Why the Philippines is forever imprisoned by pork barrel politics

avariceWell now, isn’t it just so not typical of Philippine Congress to shrink away from what could be a media bonanza for the vote-hungry lot. If anything, the Pork Barrel Scam is a gold mine of media mileage for any politician who has the cojones to take the reins on this one. After all, there is nothing like a Senate or House inquiry for the purpose of “aiding legislation” that draws in the cameras and sets the tongues of Manila’s chattering classes wagging.

As North Cotabato Vice Governor Manny Piñol observed

Indeed, this was the same Senate and House which initiated and concluded the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, the same institutions which conducted a probe into the “pabaon” system in the armed forces which led to the suicide of former AFP Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes, and the same bodies which dipped their fingers into such inane issues as sex scandals.

Today, the usually trigger-happy Senate and Congress both said it would not be a good idea to investigate its own members, with House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. downplaying corruption among Congressmen.

But of course. Why open a Pandora’s Box that could bring an entire kleptocratic infrastructure down in front of national television? Seen from that perspective, Speaker Sonny Belmonte does make sense in the simple position he takes: Huh? What pork barrel scam?

I beg to differ with Vice Governor Piñol on one thing though. Congress did initiate and saw through the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Corona. But did it follow-through on the main legislative learning from that whole exercise, the archaic and justice-process-hoblling nature of the Philippines’ bank secrecy laws?

Of course not.

Like this whole pork barrel fiasco we are currently embroiled in, bank secrecy is also a key component of the Philippines’ deeply-embedded kleptocratic infrastructure. To count on legislators to investigate issues that may very well impact their personal money trains is just plain unrealistic. It’s like asking them to shoot their own feet.

Even discounting its failure to go the whole nine yards and re-evaluate the purported wisdom of the country’s bank secrecy laws, the Corona trial for its part attracted more scrutiny on the lifestyles and ethical standards of the people who presumed to judge the former Chief Justice — the obvious elephant in the room that moved Ilda to write her seminal piece Some Senators who found Corona guilty committed worse crimes than what he was accused of.

As for the “anger” and “indignation” now gushing like a river as the drama surrounding the alleged misuse and misappropriation of Congress’s cherished “Priority Development Assistance Fund” (PDAF) unfolds, you just gotta wonder. Pork barrel has been around for some time and has always been a major source of corruption in government. Why all the noise only now?

Perhaps it does not help that many of the self-described “activists” who pine for a “clean” and “just” government traditionally did so under the banner of the Yellow “people power” and/or Laban movements of which key members of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan have crowned themselves princes and princesses. The interesting thing to note here is that pork barrel and the unique way it is practiced in the Philippines was a creation of the government of the late former President Corazon “Cory” Aquino, mother of current President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III. This fact might go a bit of a way in explaining why calls to abolish the pork barrel in Philippine Congress in the past have never reached the crescendo we see today.

Even in the legal way that it is used, the pork barrel by its very nature results in astounding waste due to the lack of scale with which it is mobilised. This was described well by Manuel Almario in an article he wrote for the Inquirer.net earlier this year…

Under the PDAF, each senator is allocated a definite sum of P200 million and each representative P70 million. While it is true that formally their participation is only to determine the project on which the funds shall be spent, and the implementation and spending shall be done by the Department of Public Works and Highways or a government agency, in practice the individual representative or senator designates the contractor for the project. Here is the opportunity for kickback.

But because of the relatively small sums involved for each district or for each senator, the PDAF is usually spent for minor or insignificant projects like barangay halls, waiting sheds, basketball courts, sports gymnasiums, scholarships for a few, dirt roads and small bridges “leading to nowhere.” Such projects are usually uneconomical and unproductive. So we often see unused waiting sheds, unkempt barangay halls sometimes used for drinking parties, easily eroded roads, broken bridges, and gyms with no equipment.

In totality, the PDAF represents a huge part of the national budget. If concentrated on big infrastructure projects like hydroelectric dams, farm-to-market roads, highways, railways, airports, seaports, power plants, educational facilities and well-equipped modern hospitals, it can contribute more substantially to regional and national development, and create employment on a large scale. What happens, however, is that the national funds are dissipated in small projects, resulting in a massive waste of government money.

Yet all this escapes the cretinous intellectual faculties of Malacañang; “…it is really the share of the constituents in the budget yung PDAF so technically, ang trabaho ng isang legislator ay to bring to the attention of the national government yung mga concerns na hindi ho napapansin on the national level ngunit kailangan ng distrito, o kaya nung bayan, o munisipyo na hindi kayang pondohan ng local government unit,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte reportedly said echoing her boss’s position on the matter. Translation of Tagalog parts: “…so technically, the job of a legislator is to bring to the attention of the national government the concerns that are noticed at the national level but are needed by the district, community, or municipality that cannot be funded by the corresponding local government unit.”

To that, the question remains: Why do we need Senators and Congressmen to channel these concerns to the national level when there already exists a communication line via the offices of the local government units themselves? Indeed, the mind is most creative in justifying itself when it comes to thievery.

Why the “anger” and “indignation” only now? Simple. Too many distractions. Too many feel-good slogans. Too many “heroes”. Too many circuses. Too many spectacles. As the old saying goes, a fool and his money are soon parted. We take stock of the “anger” and “indignation” over this or that pork barrel “scam” then feel our eyes roll upward to the sky.

[Image courtesy John Hopkins Magazine.]


Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

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15 Comments on "Why the Philippines is forever imprisoned by pork barrel politics"

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A golden opportunity for systemic change but pnoy aquino never had any balls, and the rest sold out a long time ago.
Integrity, courage, valour and honour are alien to filipino politicians and increasingly absent in filipino culture/values as everyone adopts a ‘grab what you can for as long as you can’ mentality.
All takers, few givers, and people are now seeing the social and economic price they and their children pay

Rogelio Lim

Bakit hindi magtayo ng isang “independent commission” upang imbistigahan ang mga corruption sa pork barrel? Isama dito ang panunuhol ni Noynoy sa pamamagitan ng pork barrel sa Kongreso upang maipasa ang RH Bill at ma-impeach si CJ Corona. Ang ibig kong sabihin ay hindi lamang ang mga NGO , senator at congressman ang may katiwalian sa pork barrel ng Congreso. Pati si Noynoy dahil ginamit niya ito sa panunuhol.

No wonder when ‘BS’ Aquino used these line ” Saan kaya sila kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha” every congressmen/women and senators in the house said “OUCH” truth hurts right and even the lady sleeping 10 feet below the ground whispered to BS Aquino’s ear like this “Noy tama na, tinatawanan na tayo” stop na! PDAF is root of all evil, sanatic, kakapalan, jinx, and corruption in our country that’s why everybody want to have a share of especially those prostitutes in the congress and senate. Paano kaya sila nakakatulog ng maayos sa gabi at natitiis nilang pinapalamon sa mga anak… Read more »


Only 3 comments on this “serious issue” yet over 300 comments on the “basketball issue” by Gogs (500+ if you add the continued basketball/pride discussions).

I rest my case. The Philippines is hopeless.

Good luck with these idiots.

Gamma Rho Phi, Batch 2002


yes, it is a hopeless mess. Just as the kleptocracy wants it!


Pork is one of the reason that they wanted the “evil dictator” out…. the rest of the politicians didn’t have their fair share of it….

Thomas Jefferson

Coming soon… 1 Trillion PHP Pork Barrel for BS Aquino! The opposition and non-yellow supporters get nothing as usual. The non-administration senators get charged by lap dog De Lima while the administration bets remain untouchable. Talk about injustice!

THE CONGRESS DID NOT FOLLOW through on the impeachment process of the CJ. He was NEVER made to ‘testify’ OR WAS THT Bull-Shit- charade what passes for ‘testifying’ these days in the RP? He was NEVER made to explain his wealth nor did he have to relinquish it, nor was he put in shackles for what he did to the PAL employees, the POS! yeah, that is correct, the POS. THE Kleptocratic gov’t. in place, shall remain in place with each of its representatives running to the press every time one feels as if ‘left-out’ on the latest way to… Read more »
Carles Xabier

Pork barrel and Red tape were introduced by the Americans.


OMG,that has got to be the biggest bull-shit excuse I have heard all day. THE AMERICANS r the bad guys, huh? So, R U insinuating that the Filipino politician would have been to stooopid to figure it out or was un-corrupted until he met the AMERICANS?

bill wedeking

True, the Americans have elevated corruption to Cult Classic Status, but I am impressed with the Philippine Constitution. Having mentioned (briefly)that Political Dynasties will become ILLEGAL as soon as the Dynastic Families 1) Define Political Dynasty, and 2)Approve the Article.
American Hollywood could never have conceived of anything this perfectly diabolical. This is a Philippine Exclusive. It guarantees unlimited life to a corrupt enterprise.


the idea of pork barrel is like using a piece of “ting ting” to sweep tons of dirt.

if someone out there has the balls to totally wipe the existence of pork barrel and gather all of our financial resources, we may be able to create a “walis” for us to use for the sakeof cleaning the national mess.

alexander graham bell
alexander graham bell
1. Absuwelto ni Ong si Napoles sa Sandignang Bayan, hindi kaya i-absuwelto ni Ong si Dra. Binay hindi kataka-taka diba?? Isipin mo 2000 pa hangang ngayon wala pang decision si Ong. 2. OMNi Security & Janitorial Services sa buong Makati – sa lahat ng gusali ng gobyerno naka deploy at pinagpapasasaan ng pamilya Binay. 3. Makati parking Building, maniniwala ba kayo na ang total na halaga ng pagkakatayo nito ay 2.5 Billion?? Hindi lang halata kasi hinimay-himay ang Kontrata pero pag kinuha mo ang total 2.5 Billion talaga. 4. BANTAYANItinatayong bagong Ospital Ng Makati sa Malugay St. , bukod sa… Read more »
1. Absuwelto ni Ong si Napoles sa Sandignang Bayan, hindi kaya i-absuwelto ni Ong si Dra. Binay hindi kataka-taka diba?? Isipin mo 2000 pa hangang ngayon wala pang decision si Ong. 2. OMNi Security & Janitorial Services sa buong Makati – sa lahat ng gusali ng gobyerno naka deploy at pinagpapasasaan ng pamilya Binay. 3. Makati parking Building, maniniwala ba kayo na ang total na halaga ng pagkakatayo nito ay 2.5 Billion?? Hindi lang halata kasi hinimay-himay ang Kontrata pero pag kinuha mo ang total 2.5 Billion talaga. 4. BANTAYANItinatayong bagong Ospital Ng Makati sa Malugay St. , bukod sa… Read more »