendment to the bill for a more explicit disclosure requirement of the lawmakers pork barrel. Undersecretary Abigail Valte, President Benigno Aquino IIIs deputy spokesperson, for her part, maintained that the Palace FOI bill still wouldnt exempt members of Congress from having to reveal online their use of their PDAF as the pertinent provisions of the proposed transparency measure would still require them to do so. The disclosure of PDAF allotments, obligations and disbursements would fall under the information that the DBM is mandatorily obliged to disclose, as we are in fact already doing under our e-tails program, Abad said in a text message to the Inquirer. But we welcome, as an amendment to the Palace-endorsed FOI bill, a more explicit disclosure requirement on PDAF allocations and uses for the DBM and Congress, he said. Both Abad and Valte are members of the administrations study group that conducted discussions with government executives, security officials, media professionals and other stakeholders to come up with a generally accepted version of the transparency measure. Online posting Valte said disclosure on the use of pork barrel funds under the Palaces FOI bill fell under the item on annual procurement plans and procurement lists that would have to be posted online. It should fall under the general provision for the items in the public interest documents enumeration, Valte said.

Valte, a lawyer, said the mandatory disclosure provisions would require all government agencies to upload on their websites public interest documents or records that include the agencies annual procurement plans and annual procurement lists. She added that the proposed bills definition of government agencies included those in all the branches of government, including the legislature. Part of a legacy Right now, the web site of the (DBM) already has this function, Valte said. In revealing his submission to Congress of his administrations version of the FOI bill, President Aquino indicated that he wanted the FOIs transparency provisions to be a part of his legacy. We want every other administration voted into power to work under the same standard of transparency and accountability that we have set for ourselves. This is a significant step toward achieving that goal, President Aquino said on Thursday. Section 7 of the Palace version of the FOI bill provides for the mandatory disclosure on government web sites of the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth of the President, Vice President, members of the Cabinet, Congress, the Supreme Court, constitutional commissions and other constitutional offices, and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with general or flag rank. Unlike the lawmakers use of their PDAF, Section 7 explicitly mentions internal revenue allotment (IRA) utilization on the list of public interest documents that must be uploaded to the government websites. The IRA is the share of local government units of taxes collected in their respective areas by the government. Use of public funds Under the FOIs mandatory disclosure provision, documents involving the use of public funds would also be required to be uploaded on government websites. These include the annual budgets of government agencies; itemized monthly collections and disbursements; summary of incomes and expenditures; use of the internal revenue allotments of local governments; annual procurement plans and procurement lists; items to bid; bid results on civil works, goods and services; abstract of bids as calculated; procurement contracts; construction or concession agreements; private sector participation in agreements or contracts; public funding to a private entity; Bilateral and multilateral agreements and treaties in trade, economic partnership, investments, cooperation, and similar binding commitments; lists of persons or entities given licenses, permits or agreements for the use of natural resources; statements of assets, liabilities and net worth

(SALN) of public officials; and guarantees given by any government agency to governmentowned and controlled corporations, private corporations, persons or entities. Meanwhile, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casio said on Saturday Malacaangs muchballyhooed FOI bill was nothing but a watered-down version of the FOI measures pending in Congress. Casio, principal author of one of the FOI bills filed in the House of Representatives, said the Palace did not offer any new provisions that would strengthen the measure which would ensure the publics right to government information. He cited for example a provision on the publication of the SALN of all public officials that was already provided for in House Bill No. 133 which he authored and filed on the first day of the 15th Congress in July 2010. Already included Casio said this provision, along with another on the mandatory posting on the web sites of government agencies of all documents of public interest and concern, was already included in the FOI bills pending in the House committee on public information chaired by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone. What is really significant in the Palace version is its watering down of the FOI by including a long list of 16 exceptions to the measure to include records of minutes and advice given and opinions expressed during decision-making or policy formulation, invoked by the Chief Executive to be privileged, he said. The lawmaker also said that in the Palace version, information relating to law enforcement and defense had six exceptions, giving police and defense officials very wide leeway in hiding information on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

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Independents on dynasties, pork barrel, ChaCha


It is so uplifting to interview independent candidates because they have fresh and sensible ideas to solve the nations myriad problems, unlike the trapo of the two main political coalitions who mouth clichs and motherhood statements. Three such independent candidates were the guests at last Mondays Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel: Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord

Movement and JC de los Reyes of the Kapatiran Party, senatorial candidates both, and Steve Salonga, independent candidate for governor of Rizal. The first question was about the political dynasties rapidly spreading like a malignant cancer in the land. Almost all the senatorial candidates of Team PNoy and UNA (United Nationalist Coalition) are members of political dynasties. Almost all provinces have political dynasties. All three panelists said something should be done to stamp out political dynasties, which are banned by the Constitution but which are multiplying like parasitic weeds in the flower garden. Villanueva and De los Reyes said that if elected to the Senate, they would push for the passage of a law implementing the constitutional ban. Villanueva said there must first be a definition of political dynasty. A journalist asked why that would be necessary considering that the dictionary provides the definition. Villanueva said Congress may have a different definition. Can Congress change the literal meaning of a word defined by the dictionary to suit its own ends? The Constitutional Convention made a big mistake in leaving it to Congress to enact an enabling law, knowing that many members of Congress are members of political dynasties, another journalist said. It should have made the constitutional ban self-implementing. Steve Salonga, a lawyer like his father, former Sen. Jovito Salonga, volunteered that the ConCon delegates could not agree on the provision. The clause giving Congress the authority to enact the enabling law was inserted as a compromise so the provision could be passed, he said. He added that political dynasties are worse in the provinces. Almost every province, city and town now have political dynasties that have the citizens in a stranglehold. The worst is in the Zamboanga peninsula, where the Jalosjos clan headed by convicted child rapist Romeo Jalosjos is spreading from its bailiwick to the neighboring provinces and municipalities. Citing his home province of Rizal, Salonga said the Ynares clan has had the province in its clutches for 20 years now. He said he decided to run for governor against an Ynares clan member to give the people of Rizal a choice. Although he admitted that it is an uphill battle, he hopes that the Rizalenos, after 20 years of the Ynareses, now realize that the clan has not brought progress to the province and its people and that they should have a change of leadership. Salonga is a member of his fathers party, the Liberal Party, but he is not the official candidate of the LP in Rizal. The province has been declared a free zone. Kapatirans De los Reyes said his party and other groups are collecting signatures for a peoples initiative to make the constitutional ban on political dynasties a reality. He is confident that they will have enough signatures after the elections. He emphasized that his partys platform is definitely against political dynasties, pork barrel, and a constitutional change, and for gun control.

Admitting that he himself is a member of a political dynasty (his mother is a sister of former Sen. Dick Gordon of Zambales), De los Reyes is nevertheless against political dynasties after seeing what they are doing to the nation. Wouldnt it be easier and simpler to amend the Constitution to make the ban on political dynasties self-implementing? he was asked. He replied: Amending the Constitution now with the present trapo in power is risky, even by a Con-Con. These politicians and their clan members and allies may become delegates to the convention and we never know what they will do. They may totally remove the ban on dynasties. They may remove term limits. They may remove limits to the salaries of members of Congress and the Cabinet. They may move to shift to a parliamentary system of government, which will be infinitely worse than the present presidential system even with its flaws. Under a parliamentary system, it is the head of Parliament, the equivalent of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who will be the Chief Executive controlling the whole government, not a President. The head of Parliament will not be elected by the people but by the members of Parliament themselves, the equivalent of the present House members, and you know what that means. Instead of buying the votes of citizens, candidates to the chairmanship of Parliament will buy the votes of MPs. And you can imagine the price of each vote and the corruption that will result. Some of the heads of Parliament in Japan and Korea have been convicted of corruption and imprisoned. I fear that the Philippines will not be far behind if we shift to a parliamentary system. On the pork barrel system, De los Reyes said it should be abolished as it is a big cause and source of corruption. Almost half of the budgets of public projects go to private pockets. Villanueva said it can be continued provided line item budgeting for projects is implemented. Salonga said that with line item budgeting, there will be no more pork barrel. He said pork barrel has lump-sum appropriations for each senator and representative, who will decide how the money will be spent. Thats where the corruption comes in. The system should be abolished.

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P10-B racket a good reason to stop pork barrel

The P10-billion racket being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is one more reason why the pork barrel system should be abolished. One of the sources of the billions of pesos allegedly stolen by the JLN Group of Companies is the pork barrel of senators and congressmen. Others are special funds such as the Malampaya Fund and the Fertilizer Fund of the Department of Agriculture. As long as government is there, there is money, the alleged mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles, reportedly told her employees. I would like to add: As long as the pork barrel is there, there would be graft. As narrated in Sundays issue of the Inquirer, the modus operandi is very easy and simple. By just using the names of bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and foundations as well as of bogus recipients, and by forging the signatures of local government officials, the JLN companies were able to collect from the government P10 billion in almost a decade of operations. The scam begins when a JLN official or employee (usually Napoles herself) approaches a senator or congressman to buy his/her pork barrel allocation, camouflaged as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), for which the legislator is paid 50 to 60 percent of the amount of allocation, as kickback or commission. (Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and then Rep. Rene Velarde of Buhay Partylist were the first to be named by the Commission on Audit among legislators whose pork allocations were the source of funds allegedly rechanneled to bogus NGOs but were encashed and given to Napoles herself.) A JLN team prepares a list of beneficiaries of fictitious NGOs and foundations, from which the legislator chooses. The Department of Budget and Management then prepares the Special Allotment Release Order. The JLN team then makes a list of individual beneficiaries, all fictitious. The team prepares all the paperwork, forging all the signatures. When the check is released, it is deposited in the bank account of the bogus NGO beneficiary. After the check is cleared, the money would be withdrawn and the cash delivered in suitcases to Napoles herself. It is not yet known where the money goes after this. The modus operandi proves that not only should the pork barrel system be discontinued but that the government should be strict in accepting and registering NGOs and foundations, as well as partylists. At present, it is very easy to register NGOs and foundations and partylists. All one has to do is: concoct a name for an NGO or a partylist; claim what sector it represents and its intended beneficiaries; and come up with a list of officials (JLN had its employees as officials of its bogus NGOs), and he/she is in business. It is no secret that some party lists, whose nominees are sitting in the present Congress, are bogus. Jo Christine Napoles, the eldest daughter of Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind, may sit in the House of Representatives as nominee of the OFW Family Club, of which former Ambassador Roy Seeres is the first nominee.

Everybody knows that the pork barrel system is a principal source of graft and corruption. It corrupts a long line of peoplefrom legislators to contractors to district engineers, treasurers, clerks, down the line. It weakens the moral fiber of the people. On top of that, the government loses tens of billions of pesos because of it; money taken away from its people in the form of services. Abolish the pork barrel and you eliminate half of the source of corruption. President Aquino made the people believe, during the campaign and after his inauguration, that his priority is to fight corruption. He can easily do that by not including in his budget proposal the PDAF or pork barrel. Congress cannot put it there because it is prohibited from adding to what Malacaang has proposed. Congress can only remove or reduce funding enumerated in the budget proposal. It is that easy to eliminate at least half of the graft and corruption that has been bedeviling the nation for decades. Yet year after year, president after president sends to Congress budget proposals for the PDAF. And Congress, quickly, happily, and greedily passes the PDAF budget. I am sure that President Aquino, the self-proclaimed nemesis of graft and corruption, has again submitted to Congress a budget for next year that includes the hated PDAF. Why do the presidents do it? Because it is a means of making the legislators do what the president wants. Cooperative legislators get their pork allocations quickly; uncooperative ones dont get theirs as quickly. The pork is a sort of carrot-and-stick for the legislators. In short, the pork is a bribe by the President to members of Congress. Because of the pork, presidents, including President Aquino, are guilty of bribery. Giving bribes is a form of corruption, di ba President Noynoy? So why are you doing it? Mr. President, please stop this source of corruption once and for all, as you promised. Withdraw the budget for the PDAF. There are very good reasons for doing it. Let that be your legacy to the nation. Your presidency will be remembered for that, if not for anything else

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Get rid of it
During the last elections, only the senatorial candidates of Ang Kapatiran Party spoke out against it. They were Rizalito David, Marwil Llasos, and JC de los Reyes, and what they found execrable was the pork barrel. No other candidates, from left to right, did so.

Its the root of graft and corruption, said Llasos. Why dont we just have a comprehensive system in responding to the development needs of the people? Why dont we just put the fund in the General Appropriations Act instead of making it discretionary? We have the barangay development council, for instance. They know better, we dont need a congressman or senator for that. None of the Kapatiran candidates won, of course, as was generally expected. Which is a pity because they made a lot of sense, particularly on this one. But what they were proposing need not end with their loss. Theyve raised an important issue which demands serious scrutiny today, several senators and congressmen having figured in the epic scam that Nancy Carvajal exposed in the Inquirer. Specifically, they funneled hundreds of millions of pesos from their Priority Development Assistance Fund, also called pork barrelsenators are given P200 million and congressmen P70 million every yearto ghost projects put up by a syndicate in exchange for hefty commissions. So, should the pork be abolished once and for all? I add my voice to those who say yes. In theory, it looks at least harmless and at most benign. The senators and congressmen do not themselves spend their funds, they only pinpoint priority projects which are implemented by the appropriate departments. Congressmen in particular being close to their constituencies are in a position to know what their constituents most needroads, bridges, clinics, schools, various services. In any case, theres the audit department to make sure the money is wisely, and rightly, spent. But all that is only in theory. In practice, none of this deters the senators and congressmen from practically owning their pork barrel. In practice, having sole power to assign the funds as they please, they assign them to projects that please them and not their constituents. Indeed, the legislators do not confine themselves to merely identifying priorities but often take a hand in identifying contractors as well. As it is, simply being able to determine priorities is an awesomeand profitablepower in itself. A strange power given to people whose business is to make laws. In fact, what the pork barrel amounts to is largesse. But it is largesse that also depends on Malacaang for distribution. The PDAF is a political weapon for Malacaang to keep Congress in line. It can be diminished, delayed or withheld entirely from uncooperative senators and congressmen and, conversely, augmented, expedited or pressed on them to vote for Malacaangs agenda, good or bad. Once it is in their hands, the auditors do not look too closely on how they use it. Or they are persuaded not to. The auditors have a colorful history in that respect that dates back to the time of the Spanish governor-generals, routinely clearing them after their terms ended by partaking of their loot. It was so in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos time, and it is so today. The pork barrel, says Dolores Espaol of Transparency International-Philippines, should never have been there. Its a waste of public funds. Instead of going to the sector for which it is intended, the money gets dissipated and the people do not benefit from it.

In the context particularly of our political culture, it institutionalizes corruption. That culture which is what entrenches corruption in this countrysays public officials, elected or appointed, are entitled to largesse of some kind. That is rarely articulated but is generally understood and accepted, if only vaguely, if only instinctively. Nobody is really surprised that someone would spend a fortune to become city councilman or, as was an issue in recent weeks, a member of the Sangguniang Kabataan. People expect him to recoup his investment in some way. For senators and congressmen, the pork barrel is the direct and immediate return on investment. What bolsters the idea that public officials are entitled to largesse or ROI is that we do not have a concept of taxpayers money. In theory, we have all sorts of statements, particularly when the Bureau of Internal Revenue is cajoling or threatening taxpayers to pay their taxes, that taxes belong to them, that taxes go to them. In practice, that is not believed, let alone internalized. If government returns part of the taxes in roads and bridges, we are grateful, it is a good government. If it does not, sorry na lang, but its their money, theres nothing we can do about it. Of course, not every senator or congressman plows his pork barrel in scams like the one Janet Lim-Napoles is accused of mounting. But thats just a question of degree, thats just a question of approach: Some are more garapal, some are subtler. Some are more bara-bara, some are more careful. But with the pork barrel being used by government as a mechanism for reward and punishment, with a culture that grants pork barrel the aspect of largesse or ROI (along with a loose conception of taxpayers money as peoples money), and with auditors not particularly caring to look closely at its use, expecting the pork barrel to benefit the country is like expecting Rodrigo Duterte to be jailed. If you abolish the pork barrel, you will discourage people from running for senator and congressman? That will be its most salutary effect yet. Then it will leave the field to candidates like the ones from Kapatiran. Then it will open up the barrel to more than just a few snouts. Its time we did. Its time we got rid of the cholesterol.

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Presidents guilty of bribery in pork barrel system


President Aquino, after days of hesitation, finally noticed the anger of the people over the P10billion pork barrel scam and ordered a full, fair, and impartial investigation. The National Bureau of Investigation and the Office of the Ombudsman are already doing that, so the Malacaang press release may be just for public consumptionto show the people that he is doing something about it.

What the President should do, if he is sincere about stopping corruption as he promised, is not to include in his budget proposal to Congress an appropriation for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the polite term for the hated pork barrel, which is one of the major causes of corruption. No pork barrel, no temptation, no corruptionit is as simple as that. The greedy members of Congress cannot put it there because, under the Constitution, Congress is prohibited from adding to the budget proposal of the executive branch. It can only reduce or remove appropriations proposed by the budget department. So, no budget proposal for the PDAF, no pork barrel, no corruption. Some members of the House of Representatives have already filed a bill prohibiting Malacaang from proposing a budget for the PDAF, but why go the roundabout way? Besides, the crooked and greedy congressmen, which compose the majority in the House, will surely vote down the bill. For years they have fattened on the pork barrel. Do you think they will willingly vote to abolish it? The excuse for the pork is that it funds the projects of the legislators and helps their constituents. Pork funds supposedly finance roads and bridges, schools, textbooks, scholars, health centers, barangay halls, basketball courts, waiting sheds, etc. But being imitation public works and education secretaries is not the job of legislators. Their job is to enact laws, not to duplicate the work of the executive branch. What will happen to their pet projects? they ask. There are regional development councils, as well as provincial, city, and municipal development councils, precisely to process and recommend local projects. Congressmen are members of all these councils. They can propose their projects in these councils and, if these are meritorious, these will be endorsed to the departments concerned. So the congressmen can still have their projects. But the legislators want to implement the projects themselves even if that is not their job. They choose the contractor (the public bidding is a moro-moro), the place where the roads and bridges will be located, the printers who will produce the textbooks, etc. The contractors and printers, etc. kick back to the congressman at least 30 percent of the projects budget. In the case of the P10-billion scam allegedly involving JLN Corp., there are no projects at all. The projects and persons listed on the documents as beneficiaries are all fictitious, according to the affidavits submitted to the NBI. The congressman and senator get as much as 60 percent of the pork allocation, and the rest allegedly goes to the middleman, JLN. Nothing for any project. Even when there is a real project, only half of the budget goes to the project itself. Thirty percent goes to the legislator, more to the public works engineers, local government officials, treasurers, clerks and others. The contractor makes do with what is left. That is why all government projects are substandard. The contractors have to cheat to make both ends meet. Many projects are not finished at all when the contractor runs out of money or runs away with it. Each senator gets P200 million a year in pork funds, and each congressman, P70 million a year. Multiply those numbers with the number of senators and congressmen and you will have the

total amount of pork funds spent every year. Only less than half of that goes to the projects, so you can imagine the billions of pesos lost to corruption. Legislators claim the pork funds do not pass through their hands but go directly to the beneficiaries. Who are they kidding? The real beneficiaries, like the contractors, kick back to the legislator part of the budget as soon as they collect from the government, usually even before the construction starts. Legislators claim that if they have no pork for their projects, their constituents will not reelect them. Not true. Senators Panfilo Lacson and Joker Arroyo never collected their pork funds but they were reelected, and probably would have been reelected more times if there were no term limits. If P-Noy were to abolish the pork barrel, he would be so popular and loved by a grateful people, he would surely be reelected if there were no term limits to the presidency. But why do presidents continue with the pork barrel system even when they know that it reeks of corruption? Because it is a means of making the legislators do their wishes. Cooperative legislators get their pork promptly; uncooperative ones dont. Thus, the pork is being used to bribe legislators. Note that no pork allocation can be released without the Presidents approval. The presidents, including P-Noy if he does not stop the pork barrel system, are all guilty of bribery. Was P-Noy sincere when he said he would fight corruption? Judge for yourself whether he is fighting or abetting corruption by continuing the hated pork barrel system.

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Pork barrel: costs and benefits


Institutionalized corruption. Grand conspiracy to steal taxpayers money. Trapo at its lowest point. Thats the pork barrel system in the Philippines. And it continues to flourish, in spite of the fact that its costs are much greater than its benefits. Why? Simply because those who benefit are the ones who decide whether the system should continue or not. Lets define pork first, and then lets take a quick look at its history (we got it from the United States), courtesy of the Internet. Definitions of the pork in pork barrel, which apparently originated in the US Congress: A bill or project requiring considerable government spending in a locality to the benefit of the legislators constituents.

A government appropriation, bill, or policy that supplies funds for local improvements designed to ingratiate legislators with their constituents. The act of using government funds on local projects that are primarily used to bring more money to a specific representatives district. Basically, the politician tries to benefit his/her constituents in order to maintain their support and vote. The first pork project in the United Statesfederal funds were appropriated for the benefit of a localitywas $1,500 to complete a lighthouse in what was then Massachusetts (with the backing of President George Washington). It was not a unanimously approved project, and the use of federal (national) money for local benefit was looked at askance by some of the greatest American leaders, including Thomas Jefferson. While the US Congress was torn between those who pursue pork and those who resist it, the latter view prevailed until a turning point was reached in the 1980s, during the Reagan administration, after which the number and value of pork projects increased astronomically. Here is what an American NGO, the Citizens Against Government Waste, says about the pork barrel system in the United States at present: Cases of out-and-out bribery are rare. But porkbarrel spending is a form of corruption, where tax dollars are dolled (sic) out on the basis of political favoritism and to advance the careers of Washington insiders. Is this also the case in the Philippine pork barrel system? Only in the sense that a jeepney and a Porsche are both motor vehicles. Because, as has been made even more obvious by the present scandal, cases of out-and-out bribery are not the exception, but more the rule, in the Philippines. Our legislators have constantly repeated that they never handle any of the money involved in the projects, and just choose the projects, which choices are limited to a list of projects that qualify or are acceptable by guidelines set up by the Department of Budget and Management. A list, by the way, that is as broad as all outdoors: livelihood, manpower, sports, and cooperative development, delivery of basic services, environmental protection, agricultural and fisheries diversity, rural industrialization, development of local enterprises, social services in areas that would not be ordinarily undertaken by the private sector, and construction, maintenance, operations and management of infrastructure projects. Good grief. So how do crooked legislators get their hands on the money, aside from the ghost projects supposedly undertaken in the P10-billion scam? It takes a little more effort, but only just a little: The legislators reportedly tell the government agency involved who they want as contractors or project implementers. How the government agency translates that order into reality when there are bids and awards committees to safeguard procedures is another thing altogether. But one can see the elements of conspiracythe legislator, the government agency, and the contractor acting in collusion. The legislator reportedly gets his cut from the contractor. Clean hands. Reminds me of a former Chief Executive who swears that he never stole a single centavo from the government. He forgets that he was receiving all kinds of goodies from friends with government contracts.

Moreover, in the Philippines, while the big guns get the lions share of the pork, legislators dont have to fight over it. The division is institutionalized: at least P70 million worth of pork a year for a House legislator, and P200 million a year for a senator of the republic. And worst of all (if the current scam is any indication), the pork may not even help the local constituents; it stops in the legislators pockets and those of their private-sector coconspirators, with the active help or benign neglect of the government agencies and the Commission on Audit. In sum, what are the benefits of the pork barrel system in the Philippines? One, it gives the executive branch tremendous leverage over the legislature, which is supposed to provide checks and balances (the executive branch can withhold the pork). Two, it gives incumbent legislators an unfair advantage over their electoral opponents, because of the projects (if successfully implemented) they bring, or the money (if pocketed) they can use to buy votes. And what are the costs? At least P21 billion a year of taxpayers money that arguably could have been more efficiently and equitably used for the welfare of the Filipino people. Notice, Reader, that the benefits accrue to individuals; the costs are borne by society. The servants of the people screw their bosses with impunity. And do not tax my patience by saying that not all legislators are involved. True. But they havent done a thing about it either. All it takes for evil to triumph. Abolish the pork barrel.

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Still, get rid of it


Its a good question to ask as Aquino takes to the podium to make his report to us, his Boss. What to do with the pork barrel? Edwin Lacierda says the Palace doesnt want to wade into the discussion (of whether the pork barrel should be abolished or not) since thats primarily the call of the legislators. Frank Drilon, the next Senate president, agrees. Its not the executives, or specifically the Presidents call, to make, it is Congress. This is a decision of both houses (of Congress). If one house does not agree, then you cannot abolish (the pork barrel), which is part of the General Appropriations Act. In any case, he adds, Congress doesnt even have to move to abolish the pork barrel. We can simply delete the Priority Development Assistance Fund (the official name of the pork barrel) from the General Appropriations Act, and its gone.

Expressed in this way, it all sounds sober and doable. But it is in fact the most ludicrous thing in the world. What it amounts to is asking Dracula to decide on whether the blood bank should be scrapped or not. Can you seriously imagine the senators and congressmen wringing their hands and wracking their brains when faced with the question of whether they should part with their P200-million and P70-million PDAF a year, respectively? In fact, it doesnt get much better if you rest the decision in the hands of the executive. Unless you are a Ferdinand Marcos and have only a rubber-stamp Batasan to do your bidding, your best bet to control Congress as president is by way of the pork barrel. The power to reduce amounts, put obstacles to, or entirely withhold pork barrel from senators and congressmen who are not sympathetic to your agenda is awesome. It guarantees that the experience of St. Paul on the way to Damascus of suddenly seeing the light and turning a new leaf will be replicated routinely in Congress. The benefits to be gained from the pork barrelchief of them that it equalizes the powers of the executive and legislative, particularly in the use of public funds, thereby strengthening the concept of checks and balancesare largely theoretical. Whatever those gains are, they are dwarfed by the far more humongous scourges the pork barrel unleashes. The pork barrel is quite possibly the single biggest contributor to warping our political culture. One, it poses the biggest obstacle to having a real political party system in this country. To belabor a point, we do not have real political parties in this country, what we have are loose coalitions built around the president or presidentiables. As soon as a new president emerges, politicians leave the parties they were affiliated with to join the one the president belongs to. Thats the reason weve had as many dominant parties as elections. Thats the reason most of the major political figures today have run the gamut of the so-called political parties. Thats the reason our politicians do not represent party beliefs, only personal careers. The pork barrel worsens things immeasurably. The origin of the pork barrel is of American slaves pushing and shoving one another in their mad scramble for the barrel of salted pork their masters put out before them during special occasions. That is a quite accurate image of what our elected officials do after elections. Weve always gotten around the rule that says, To the victors go the spoils, the vanquished, or those fielded by the other parties, simply joining the winning coalition. Look how many people have become Liberals overnight. Its especially so in local elections. As one mayor told me, What can I do? I dont join the winners, I dont get my pork. I dont get my pork, my constituents suffer. He did not bother to add, My constituents suffer, they wont vote for me next time. That brings us to, two, the pork barrel is the heart of patronage politics. The pork barrel is the soul of dynastic politics. Where the pork barrel is not plowed into ghostly projects manifested in the material world by people like Janet Lim-Napoles, it is put in projects whose main, if not sole, purpose is to assure

that the incumbent will be elected again. And over time, his kith and kin. You can debate to your hearts content whether diverting money paid for by all taxpayers to a local area is good or bad, skewed or balancing, but what you cannot debate is how the money is used in the local areas. It is bad, it is skewed. As studies on the pattern of spending of pork shows, it hews to areas that are vote-rich, which are the highly urbanized centers, and to projects that ensure future votes will go to the incumbent. Or his children. Its no exaggeration to say that the pork provides elected officials with campaign funds they can use to effectively campaign throughout their terms. Youve got to be horrendously abusive or greedy or dumb not to be able to win at least a second term. And we wonder why incumbents normally lead in surveys. And we wonder why families tend to expand and dominate their particular turfs. And three, theres of course the not very small matter of corruption. But most disputations of the pork barrel have already dwelled on it. The pork barrel did not create our hollow, brittle, or virtually nonexistent party system. It did not create patronage or dynastic politics. And it did not create corruption. But it has vitally, centrally, decisively contributed to them, and continues to vitally, centrally, decisively contribute to them. What to do with the pork barrel? Still, get rid of it.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/57079/still-get-rid-of-it#ixzz2aXIWf6Le Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook Pork barrel is the appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative's district. The usage originated in American English.[1] In election campaigns, the term is used in derogatory fashion to attack opponents. Scholars, however, use it as a technical term regarding legislative control of local appropriations.[2]

Contents
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1 History 2 Definition 3 Examples 4 Use of the term outside the United States o 4.1 Philippines o 4.2 Scandinavia o 4.3 Central and Eastern Europe o 4.4 German-speaking countries o 4.5 United Kingdom o 4.6 Australia 5 See also 6 References

History[edit]
The term pork barrel politics usually refers to spending which is intended to benefit constituents of a politician in return for their political support, either in the form of campaign contributions or votes. In the popular 1863 story "The Children of the Public", Edward Everett Hale used the term pork barrel as a homely metaphor for any form of public spending to the citizenry.[3] After the American Civil War, however, the term came to be used in a derogatory sense. The Oxford English Dictionary dates the modern sense of the term from 1873.[4] By the 1870s, references to "pork" were common in Congress, and the term was further popularized by a 1919 article by Chester Collins Maxey in the National Municipal Review, which reported on certain legislative acts known to members of Congress as "pork barrel bills". He claimed that the phrase originated in a pre-Civil War practice of giving slaves a barrel of salt pork as a reward and requiring them to compete among themselves to get their share of the handout.[5] More generally, a barrel of salt pork was a common larder item in 19th century households, and could be used as a measure of the family's financial well-being. For example, in his 1845 novel The Chainbearer, James Fenimore Cooper wrote, "I hold a family to be in a desperate way, when the mother can see the bottom of the pork barrel."[6]

Definition[edit]
Typically, "pork" involves funding for government programs whose economic or service benefits are concentrated in a particular area but whose costs are spread among all taxpayers. Public works projects, certain national defense spending projects, and agricultural subsidies are the most commonly cited examples. Citizens Against Government Waste[7] outlines seven criteria by which spending can be classified as "pork":

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Requested by only one chamber of Congress Not specifically authorized Not competitively awarded Not requested by the President Greatly exceeds the Presidents budget request or the previous years funding Not the subject of Congressional hearings Serves only a local or special interest.

Examples[edit]
One of the earliest examples of pork barrel politics in the United States was the Bonus Bill of 1817, which was introduced by Democrat John C. Calhoun to construct highways linking the Eastern and Southern United States to its Western frontier using the earnings bonus from the Second Bank of the United States. Calhoun argued for it using general welfare and post roads clauses of the United States Constitution. Although he approved of the economic development goal, President James Madison vetoed the bill as unconstitutional. A most recent example: to pass the recent "Fiscal Cliff" 12/12 a tax write off went to Hollywood -- a $20 million break anytime a TV show or movie is shot in an economically depressed area of the United States. 1873 Defiance (Ohio) Democrat 13 Sept. 1/8: "Recollecting their many previous visits to the public pork-barrel,... this hue-and-cry over the salary grab... puzzles quite as much as it alarms them." 1896 Overland Monthly Sept. 370/2: "Another illustration represents Mr. Ford in the act of hooking out a chunk of River and Harbor Pork out of a Congressional Pork Barrel valued at two hundred and fifty thousand dollars." One of the most famous alleged pork-barrel projects was the Big Dig in Boston, Massachusetts. The Big Dig was a project to relocate an existing 3.5-mile (5.6 km) section of the interstate highway system underground. It ended up costing US$14.6 billion, or over US$4 billion per mile.[8] Tip O'Neill (D-Mass), after whom one of the Big Dig tunnels was named, pushed to have the Big Dig funded by the federal government while he was the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. [9] During the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, the Gravina Island Bridge (also known as the "Bridge to Nowhere") in Alaska was cited as an example of pork barrel spending. The bridge, pushed for by Republican Senator Ted Stevens, was projected to cost $398 million and would connect the island's 50 residents and the Ketchikan International Airport to Revillagigedo Island and Ketchikan.[10] Pork-barrel projects, which differ from earmarks, are added to the federal budget by members of the appropriation committees of United States Congress. This allows delivery of federal funds to the local district or state of the appropriation committee member, often accommodating major campaign contributors. To a certain extent, a member of Congress is judged by their ability to deliver funds to their constituents. The Chairman and the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations are in a position to deliver significant benefits to their states.

Use of the term outside the United States[edit]


In other countries, the practice is often called patronage, but this word does not always imply corrupt or undesirable conduct.
Philippines[edit]

In the Philippines, the term is commonly used in politics. Filipino legislators are allocated large sums of the annual national budget (200 million pesos for each senator and 70 million for each representative) in a program called the Priority Development Assistance Fund.[11]
Scandinavia[edit]

Similar expressions, meaning "election pork", are used in Danish (valgflsk), Swedish (valflsk) and Norwegian (valgflesk), where they mean promises made before an election, often by a politician who has little intention of fulfilling them.[12] The Finnish political jargon uses siltarumpupolitiikka (culvert politics) in reference to national politicians concentrating on small local matters, such as construction of culverts and other public works at politician's home municipality.
Central and Eastern Europe[edit]

Romanians speak of pomeni electorale (literally, "electoral alms"), while the Polish kiebasa wyborcza means literally "election sausage". In Serbian, podela kolaa (cutting the cake) refers to post-electoral distribution of state-funded positions for the loyal members of the winning party. The Czech pedvolebn gul (pre-election goulash) has similar meaning, referring to free dishes of goulash served to potential voters during election campaign meetings targeted at lower social classes; metaphorically, it stands for any populistic political decisions that are taken before the elections with the aim of obtaining more votes. The process of diverting budget funds in favor of a project in a particular constituency is called porcovn medvda ("portioning of the bear") in Czech usage.[13]
German-speaking countries[edit]

The German language differentiates between campaign goodies ("Wahlgeschenke" literally election gifts) to occur around election dates and parish-pump politics ("Kirchturmpolitik" literally church tower politics) for concentrating funding and reliefs to the home county of a politician. While the former is a technical term (neutral or slightly derogatory) the latter is always derogatory meaning that the scope of actions is limited to an area where the steeple of the politician's village can still be seen. In Switzerland the wording of provincial thinking ("Kantnligeist" literally canton'ic mind) may cover these actions as well and it is understood as a synonym in Germany and Austria.

United Kingdom[edit]

The term is rarely used in British English, although similar terms exist: election sweetener, tax sweetener, or just sweetener.[14]
Australia[edit]

Pork barrel is frequently used in Australian politics,[15][16] where marginal seats are often accused of receiving more funding than safe seats or, in the case of the 2010 election in negotiations with key independents.

Pork scam: Whats the point of paying taxes?


10:19 pm | Monday, July 22nd, 2013 Regarding Nancy C. Carvajals series of news reports exposing the systemic and massive abuse of the public trust: To describe the sickening situation as outrageous would be an understatement. Imagine, both the elected and appointed officials in the government delegated with political powers having the temerity to abuse the very people who granted them such powers? It is sickening to note how the governors of the land maltreat the governed. If this is the order of governance in public (dis)service, whats the point of paying taxes to the government? BOB GABUNA,

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The true divide


AS I write this, Commonwealth Avenue is a mess of the wounded and the aggrieved, both from the ranks of protesters and police, who clashed in the course of the serial exercise in democracy and demagoguery known as the Sona protests. Every three years or so, all roads leading to the Batasang Pambansa fill with police in riot gear and protesters in red headbands, armed with placards and huge papier-mch figures, poking fun and umbrage at sitting officials.

Meanwhile, at the Batasan itself, legislators and their significant others parade through the red carpet leading to the session hall at their fashionable best, even if some Left-leaning members of Congress had apparently prepared to wear their political colors and feelings literally on their sleeves, if not their bodices. Its scenes like these that paint in vivid hues, without need of commentary, the true state of the nationthe state of divisiveness, rancor and cynicism among our political ranks, and of stubborn hope, maybe even optimism about the directions our country is taking, especially among the business sector. Maybe thats the true divide in the Philippines these days: between the hopelessly cynical who cannot believe in even the glimmers of prosperity appearing on the horizon; and the willingly optimistic, who believe we are well on our way not just to recovery but to lasting reform that will finally spring us out of the trap of corruption and poverty we have been mired in. *** AS THIS papers editorial stated on Monday, so much more remains on President Aquinos todo list. It noted that there isnt much time remaining, midway through P-Noys six-year term, to make good on all of the publics expectations. But remember that when he was elected president, P-Noy laid before us a most ambitious agenda, beginning with the task of correcting the mistakes of his predecessor, and more important, bringing the perpetrators of crimes against the state to justice. That initial task has taken far longer than expected, with the Supreme Court, packed with Arroyo appointees, laying down the first roadblock when it deemed the creation of an anticorruption body unconstitutional. On the economic front, the P-Noy administration has performed admirably on the first half of the equation: setting the macro conditions aright, and winning the support of the international community with open and transparent policies that leave little room for wiggle (read: corruption). This, despite reports of recently surfaced anomalies that show us where a large chunk of government money has gone, or threatens to go. But the second half: ensuring that the benefits of economic growth and business surge begin to trickle down to the poorer classes and lift them up with the rising tide of prosperity, has yet to be achieved. Inclusive growth is in fact expected to be one of the key themes in the Presidents address. And it is the fulfillment, or frustration, of his pledge to the majority of the citizenry at the start of his term that will be P-Noys biggest and most significant challenge. *** AMONG those taking P-Noy to task for the slow trickling down of economic benefits to the poor and jobless are the Catholic bishops, who say the countrys poor do not feel the good economy touted by officials.

To be sure, the plight of the poor, the voiceless, the powerless, has always been a focus of the Church, which has sought through the years to leverage its power to balance the interests of the poor against those of the influential and wealthy. And yet, hasnt the Church also been implicit in the continuing poverty of many Filipino families? I speak here, of course, of the Reproductive Health Law which is still stuck in the secretive chambers of the Supreme Court after several groups questioned the constitutionality of the new legislation. Although families in the wealthier sectors of society have long decided to keep their families smallthey have on the average two to three children eachit is the poorest families, with little or no access to health services or to contraceptive supplies, whose choice has been stymied and frustrated. On average, poor couples are having more children, from five to seven, even if they are the least able to meet even the most basic needs of their children. Even if public opinion polls have shown consistently that Filipinos support reproductive health, and believe family planning is a right of every couple, it is still clear that without enabling legislation, so many of them will have little means to fulfill their own reproductive goals and plans. And without power over their own fertility, many couples will be consigned to lives of poverty and hardship, the same fate the Catholic bishops decry. *** ANOTHER issue that awaits discussion and debate in both houses of Congress is the pork barrel, which has come under fire recently because of news reports about how this privilege has been abused. Indeed, it seems rather nave of commentators to expect legislatorsthe prime beneficiaries of the pork systemto work for its abolition. The reason so many spend millions to get elected, after all, is because public office allows them to get their hands on millions of public funds. But it is equally ingenuous of people caught up in the scandal to demand an explanation of how corruption of such magnitude was able to continue, pointing out shortcomings of the Commission on Audit, when they very well know how they were able to pull off such impunity. Everybody just has to get off their high horse and begin admitting their complicity in the scandal and introducing reforms in the system.

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Time to replace existing pork barrel with new system

The sound and fury whipped up nationwide by the highly troubling expos of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, which implicated five senators and 23 representatives, will very likely not die down anytime soon. The Filipino people are that incensedand rightly so! Its time Congress decided to do away completely with the present practice of providing annually each senator with P200 million and each member of the House of Representatives P70 million, to be spent as they wish. This is a practice that has proven very vulnerable to corruption; it should be scrapped altogether as soon as possible. I propose that we adopt the system used in the past, where only executive departments were charged with designing and constructing infrastructure of all kinds. But this time around, we make sure, through a binding law, that all departments, without exceptions, conduct an open public bidding, to be announced in mass media, of each and every infrastructure that will be built. Only bona fide and solvent contractors, with good, qualified, reputable track records, and with the requisite array of heavy and light equipment, as well as sufficient experience, should be allowed to participate in such public biddings. All bids should be in writing and should be evaluated by the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the department concerned, in the presence of two outsiders representing separately the Commission on Audit and the Department of Justice. The BAC should determine the best from among the bids submitted, on the basis of a set of criteria. Upon reaching a decision, the BAC shall then make a public announcement of the winning bid. The decision shall be concurred in by the COA and DOJ representatives. The winning contractor shall then be required to post a performance bond equal to 10 percent of the cost of the project to be undertaken, to ensure that the project will be implemented strictly according to designs, timelines and quality. The performance bond shall be withheld until such time that the contractor is found to be in full compliance with the contract. The proposed system will reduce to the very minimum collusion, malfeasance and fraud of any kind. It will not be perfect but it can admit further refinements dictated by actual experience. MARIANO PATALINJUG,

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Hated pork barrel still in new budget


Its still there! The Department of Budget and Management has submitted to Congress the administrations proposed budget for next year, and the hated and corruption-ridden pork barrel,

politely called the Priority Development Assistance Fund, is still there, all of P27 billion. Because of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam involving five senators and 23 congressmen, a shadowy firm called JLN Corp., and a number of ghost nongovernment organizations, optimists had hoped that President Aquino, who promised to stamp out corruption, would heed the peoples clamor and abolish the pork barrel (a primary source of corruption). They hoped in vain. Budget Secretary Florencio Butch Abad said that only Congress can abolish the pork barrel. False. Not true at all. He himself, as budget secretary, can abolish it by simply not including any appropriation for the PDAF in the national budget. It is as simple and easy as that. Congress cannot put it there. It has no power under the Constitution to do that. Congress can reduce, adjust, or cancel any appropriation, but never add to what the executive branch has proposed. So if there is no appropriation for the PDAF in the budget proposal, thats the end of it. The people will sing Alleluiah! and put the photographs of P-Noy and Butch Abad on their altars and thank them every time they say their prayers. Defenders of the pork barrel claim that it funds the projects and helps the constituents of the legislators. What are these projects? Usually, roads and bridges, schoolhouses, textbooks, health centers, barangay halls, basketball courts, waiting sheds, etc. But these projects are already being handled by the executive branch. The Department of Public Works and Highways builds the roads and bridges; the Department of Education builds the schools and prints the textbooks; the Department of Health builds the health centers. The barangay halls, basketball courts, and waiting sheds are covered by the governors and mayors. The members of Congress are duplicating and usurping the functions of the departments of the executive branch. The job of legislators is to make laws, not to be imitation DPWH, DepEd, DOH, etc. That is why they are called legislators. Read the Constitution and find out the duties and responsibilities of members of Congress. It doesnt say anything about duplicating the responsibilities of the executive branch. Because of this duplication, billions of pesos in taxpayers money are lost. It is estimated that at least 40 percent of the budget of any project is lost to corruption. Only 60 percent or less goes to the project itself. That is why most government projects are substandard. Contractors have to make do with what little money is left to them after paying off the parasites from the government. In the case of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, nothing went to any project at all, not even a peso. Half of the pork barrel went to the legislators and the other half went to JLN, according to witnesses. The usual excuse of legislators is that the pork barrel goes straight, not to them, but to the implementing agency, and from there to the individual beneficiaries. Another lie. A legislator chooses the contractor for his/her project. The contractor is supposed to be chosen through public bidding, but this is only for show. The bidders agree among themselves that the lawmakers

contractor will win the bidding. They will all bid higher than him/her. The contractors take turns in winning. The loser today will be tomorrows winner. Contractors kick back to lawmakers 30-50 percent of the budget for each project. They give some more to the engineers who will certify that the work on the project is okay, to the treasurers who will release the checks, and to many more government factotums who handle the red tape. After paying off all the leeches and parasites, contractors are left with probably 30 percent of the budget with which to finish the project. So they cheat to make ends meet: They dilute the concrete mix; instead of surfacing the road with four inches of concrete, as the contract stipulates, they make it only three or two inches. Sometimes they do not finish the project at alleither they run out of money or they run away with the money. Thats why most government projects are substandard and do not last long. Then we will go through the whole bidding process again. Who is to blame? The pork barrel system and the officials who allow it, most of all the president and the budget secretary. What will happen to our projects? the lawmakers wail. There are regional development councils, as well as provincial, city, and municipal councils. Congressmen are members of these councils. They can propose their projects to the councils, which will then endorse them to the proper government agencies such as the DPWH, DepEd, DOH, etc. These councils were created precisely to avoid duplication and wastage of precious money. We will not be reelected if we dont have projects, the lawmakers weep. Still another lie. There was no pork barrel before. The system is a fairly recent invention. The senators and congressmen then were reelected without any project. Former senators Panfilo Lacson and Joker Arroyo did not collect their pork barrel allotments and therefore had no projects, but they were reelected and were better respected than those who had projects. P-Noy, and Abad, too, will be better respected if they choose the daang matuwid and abolish the pork barrel system.

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Hated pork barrel still in new budget


Its still there! The Department of Budget and Management has submitted to Congress the administrations proposed budget for next year, and the hated and corruption-ridden pork barrel, politely called the Priority Development Assistance Fund, is still there, all of P27 billion. Because of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam involving five senators and 23 congressmen, a shadowy firm called JLN Corp., and a number of ghost nongovernment organizations,

optimists had hoped that President Aquino, who promised to stamp out corruption, would heed the peoples clamor and abolish the pork barrel (a primary source of corruption). They hoped in vain. Budget Secretary Florencio Butch Abad said that only Congress can abolish the pork barrel. False. Not true at all. He himself, as budget secretary, can abolish it by simply not including any appropriation for the PDAF in the national budget. It is as simple and easy as that. Congress cannot put it there. It has no power under the Constitution to do that. Congress can reduce, adjust, or cancel any appropriation, but never add to what the executive branch has proposed. So if there is no appropriation for the PDAF in the budget proposal, thats the end of it. The people will sing Alleluiah! and put the photographs of P-Noy and Butch Abad on their altars and thank them every time they say their prayers. Defenders of the pork barrel claim that it funds the projects and helps the constituents of the legislators. What are these projects? Usually, roads and bridges, schoolhouses, textbooks, health centers, barangay halls, basketball courts, waiting sheds, etc. But these projects are already being handled by the executive branch. The Department of Public Works and Highways builds the roads and bridges; the Department of Education builds the schools and prints the textbooks; the Department of Health builds the health centers. The barangay halls, basketball courts, and waiting sheds are covered by the governors and mayors. The members of Congress are duplicating and usurping the functions of the departments of the executive branch. The job of legislators is to make laws, not to be imitation DPWH, DepEd, DOH, etc. That is why they are called legislators. Read the Constitution and find out the duties and responsibilities of members of Congress. It doesnt say anything about duplicating the responsibilities of the executive branch. Because of this duplication, billions of pesos in taxpayers money are lost. It is estimated that at least 40 percent of the budget of any project is lost to corruption. Only 60 percent or less goes to the project itself. That is why most government projects are substandard. Contractors have to make do with what little money is left to them after paying off the parasites from the government. In the case of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, nothing went to any project at all, not even a peso. Half of the pork barrel went to the legislators and the other half went to JLN, according to witnesses. The usual excuse of legislators is that the pork barrel goes straight, not to them, but to the implementing agency, and from there to the individual beneficiaries. Another lie. A legislator chooses the contractor for his/her project. The contractor is supposed to be chosen through public bidding, but this is only for show. The bidders agree among themselves that the lawmakers contractor will win the bidding. They will all bid higher than him/her. The contractors take turns in winning. The loser today will be tomorrows winner.

Contractors kick back to lawmakers 30-50 percent of the budget for each project. They give some more to the engineers who will certify that the work on the project is okay, to the treasurers who will release the checks, and to many more government factotums who handle the red tape. After paying off all the leeches and parasites, contractors are left with probably 30 percent of the budget with which to finish the project. So they cheat to make ends meet: They dilute the concrete mix; instead of surfacing the road with four inches of concrete, as the contract stipulates, they make it only three or two inches. Sometimes they do not finish the project at alleither they run out of money or they run away with the money. Thats why most government projects are substandard and do not last long. Then we will go through the whole bidding process again. Who is to blame? The pork barrel system and the officials who allow it, most of all the president and the budget secretary. What will happen to our projects? the lawmakers wail. There are regional development councils, as well as provincial, city, and municipal councils. Congressmen are members of these councils. They can propose their projects to the councils, which will then endorse them to the proper government agencies such as the DPWH, DepEd, DOH, etc. These councils were created precisely to avoid duplication and wastage of precious money. We will not be reelected if we dont have projects, the lawmakers weep. Still another lie. There was no pork barrel before. The system is a fairly recent invention. The senators and congressmen then were reelected without any project. Former senators Panfilo Lacson and Joker Arroyo did not collect their pork barrel allotments and therefore had no projects, but they were reelected and were better respected than those who had projects. P-Noy, and Abad, too, will be better respected if they choose the daang matuwid and abolish the pork barrel system.

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A hard look at the pork barrel


The pork barrel system of allocating public funds to benefit a local constituency is a feature of politics we borrowed from the United States. Under this system, elected representatives are given the opportunity to insert allocations for their pet projects in the spending program of the national government. Any expenditure not explicitly recommended by the president in the national budget is thus, in theory, part of the pork barrel. At first blush, there appears nothing fundamentally wrong about this system, especially where one is dealing with a federal government that has its own priorities. In practice, however, it tends

to contradict the whole logic of rational budgeting. Instead of subjecting congressional insertions to careful scrutiny or debate, legislators find it easier to allow everybody to feed from the pork barrel. In the process, some get more than the others, depending upon how close they are to the appropriations committee. As chief executive, the President has the power to veto any expenditure item that he does not agree with. A few American presidents do this, particularly when a congressional insertion entails having to reallocate a huge chunk of the national budget. Most presidents, as a rule, avoid antagonizing Congress and risking failure to pass the budget. They prefer to accommodate the political needs of legislators by reserving a certain portion of the national appropriations measure for their projects. In return, astute presidents expect the priorities laid down in the national budget to remain basically untouched. This quid pro quo remains a feature of modern politics, as shown by the menu of compromises that have had to be negotiated in recent debates over the US federal budget. Deadlock lurked at every point, so much so that reasonable heads from the two major parties have had to come together repeatedly to break the intransigence within their respective parties. In recent days, John McCain, President Barack Obamas principal rival for the presidency in 2008, played the unlikely role of an Obama stalwart by softening the resistance of his own Republican colleagues in order to help his erstwhile opponent get his budget through. McCains own agenda is to prevent the defense budget from being cut. Since he can count on friendly majorities in both chambers of Congress, President Aquino faces no such problems. But, this does not mean that he can treat his allies any way he chooses. He knows the realities. He knows he wont be able to govern unless he takes care of the politics. So, while he has the option to remove the pork barrel portion from the budget, he has to be mindful of the need to marshal steady political support for his agenda in the remaining half of his term. We dont expect P-Noy to take the initiative to abolish the pork barrel. Still, it is imperative that we keep the pressure on for the investigation of pork barrel misuse and its eventual elimination. At the same time, we await the promulgation of the safeguards that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad promised in a recent interview. He and the President, who were both members of Congress for many years, ought to know what kind of controls will work to minimize corruption in the utilization of the pork barrel. It is important to stay focused on the key issues. I dont think that the Filipino electorate is against the idea of giving legislators the prerogative to identify infrastructure and social services projects that are meant primarily for their districts and constituents. Indeed, they expect this function to be the biggest part, if not the sole component, of their role as elected representatives of the people. What our people object to is the waste and the diversion of funds to private pockets. Honest legislators who believe that this is not part of the work of legislation have every reason to refuse their pork barrel allocation. We salute former senator Ping Lacson for doing so during his entire term. It is not to say that the rest who availed themselves of their annual allocation are all

corrupt. But they must realize that the pork barrel is a tainted resource. They have the obligation not only to erase any suspicion that the money went into their pockets, but also to make sure that it was actually spent for the designated projects or the intended beneficiaries. No legislator who taps into his pork barrel should have recourse to the excuse that monitoring and auditing are not their responsibility. Maybe legally, they are not. But ethically, they are. I think that any senator or congressman who nominates a project for priority development assistance must be presumed not only to have done the proper studies but also to be concerned enough to want to know whether a project has been carried out as planned and has benefited the community it is meant to serve. To argue that these are not part of his dutiesas Sen. Lito Lapid recently did in his defense of his allotments for supposed antidengue chemical sprays for communities that had no dengue problemis not only self-serving but utterly irresponsible. Clearly, what is terribly wrong about our present pork barrel system is that it is designed to work as a powerful inducement to corruption. The sheer availability of allotments for as yet unnamed projects serves as an invitation for creative suppliers like JLN Corp. to conjure and offer to their clients all kinds of projects that have no higher aim than to monetize the allotments. It is almost as if the facility was put there precisely to make every politician complicit and quiet while this annual robbery is routinely perpetrated on a helpless nation.

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Solons duty to account for pork


Under the pork barrel system, legislators are given the authority to distribute public funds to address the development needs of a specific group of people or place which they themselves identify. One of the cardinal rules in good governance is accountability. This is in line with the timehonored precept which says that any exercise of authority has a concomitant responsibility. Once a legislator authorizes the release of funds from his pork barrel, it becomes his sole responsibility to see to it that these go to the intended beneficiaries. It cannot be delegated to other people. Otherwise, in the event of any irregularity, there would simply be endless fingerpointing. Care should be exercised in selecting the implementing entities. Direct verification should be done with the intended beneficiaries and the submission of receipts of the purchased deliverables should be required. Otherwise, we will always be facing serious mishandling and squandering of public funds similar to what the Inquirer has been reporting. Apparently after the release of their pork barrel funds, the legislators named in the report did not bother to check the implementation of the projects.

The anomalous transactions spanning a decade seem to confirm a basis for the public perception of a sharing arrangement among all the players, including the lawmakers. While the Commission on Audit has the mandate to look into project implementation, once shenanigans are uncovered the question arises: Who should be held accountable? Nobody else except the one who authorized the disbursement. In not touching their pork barrels, former senators Ping Lacson and Joker Arroyo must have been aware of the serious responsibilities required in their use. If legislators could not take on these responsibilities, the pork barrel system should be scrapped. CARLOS C. TAN, Philam Homes, Quezon City

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