Why no one wants to give up pork23.09.13
Why no one wants to give up pork
Why is it that even politicians known to have a relatively clean image are entangled in an ever-widening web of corruption over the misuse of pork barrel funds?
The subtext behind this is not only the enormous kickbacks that can be pocketed from the system. The fact is that the power to allocate Priority Assistance Development Fund or PDAF wielded by both the President and legislators is a potent tool for dispensing largesse to political allies and constituents alike.
It was former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who perfected the art of using the pork barrel as a carrot or a stick to keep legislators in line. She managed to quash attempts to impeach her and hold on to power by using it as a slush fund for allies and silencing persuadable foes. Allies got more generous servings than the usual P70 million for congressmen and P200 million for senators, like then-Speaker Prospero Nograles who received P604.5 million, and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile who got a whopping P904.5 million, and Senator Jinggoy Estrada who received P825.15 million between the period 2007 to 2009 according to the COA report. Needless to say, recalcitrant oppositionists got the squeeze by having their pork barrel allocations withheld or delayed.
Unknown to many, the system of checks and balances collapsed under the Arroyo administration. By simply using the pork barrel as a tool for persuasion, she cunningly overturned institutional controls and tilted the balance of power towards preserving her own interests.
Such power to wield largesse as a way of advancing one’s political agenda is perhaps part of the reason why even President Benigno Aquino refuses to scrap the pork barrel altogether in spite of mounting calls for its total abolition. “As in everything else, there are good uses and bad uses,” the President has been quoted as initially saying. “Perhaps the right thing to do,” he added, “is to apply the appropriate punishment for the misuse, but support its good use especially in communities outside the National Capital Region.”
This argument will hold if the system works and those responsible for upholding the law are scrupulous and use the funds for their constituencies. But the appalling misuse of the funds has grown to gross proportions through the years in spite of efforts to reform the system. From the 19% to 52% kickback rate reported by the original pork barrel whistle blower—the former Rep. Romeo Candazo who recently died—the kickbacks have risen to 60%, as seen in the P10 billion funds released by 28 legislators to fake NGOs set up by Janet Lim-Napoles. Not only was there massive fraud in the delivery of projects; this time, nothing reached the supposed beneficiaries, neither the poor farmers nor the victims of Typhoon Ondoy. The pork barrel has enticed almost all of our legislators into becoming part of a great circle of contamination and complicity.
When a system has become rotten to the core, it is time to burn it down. In Jeremiah (chapter) 7: (verses) 4 and 14, God himself had no qualms razing his own physical temple down to the ground when priest and prophet alike became irredeemably corrupt. ( Jer.7:4, 14)