Liana G. Acuzar
CEGP-Cagayan Valley Chairperson
The pork barrel scam which outrightly infuriated the Filipino people is a proof that the toiling masses are being robbed without their knowing. For the people to be shocked of a huge theft from the public fund while the existence of a system that legalizes misuse of funds can already be drawn even from the time of Spanish colonialism is a clear manifestation that for a long time, we are being robbed and deceived.
Due to the people’s unshakeable anger towards this issue, President Noynoy Aquino was forced to declare the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). But the president’s cunning performance must be shed with light.
The people must understand that this act has two meanings unknown to the public. First, the said abolition does not automatically entail the elimination of the pork barrel system. What the president really wanted to do is just to suspend the senate and congressional PDAF for further investigation then offer an alternative in using the fund – itemization, which is basically just as prone to corruption.
Second, it must be observed that for the government to do the right thing, it will first have to wait until they could not control the people’s heightened anger anymore. The sudden change of decision (since the president was at first firm in not abolishing the pork) was brought not by his ‘intent’ to champion transparency for the people; it was pushed by the ire of the people. And even though Aquino heeded their call, it is to deceptively pacify them and not really to end corruption.
The itemization still gives the legislators the opportunity to spearhead projects and be financed from the national budget. The same system of patronage politics, unjust biddings and bogus NGOs can still breed under this system.
The supposed task of legislators to make laws for the people is quite forgotten because of the pork barrel. Instead of making laws that are pro-people, they content themselves in doling out “development” projects that do not really cater to the needs of the poor. The abolition of pork barrel will pose to them the challenge of repealing the existing laws that cater to foreign interests and the elite few and for them to make laws that will push for national industrialization and genuine agrarian reform.
Another pressing issue is the President’s immunity to the abolition of pork barrel. The presidential pork which amounts to more than 1.3 trillion in 2014 is the biggest in the history. What’s more to this is the fact that under the presidential pork are funds that do not undergo inspection. Among these are the P310 billion Special Purpose Funds (SPFs), P139 billion Unprogrammed funds and P796 billion Automatic Appropriations.
If the president is serious in ending corruption, then he must start by showing transparency in his own funds. However, it seems that his promises of a transparent government under his administration are just empty words.
Even despite the seemingly scripted surrender of Napoles to the Palace, the people must not be consoled that the issue will finally be resolved. Just like the issues of Malampaya fund, NBN-ZTE Deal and many previous scandals regarding the misuse of funds, this too will pass the attention of the people – making them believe that the government is doing something in order for the culprits to be convicted.
It must also be noted that having Napoles under the hands of the authorities will not necessarily pave the way to justice. Just like how corruption will not be ended even after a pork barrel abolition. The criminals – her accomplices to be exact – are sitting in high government offices, free and unaccountable of their plunder. They are the ones that must be sought after like fugitives and not just Napoles. More importantly, the people must see the wider scope, the bigger picture and see for themselves the system that tolerates the politicians in making a business out of public offices.
The pork barrel must then be rechanneled to basic social services. While the government heftily cuts budget for social services like housing, education and health, the legislators receive big amounts of money that go directly to their pockets. While millions of Filipinos wallow in poverty, a few rejoice with their ill-gotten wealth. Clearly, the wealth that the people create is not being used for their own good.
The three years of the Filipino people under the Aquino administration is already enough to tell that the welfare of his “bosses” is not his top priority. As long as he caters to the ruling class and foreign interests, the masses will fight just the same – be it in the parliamentary, cyberspace, workplaces, communities and academe until the march of unity will flow to the streets and the people will demand to bring back what they rightly deserve.
Abolish Pork Barrel!
Rechannel Pork Barrel to Basic Social Services!