MANILA, Philippines—Pork by any other name is just as fat and harmful, and it’s time to strike it off the menu for good.
This according to two economists from the University of the Philippines (UP) who stressed the need to abolish not only the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)—more commonly known as the pork barrel—allocated to legislators but the entire system of appropriating funds to lawmakers for abuse-prone local projects.
Abolishing the pork barrel does not end with scrapping the PDAF from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) but with removing the power from senators and congressmen to identify which funds should go to which projects, professors Solita Monsod and Leonor Briones on Friday told a forum titled “Pork After PDAF: What’s Next on the Menu,” held at the UP College of Education.
Monsod, a former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), said that although the pork barrel was technically defined as “the appropriation of government spending for localized projects,” the fund was also used “for projects designed to please voters or for legislators to win votes.”
The lesson, she said, is that “power is based on the pork barrel and purchased with patronage.”
Monsod described it as the “divide by N syndrome,” a “fragmentation of resources” and ill-advised economic policy to equally divide resources instead of putting them where they are most needed.
“Why is the same amount of pork barrel given to someone who represents Makati and someone who represents a district in Western Samar?” asked the economics professor.
Former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said the P10-billion pork barrel scam was a “piglet” compared to the larger pork out there.
“That was P10 billion over 10 years, whereas we are talking of P25.2 billion [of PDAF] every year,” she said, adding that the PDAF under the so-called “special purpose funds” amounting to P310 billion was “not detailed” but mentioned in only “one line and one chart in the General Appropriations Act.”
Aside from the “special purpose funds,” there were also the “off budget items” not included in the GAA, including remittances from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. to the Office of the President amounting to P2.6 billion, the Malampaya funds worth P26 billion and the motor vehicle users charge (MVUC) of P12 billion, she added.
“Members of Congress are allotted P10 million each from the MVUC,” Briones said, adding that this “mother pig” could be put to better use in ways that would not be vulnerable to corruption.
“We can turn the mother pig into ham and chorizo, and the piglet we can cook into lechon,” she said.
Briones proposed the transfer of the pork barrel fund to the different frontline agencies that had the mandate to formulate and implement the development plans of local governments.
An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Saturday cautioned the youth to be discerning before joining any mass gatherings in protest of the pork barrel.
“We don’t want to be taken advantage of by gatherings that are being organized without our leaders, especially the bishops and priests, giving us the word that it’s OK for people to participate and join these activities,” Fr. Conegundo Garganta, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Youth, told reporters in an interview.
On Wednesday, CBCP president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said the 120-strong Church body was “in solidarity” with protest actions against the pork barrel, including the mass gathering dubbed “Edsa Tayo” to be held this week.
“The laity should also do their [jobs] because they are on the ground so much,” Garganta said. With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy