The Pork Ball From Different Angles

IMG_1853 I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to the Rotary Club of Manila by its President Rudy Bediones at the Manila Polo Club, August 29, 2013. The Rotary Club of Manila (RCM) has a long tradition of inviting excellent speakers, many of which come from their esteemed membership. The motive for me was both personal as I wanted to see some of my late father’s old friends as well as the fact that I was drawn by curiosity in hopes I could learn more about the “Pork Barrel” from an alternative angle.

The meeting was called to order around 12:30 PM followed by the usual Rotary rituals. The guest speaker was Rep. Roilo Golez of Parañaque who gave a presentation entitled “Pork Barrel: A Requiem for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly”. With such a title, one would expect a fair and balanced view of the Pork issue but whatever seems fair always comes from a matter of perspective.

Rep. Golez proceeded to induce references on the Pork Barrel, starting with its history and usage in other countries such as USA, Germany, Australia etc. citing some of the worst cases abroad. The point being, that the pork barrel is used elsewhere and that some of the worst cases are perhaps not representative of the general scenario. The argument was then segued to how he used his Pork Barrel (Priority Development Assistance Fund) with a list of achievements such as the most number of covered courts, school buildings, infrastructure etc. With such as enormous list, perhaps the Pork is a good thing? To note, not a single centavo was given to any NGOs!

He really had me going until the point where I felt that I was being led. The argument is not that the money could do no good, but whether or not the money should be allocated and dispensed in that manner. Ironically, he made some validations in his speech that strengthens the argument for abolition.

  1. The pork can be easily abused: This is not the case just in the Philippines but also in other more developed countries which you would assume have better safeguards and access to information.
  2. The pork barrel is systemic ingratiation: The pork barrel systematizes the monetization of political capital flows from the President, all the way to the local constituents through the hands of the legislators. With much political capital borrowed from local constituents when running for national office, much is owed back and paid back in the form of the pork barrel funds. This perpetuates the cycle of ingratiation and systemic corruption. Secondly, with this type of monetary ingratiation, the principle of checks and balances between the two branches of government is destroyed.
  3. It is discretionary in nature and therefore arbitrary: Rep. Golez cited an example where a congressman as a legacy chose to allocate all of his pork barrel to fund 40,000 scholars in his district. While scholarships are never a bad thing, it also begs me to think whether or not this was the only need of the district over things such as: food security, health, infrastructure and disaster control. It just proves that the usage of funds is arbitrary and according to the whims or preferences of the Representative.

Some of the highlights of the luncheon came during the Q&A portion where Roberto Pagdanganan of Bulacan a former Secretary of Tourism, Agrarian Reform  and Governor cited the legislative praxis of former statesmen such as Sumulong and Diokno. Emphasizing that the job of the congressmen is to make laws and policies that would help their constituents rather than choosing and implementing projects themselves. He also mentioned that the ingratiation between the executive and the legislative branch also ruins checks and balance. “How can we effectively check and balance them, if we are ingratiated to them?” (nonverbatim)

Former Representative Payumo of Bataan also cited an example where constituents would often approach their representatives for support such as medicines in a far-flung place. The congressman would usually give out of his pork barrel funds with uncertainty that the support would go where it should. The point being that the congressman’s office usually would not have the administrative means to check and make sure that projects are implemented properly or if implemented at all. It is the structural limitation of their offices.

The primary function of legislation is thus legislative in nature and should have nothing to do with the administration, management and funding of projects. It is best that the representatives’ competence is reserved for “The House” where it belongs otherwise it is performing a disservice to its constituency and the nation.

The irony here is that where administrative capacity is lacking to select and implement projects among legislators, there are many legitimate, sustainable and competent NGOs that could implement many of these projects with utmost transparency. It is unfair that these NGOs are demonized due to a scandal involving government and the rotten eggs. Shame on them who are guilty of colluding but spare the innocent who continue to do their jobs better than you can, with or without your pork barrel support.

To end, I’d like to thank the Rotary Club of Manila who gave me the opportunity to write this article with an even greater view for the Pork Barrel issue due to the Speaker’s presentation and the rebuttals of his colleagues. It is a privilege to see the pork barrel from different angles, which makes an even more compelling argument for its abolition. While everyone seems to have their eyes on Napoles, let us keep our eyes on the ball instead for its abolition.

My special thanks goes to Rudy Bediones who has allowed me to see my dad’s “old” club in a “new” light. I am assured that RCM is relevant still.  Hoping for more enlightening discussions such as this.

 

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About John Bay

John is a Senior Management Consultant for Strategy and Planning and has consulted with some of the most famous local and international companies. He has a combined experience of 15 years in the area of Enterprise Development and Corporate Strategic Planning. He has been a Professional Manager, a Management Consultant a Development Economist and an NGO Executive Director.

10 Comments on “The Pork Ball From Different Angles”

  1. The ‘pork’ scam is not the only corruption in the country and is probably the smallest problem as far as corruption goes. Their is also vote riggin in Congress by special interests, usually well heeled Asian tycoons, and everyone knows who they are. As well as Foreign investment pay-offs to people in various high places to allow bidding on lucrative contracts and/or corportions allowed to do business in the country, must PAY first for the honor to do so. Then there is the matter of Foreign aid dispersment which almost never goes to where it is supposed to go. As in the recent CDO scandal where Millions of dollars went there and the people were give sardines and fire hydrant water.
    I have seen all of the above with my own two eyes and have no respect for thieves who rob their own countrymen, and let them die in the streets because hospitals wont treat them, their kids die of starvation etc,etc,etc and then the thieves lie about it with a straight face. the shit is despicable.
    The pork scam is probably the smallest one out of the myriad of scams that are being run in the country. I did not even mention the energy speculation that has led to the highest electricity prices in the world and soaring profits for the GOCC’s that run the grids but none of the profits are used to better the current allegedly in-sufficient system.
    It is not limited to what I just mentioned either. Ever try registering a car? you need insurance. For P2,000 you get a policy that will NEVER pay out on a claim, NEVER(a rigged roulette wheel!). Who gets that $50 bux? from every single person who registers a car? The country is run completely on scams…..it would take all day to name them all. and I am not even aware of all of them. New ones pop up every day, a scammers paradise.

    It will never stop.,…unless it IS stopped.

    My bet is on the Oligarchy. Even as tenuous their hold on power is right now, the people will do nothing about the current depths the country has sunk to(even when they have nothing to lose they do nothing, HOLY SHIT!). The country has slid down to the point where it is right up there with Bangla-Desh.

    I have been to many many MANY places and I have never seen anything like this. Only in the Philippines.

  2. I agree Gerry it one issue after the next. The plot always thickens as much as it’s complex we need to tackle these battles one by one lest we let up due to lack of focus.

    1. BUT nothing ever comes of any of it,
      Well, how that can be done anyway? When in the courts it is impossible. The leader of what can only be called a “Kleptocracy” has stated publicly that any prosecutions will take 3-5 yrs.! With a system in place like that, it appears the people have virtually NO recourse, or a future as it is being stolen right in front of them.

      To merely make a point and in general passing….about a year ago a Scam was un-covered that apparently went as far as the under-secretary of the sitting Presidents’ cabinet. A certain under-secretary was alleged to be behind the dis-appearance of P80 million (about $2million bucks) that was ear-marked for the NCR regions PNP branch and was for the purchase of 9MM bullets for all the PNP NCR officers’ weapons! at the same time a certain other member of the same persons’ cabinet’s plane was recovered from a what became a shallow temporary grave for the certain member of the cabinet. It was later determined that he had been investigating the disappearance of the bullets funds. The case disappeared from the media and the under=secretary who was never charged with any theft quietly stepped down from his post. As usual, NO one went to jail, no money was ever recovered and a member of the cabinet was given a state funeral.

      Were the bullets ever re-purchased? if not, would that not mean that the PNP NCR police, if needed in an emergency, say a full scale riot in two places at the same time, be unable to mount enough of a defense of those two places to quell a civil disturbance of massive proportions?

      Again, Its mention is only in general passing. It is already well known that the Country is un-able to secure its own EEZ in the West Philippine/South China Sea and therefore its Maritime resources are completely vulnerable to any country capable of Maritime thievery. All because of rampant thievery, or should it be said ‘Diversion’ of funds that ,over the decades, could have been used to sustain a Naval capacity suitable for the Countries Maritime interests which are now at stake and in jeopardy of been arrogantly stolen. Sound familiar? and now the same exact situation may exist in the NCR?

      Maybe what comes around really does go around?

      1. They did say that due process will take years, but with public clamor on the rise the is really their problem right now. Lest the matter escalates to civil disobedience. This is never good for the economy. They must find a way to fast-track abolition to satisfy the people.

  3. The pork is not bad, what people do with it is. Abolishing it is not the solution for nothing will be gained from it. I’d rather redirect it, meaning, channel it to the local executives who are directly in-charge for the upkeep and maintenance of their local communities. And it will be done in a transparent manner through a reformed process that features safeguards meant to correct and prevent the commission of abuses of the past.

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