Members of Philippine Congress shouldn’t have been given the pork barrel to begin with

If you will pardon me, but I have a very simplistic take on the issue of pork barrel and it revolves around this simple question:

Why are legislators involved in the disbursement of development and project funds?

philippine_development_assistance_fundAfter all, we elect legislators to craft laws. But then we also elect our local government officials to oversee the administration and governance as well as the development of our communities. You’d think then that any funds that supposedly are to be used on projects that aim to deliver on development goals of specific communities would be administered by local government officials.

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I guess it goes back to the very terms that describe these circles of politicians. The earlier — our senators and House representatives — belong to the Legislative branch of government. As such, they should be focused on just crafting and debating proposed laws. The latter — our barangay, town/city, provincial, and national officials — all belong to the Executive branch. As such, they presumably are the ones primarily responsible for deciding on the allocation of resources to whatever projects and operational activities where they are most needed.

In short, it does not make sense to have Legislators making decisions on how funds for executing projects and operational requirements should be allocated, much more disbursed.

In fact, this is exactly what is at the crux of the whole brouhaha surrounding that shady character Janet Lim Napoles. What qualified these so-called senators and congressmen to disburse public funds to these “non-government organizations” — which, in this case and if the allegations are correct, turned out to be a bunch of crooks? In the Executive branch, there are highly-mature procedures and checks-and-balances in place to control the disbursement of public funds. They may not always work right, but they are there. Compare that to the Legislative branch where congressmen enjoy full personal discretion in the allocation of their pork. Tsk tsk. Imagine putting all that money at risk in a branch of government that in principle has no business engaging in the management and disposal of development funds to begin with.

Allowing congress-people to allocate development funds is like allowing consultants and strategy analysts in a corporate setting to bypass operations executives and project managers in the disbursement of project and operational budgets.

It just does not make any sense.

It’s not a question of who your constituents are. It’s a question of what the scope of your responsibilities to your constituents is. As far as I am aware, legislators are responsible for making good laws that benefit their constituencies. Executives, on the other hand, are committed to their constituencies to deliver the goods within the framework of the law crafted by the legislature using funds they have been entrusted with. That’s not a very complicated delineation of responsibility for anyone to wrap their heads around, is it?

Apparently it is. According to Speaker Sonny Belmonte, “it would be impossible for legislators to provide the much needed basic services for their constituents without the pork barrel.” Hello?! Since when has delivery of “basic services” been a responsibility of a legislator?? I define “basic services” to be stuff like housing, health care, law enforcement, and maintenance of public works. Reality check for you Mister Speaker: Government agencies who manage those services all report to the Executive branch of government!

You just know that these “debates” are being had by the wrong people when no less than the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Philippines himself can be rated a big fat FAIL when it comes to understanding such a no-brainer.

Two things come to my mind when I think of legislators’ redundant “contribution” to society in the delivery of “basic services”…

(1) EPAL. Because they are legislators, their job is cerebral and does not as a matter of routine bring them high visibility with their voters in between elections. That is why they need to be seen to be part of the whole circus around delivering “basic services”. Epal nga talaga. If they were sincere about their desire to be of “basic service” to their constituents, they should instead focus on doing their real jobs PROPERLY, which is to formulate laws that serve the public first.

(2) GREED. Well, this one does not really need much explanation. Unlike their luckier colleagues in the public service who are employed by the Executive branch, if it weren’t for Congressional pork, there really wouldn’t be large sums of money flowing through the ledgers of the average senator or congressman. Pork is their only shot at a piece of the Philippines’ corruption pie.

So before we talk about “greater transparency” and “more controls” to ensure that Congressional pork is not “misused”, perhaps we should first consider whether Congress should be allowed to continue enjoying pork to begin with. I think that is the more basic question to settle first.

12 Replies to “Members of Philippine Congress shouldn’t have been given the pork barrel to begin with”

  1. Corruption is so engrained in culture that the lack of safeguards like you suggest are hardly noticed by anybody . Take fund managers. They just decide what to do with the money. A trustee does the actual handling . And of course proper disclosure. We can’t expect that here. Proud to be Pinoy !!!

  2. I understand the author’s sentiments but we have a process to follow. Let the investigation be over first before we conclude anything. Maybe the pork barrel helps the people and some just misuse it, I am looking at you, opposition of the administration.

  3. Because the administration have shown their true colors and values – self-interest and greed.
    It is aquino allies who want to retain pork barrel for obvious reasons. The corruption under this administration has been institutionalised, as evidenced by pnoy himself, and greed now knows no bounds in the cabinet/senate/congress, with impunity and immunity for any wrong doing.
    First class hypocrites but low class individuals.

  4. We have an overly complicated system of government. I could not define the line where the congressman’s work starts and the the mayor’s work stop. The people passing bills and making them to laws are getting rich in a way which my mind cannot comprehend. We have too much laws already. Still they get a big chunk of my salary and I do not even feel anything on how they used my tax money.

  5. Since its inception in 2K, we already know that pork barrel politics has been an issue around congress. The executive seat and all its predecessors have used and abused it many times over as a leverage to gain political support.

    We need the numbers to abolish it. Help us.

  6. Unlike other bicameral democracies, our senators do not represent specific regions of the country; but instead run on a nationwide basis. As a result, senators inevitably wind up being very rich because they are the only ones who can fund the media blitz necessary for voter recognition. How can these wealthy people be aware of the needs of ordinary people? Block grants to the governors of provinces makes much more sense.

  7. they are all KROOKS! hard to believe there are more corrupt countries. Maybe it is because it is just SO OBVIOUS in the country?

  8. I completely agree with you, Kate! And I’m so happy that there are truly intelligent people like you and the others who write for this Website who can’t be fooled by the phonies in the government and media. God bless the Philippines!

  9. Hi Kate, from your perspective, is there any country in the world that you may be familiar with where the legislator are elected and spend time on crafting laws for the benefit of the people. That is to say that is what they do only. If the people who elect him, does not see any direct improvement in their community, he will certainly not be elected at the next election. I see Manny Pacquiao, using his own money (from what i read in the newspaper) to entice people to elect him and his wife. The people within his area expects benefits. If good man get elected and cannot give good service to his supporters, he is not likely to win next round of election.

    If there are legislators in other parts of the world that just do purely legislative work, and still can serve the people needs effectively, won’t it be great to research thoroughly on such a system and spread it out all over, so that people know they can live properly without having to depends on “handouts” from their politicians.

    Would be most grateful for your opinions. Many thanks.

  10. This vision was meant to be corrupted. It makes everyone comfortably numb and supports everything Noynoy and the yellow zombies wants.

  11. I agree with the author’s observation. The only question is, ngayong bistado na ang modus sa pork, titigil na ba ang mga mambabatas? Definitely hindi. They are so crafty and imaginative to perpetuate this practice. Hindi madaling igive-up ang million pesos all at their very disposal.

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