Now that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel funds has been declared illegal or unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, we are seeing a lot of politicians who are doing an about-face. Some members of Congress are now saying that they are happy with the decision because they have been for its abolition all along.
One member of Congress who has been inconsistent about his stand on the pork barrel is no less than Senate President Franklin Drilon. Some will not forget the time when he said that Congress is useless without the pork:
“What will happen if we will not take a direct hand (in the identification of projects)? Let’s just abolish Congress then.”
Drilon even admitted at some point that abolishing the pork barrel was harder than he thought because some senators were not in a hurry to give him their decision on the controversial funds:
Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Friday he has yet to muster a consensus in the Senate on the deletion of their pork barrel funds from the 2014 budget.
But while newspaper reports have put the number of proabolition senators at 17, Drilon admitted only three so far have written him of their desire to waive their PDAF. He did not name them.
Fast forward to today, and we now find Drilon lauding the Supreme Court’s decision saying it “reinforces the government’s efforts to reform the country’s political system and affirms the Senate’s position that PDAF must be abolished”.
All of a sudden Drilon is all for the banishing of patronage politics when the conflict-of-interest in his support for President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino is quite obvious to some and even undermines the separation of legislative and executive powers in government. Let’s not even get started with those reports that he is a close associate of alleged scammer Janet Lim Napoles.
Drilon’s ever-changing stand on the congressional pork barrel says a lot about his lack of conviction. It seems he can’t make up his mind on whether to please the people or to please his colleagues and allies in government on important issues.
It would not be a surprise when President BS Aquino and his Malacanang mouth pieces start spinning the Supreme Court’s decision their way. We can expect this landmark decision to be included in their list of “successes” in their so-called “crusade” against corruption. Never mind that some of the President’s allies attempted to justify giving and receiving pork barrel funds by insisting that pork helps continue the nationwide scholarship and medical assistance programs initiated by some members of Congress in the past. Congressmen Ben Evardone and Niel Tupas even filed a petition with the Supreme Court to lift the temporary restraining order on the pork so they can access the frozen funds allocated for the remainder of 2013. They probably feel like losers now.
The real heroes in the fight for the abolition of the pork barrel funds include Filipinos who protested both on social media and out on the streets. More importantly, the case against the pork barrel funds would not have been deliberated upon by the members of the Supreme Court if not for petitions challenging the legality of the pork barrel system filed by Grego Belgica, Samson Alcantara of the Social Justice Society and Pedrito Nepomuceno. If not for them, the noise on the streets would have taken longer to subside.
President BS Aquino simply cannot claim credit for this achievement because he never really removed the allocation of the pork barrel funds in his 2014 budget proposal even when he announced that it was “time to abolish pork”. It was as if he left the decision to remove the allocation of pork in the hands of Congress whose members personally benefit from it. This made some members of the public very angry at him and called out his act of deception. His 2014 budget would have given legislators lump sum amounts of Php70 million per congressman and Php200 million per Senator. The amount of taxpayer’s money that could have ended up in the pockets of these “esteemed” ladies and gentlemen would have been staggering, indeed.
The Supreme Court will be deliberating on another controversial fund scam called the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) cooked up by President BS Aquino and his men. This early, constitutional experts have already declared its unconstitutionality. It would be a real blow to the President’s image once the High Court declares it illegal considering he took pains in justifying its legality.
Two weeks before super typhoon Yolanda wrought havoc in Central Philippines, BS Aquino even made a televised speech interrupting prime time shows in the early evening just to explain the DAP. Like what I wrote before, all of a sudden, he claims that DAP is now responsible for a lot of “good” things. It is quite suspect considering even lawmakers had not heard of it before Senator Jinggoy Estrada insinuated that the President bribed the senators in his privilege speech.
According to BS Aquino, the list of DAP beneficiaries include scholars, the Air Force, the police, and employees of the Department of Education. In addition, DAP funded “many other programs and projects that have a real, tangible benefit to Filipinos”. For his sake, he should keep a detailed account of those “many other programs and projects” just in case the Supreme Court finds it necessary to look into them.
BS Aquino can only blame his lack of foresight for the legal mess he is in right now. The members of the Supreme Court probably have a stronger motivation for abolishing the pork barrel funds. The revelation that BS Aquino used DAP to reward those who convicted a former member of Supreme Court would have been enough to help the justices decide that any tool that can be used to remove any one of them again in the future should be removed as soon as possible.
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