PDAF and the jeepney: Why the pork barrel should be abolished

I think the pork barrel should be abolished. Some people think some people have benefited from pork barrel money and that abolishing it will be like throwing the baby out along with the bath water. Perhaps. But that is really the sort of Robin Hood mentality that has no place in a modern 21st Century society. The existence of the pork barrel is premised on the notion that the Executive branch of government is focused on the “national” level and does not think local enough. And, to follow the logic further, delegating the need for local considerations to legislators will solve that problem.

The trouble with that medieval logic lies in this simple question:

On what basis is the presumption that legislators are better channels for local concerns than officials of local government units (LGUs) (such as mayors and Barangay officials) made?

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more


Lots of people, according to legend, benefited from Robin Hood’s altruistic banditry. But to institutionalise Robin Hoodery as a routine business-as-usual means to keep “local needs” addressed is a moronic proposition. That’s the same kind of thinking that turned jeepneys from the quaint samples of “Filipino ingenuity” back in 1946 to the enormous intractable socio-economic problem that they are today. Sure, lots of people “benefit” from jeepneys. But the jeepneys’ lack of coherence as a modern system of moving people en masse stares us in the face today like an Alcoholics Anonymous facilitator.

The parallels between the pork barrel and the jeepney are very evident. Pork barrel disbursment of “development funds”, like the jeepney, does not lend itself to a transparent system that could be governed with some semblance of coherence. And this is why the whole regime comes across — rightly so — as an institutionalised national scam. We didn’t need Janet Lim Napoles (if the allegations are true) to put the “scam” in the “PDAF scam”. The Priority Development Assistance Fund has always been a scam. Filipinos were just too dumb to realise it over the last three decades. Indeed, the pork barrel, like the jeepney infestation, are products of short-sighted populist politics. Both are products of wrong arguments that have been allowed to win for too long by a people not exactly renowned for arguing intelligently.

Pork barrel apologists harp on what they describe as the “important point and outcome” of the pork barrel gravy train; “All that matters is for the beneficiaries to get what they need. In full,” to quote the pompous assertion of a certain bozo. Sounds nice on paper, doesn’t it? That’s like saying that what’s ultimately important is that jeepney passengers get to where they want to go — even if it means allowing their means to do so to foul up traffic all over the metropolis and turn our roads into Highways to Hell in the process. If we are to use the same logic with the pork barrel, that’s like trying to implement measures to ensure that everything stolen by Robin Hood from the King is spent on putting breadcrumbs on peasants’ tables. Good luck with that “fix”. It’s no wonder Robin Hood’s men are so merry. They’re all laughing all the way to the bank.

If we want “micro level assistance” (now supposedly currently enabled by the almighty pork barrel funding) to continue, then a more systematic way of achieving that should be put in place (or done properly where it already exists) where it REALLY belongs — in the Executive Branch. We all talk about “freedom of information” like we are some kind of expert about what the term means. Yet many of our high-horsed social media barons fail to understand what it takes to mine useful information from transaction-intensive operations. You need control measures in place to capture the data in a form readily convertible to said “information”. When money is palmed over to oinking politicians at the whim of presidents starved for their “cooperation”, there will be no such information.

The short answer to idiotic calls to retain the pork barrel is that a mechanism to get resources allocated to address “micro needs” already exists in the Executive Branch.

It does not take political “experts” to see that the whole point in being a duly-elected legislator is to ensure that constituencies are well-represented when crafting laws. They should leave the execution of those laws (and the use of public funds to do so) to the Executive Branch. That is why said branch is named as such.

Trying to “fix pork without hurting those who really need it” is like trying to modernise public transport without abolishing the jeepney. Change always hurts. Only people who lack imagination and routinely face the future with a pathetic lack of courage aspire for painless change. And we wonder why China kicks Filipino ass.

It’s simple, really — but not for the small-minded amongst us.

[Photo coutesy The Guardian.]

32 Replies to “PDAF and the jeepney: Why the pork barrel should be abolished”

  1. Yup, those barangay officials know that they can’t put their name all over a water supply like they can a basketball covered court. There is no need for running water or sewage control when you can play basketball in the rain.

  2. Interesting parallels.

    It’s probably less problematic to get rid of the pork barrel than the jeepneys.

    Get rid of the pork barrel, you’ll inconvenient just the political class, get rid of the jeepney you’ll inconvenient, well, more people than the political class for sure.

    It’s also easy to say to get rid of both, but there should be some thoughts on its replacement. In fact, might as well hit two birds with one stone, by allocating the money from the former to fund a modern public transport system and related infrastructure (ie.roads and stormwater drainage system).

  3. a question.. (disclaimer, I’m asking because i don’t know and I am just assuming stuff in my head.)

    If the gov’t actually manages to remove the pork barrel and transfer it to the executive department. Will monitoring be easier/feasible?
    Accountability is another thing but if the public can monitor fund movements all the time then accountability will be by default

    1. It should not be left with the Executive Branch. It probably should stay where it is but do it the way they do in the US. Major projects such as highways, bridges, dams and government buildings get voted on by the legislature and the congressman gets to trumpet his success in “bringing home the bacon” at election time. In my home town in Pennsylvania the county commissioners, with the assistance of the congressman, got funding from the Federal Government to replace the most important bridge over the river in town because it was a local and state road that also was part of a national road. To see who was responsible for the building of it you must walk up to the bronze plaque commemorating its dedication and read there names. There are no huge “Project of ******” on such projects anywhere.

      1. All due respect Jerry, but the conditions in the Philippines are different. It’s like juxtaposing a jeepney and a Porsche — there is no comparison.

        It isn’t about deal making or “bringing home the bacon.” Cases of bribery and institutionalised corruption are not the exception but the rule. And the list of projects these legislators are allowed to handle cover everything under the sun. Worst of all, if we are to believe the current scandal, the pork doesn’t benefit the local constituency. It goes into the legislators’ pockets with the collusion, or at least, through the neglect, of the various government agencies and the Commission on Audit. The benefits aren’t even to the minority but the individual politicians at the expense of society.

        On a more abstract level pork also tells us this: without institutionalised bribery, our democratic ideals simply won’t work. That is something most of us will never accept.

        1. LOL,Filipino’s, by there very complacency and apathetic inaction, have accepted the practice for decades.
          and a PREDICTION is made, here and now! that if all that is done (about this ‘pork’-ing) is blogging about the ‘pork’-ing problem? WELL then, you will be doing exactly the same thing 20-30-40 years from now, which is basically nothing.
          Ponderous as it is that in a country where most people make less than 1/10th the poverty level of a so-called 1st world country, that people still accept being governed by such an arrogant bunch of organized criminals.

          A lesson to learn, what the ‘Jacobin Club’did circa 1795. Now there was a plan, and all it took was a few people with BALLS.

        2. All well and good to call for terrorist acts in support of the “greater good.” It is even more rare for anyone to die for that cause. Especially NOT the ones who portray terrorism as a great “plan” that only takes “a few people with BALLS” to accomplish great things. Usually the people who make that claim are hiding out away from the violence and the murders. With luck, they’ll end up exactly like the foremost instigator of the Jacobin violence — Maximilien Robespierre — with their heads on the end of a pike before they cause any real damage.

        3. Once again the ‘Saint’ see’s what he wants to see and draws his conclusions, as erroneous as they are, from what he erroneously see’s, LOL!.
          I am encapsulating an entire revolution that took 10 years to accomplish when I say ‘a few people with balls’, you idiot, so the PEOPLE can see that it has been done before and it can be done again.out of the ‘Jacobin’s’ rose a great nation, or do like mediocrity? oh wait, u live where?
          if all that is done is waste your time sitting behind a PC and ranting against ‘pnoy’ is all your ever gonna do, then you’ll be doing it for the next 10-20-30- years but only about a different tyrant.
          You probably do not even know what the “Reign of terror’ was about, who really started it or what it actually accomplished, do you?
          BUT LUCKY YOU, you can now click over to ‘wikipedia’ and read all about it huh? You self righteous jack-ass.
          if the people woke up and really did something the current mess would stop, and quickly too.
          You see, oh so non-violent one, some people only understand one thing. Maybe you should become a ‘Priest’, your already a ‘Saint’.

        4. Oh, one last thing….the people cheered when Louie’s head was separated from his neck and held up for all to see, and the rest of the thieves ran for their lives at from the masses that rightfully hunted their thieving asses. 200+ years later that nation of people are once again trying to undo the mess that yet another tyrant has made of their country. the difference between these two nations? they have the balls to do it. the other, true to form, has a false belief that they too have the same balls…but, truth be told, they really just don’t.

        5. Gerry, is still the same hate-filled lying cowardly pile of ordure, with the same anarchist rhetoric, telling people to kill anyone they don’t like on the premise that society is DOOMED…DOOMED…DOOMED! He’s the first one to exercise his belief in what he believes is his God-given right to an exit visa when the rioting he advocates starts spilling over. Also the first to start hand-wringing over what could be a very volatile situation if the Philippines actually executed his half-baked ideas.

          See, the truth about the Jacobins is that they were an instrument of state terror. Maximilien Robespierre as leader of the Committee for Public Safety used violence and murder to eliminate his enemies. Because of this “Reign of Terror” France entered into one of the least peaceful eras in its history. It entered the state of its greatest turmoil, chaos and confusion.

          Apart from the internecine fighting among the political parties the prisons were crammed with hosts of people, often quite innocent, who were supposed to be enemies of the new republic. These victims were sent to death in large batches. If a Jacobin singled you out as an enemy of the people, you would be seized, sent before the “Revolutionary Tribunal,” and thence to guillotine. This was by no means the only method of execution; some were more horrific. Men, women, and children were shot, drowned; some were torn to pieces by howling mobs.

          Ironically, it was Robespierre’s deluded belief that he was the embodiment of virtue and of total commitment to the revolutionary cause that convinced him that the use of terror during this radical and bloody period was necessary to accomplish his overarching goal of democracy. In his mind, his dictatorial rule was essential for creating his “Republic of Virtue.” It was only AFTER Robespierre was himself executed and the Jacobins disbanded that order slowly returned to France and a proper government with a new legislative body could be established.

          This is what Gerry wants. Chaos and terror that will result in the deaths of thousands leading to a bloody civil war. Of course by then, Gerry will be far away, shaking his head, loudly criticizing how badly Filipinos handled a situation he enthusiastically endorsed.

          If only Gerry had more than an obsession with scrota to guide his limited thinking. Perhaps that is why he associates himself with Robespierre, also a man of limited capacity. But at least Robespierre did a lot of pondering, and worked hard, before making any decision. Sadly, no such luck with the ordure Gerry.

        6. there is nothing ‘hate-filled’ about what I stated.
          What I stated are FATCS, the people cheered at the death of the tyrant…PERIOD!!!

          IF IF IF you think I wasted my time reading the rest of your pacifist horse-shit,”Oh give me democracy”…then all your gonna get is this…
          ‘KLEPTOCRACY’. Mark my words ‘puss-n-boots’, you will be doin the same shit, blogging against the tyrant 10-20-30 years down the line, a never ending line of them.

          Let me give YOU a modern example. In 2009, in ICELAND…the people marched their outraged asses to the presidential palace and the parliament and made it VERY CLEAR what they were going to do. The government, fearing for their lives and MAYBE at the same time realizing what scumbags they were for treating their own people as such(robbing them outright!) capitulated and withdrew from the EU, screwed the bond-holders (instead of the tax-payers) and now they are re-building their country! NO ONE DIED, but the people were prepared for whatever came down the drive-way.

          SO, Johnny, you go right ahead bad mouthing me and full-speed ahead with ur pacifist, ‘give me democracy’ horse-shit, YOUR GOING NOWHERE, Son…coz your too smart to ever listen.
          YOU heard it here Sonny. Look at where you are 10-20-30 years from TODAY. More of the same is on the way, enjoy. it ain’t my country either, have fun!

        7. I did not tell anyone to kill anyone either, so YOU just can’t handle it , huh? Being wrong, huh? Keep it up, asshat.(AND BENINGO, why are you letting this guy bash me? w/out warning him?)

          YOU JOHNNY are the emdodiment of a Filipino Idiot. Twist what others say till YOU only hear what you want to hear and dismiss everyone else as wrong.it is to your downfall as well(Look where you and your country are, JACKASS. you think your so fuckin smart, don’t you?). Good thing your country can not fall much further too. but w/people like you, thinking your so fuckin smart, your country will be staying where it is. Right up their w/Bangladesh. I am not obsessed w/scrota you ass-wipe, YOU wish you had a pair is all I am pointing out.
          Someone, not me (I wouldn’t waste my time) will teach you the lessons you should have learned a long time ago.if you don’t like France, check out what Iceland did, a mere few years ago. OH, wait Johnny Saint has a better idea! and he is going to tell us ALL ABOUT IT!!!
          SO, tell us Johnny? WHAT? HUH? WHAT’S UP, HUH?

          You got nothing Son.

        8. Now it’s about Iceland? First you said Filipinos should emulate the Jacobin Republic. Robespierre and the Jacobin club sent people to the guillotine based on personal whim and political stripe; he used terrorism to subjugate anyone who didn’t agree with him. No twisting words there.

          But now we can’t hold you accountable for posting that kind of hate screed calling for the murder of government officials, capitalists, people who went to university, and anyone else who might have bumped into you crossing the street because suddenly it isn’t about the Jacobins committing mass murder; it’s about Iceland where they only went as far as rioting in front of government buildings. Which is it? Or, more likely, this is just more of your cowardly backtracking.

          “(I)t ain’t my country either” Typical of you to be washing your hands of the whole affair after throwing out suggestions to commit violence and start rioting in the streets.

          And what I got, Gerry, you misbegotten, foetid pile of ordure, is the ability to think beyond a limited vocabulary that consists of 80-percent profanity.

        9. So what you are saying is that even though there are over 100 million people in this country that should only have about 40 million, there is not enough common sense or education to do things properly? What you need to do is not elect the same people and their actress wives etc. to the same jobs over and over again.

          If you had been able to properly digest what I wrote then you would be able to see that if the method of distribution were changed and modeled after the American system the “institutionalized bribery” would no longer work and things might actually get accomplished.

          In the US a congressman might want a new bridge or dam put in his district. He can’t just use his pre-allocated “pork” for that project, select the company that will give him a kick back and then as is often the case here, the company is a shadow corporation he owns himself. That company uses substandard materials and pockets the change. That American congressman has to get the support of other congressman who wants his own major project approved and one will say to the other, “you vote for mine and I’ll vote for yours.” The bridge I talked about in my initial post was named by the State of Pennsylvania after the name was bandied about in legislation by the state legislature. The bridge was not named after Congressman Peterson who shepherded the money approval through the US Congress, but was named “Veterans Bridge.” In this country it would have been named “Peterson Bridge” of course.

        10. Jerry,

          “So what you are saying is that even though there are over 100 million people in this country that should only have about 40 million, there is not enough common sense or education to do things properly?”

          That is EXACTLY what I and other GRP contributors have been saying. Despite the millions of intelligent, educated Filipinos who have proven themselves capable of excelling at various fields throughout the world under the most difficult conditions, when it comes to their own country, we FAIL to do what is obvious. THAT is the main reason the Philippines progresses at an excruciatingly slow pace, if at all. One step forward; next — full reverse.

          “What you need to do is not elect the same people and their actress wives etc. to the same jobs over and over again.”

          If you go over previous articles, opinion pieces and posts here on GRP, that revelation is EXACTLY the advice that contributors have been giving out for years. You’ll also notice that proponents of the incumbent administration posting on GRP dismiss that notion and play down the idea that Filipinos do not vote wisely. That propaganda flies in the face of the glaringly obvious fact that elections in the Philippines reflect a tendency of the electorate to vote for popular personalities or figures who, in their minds, will advance their individual agendas. RARELY does the outcome of the election reflect critical thinking; hardly any of these elected officials exhibit the personality that puts the needs of society ahead of personal ambition.

          “If you had been able to properly digest what I wrote then you would be able to see that if the method of distribution were changed and modeled after the American system the ‘institutionalized bribery’ would no longer work and things might actually get accomplished.”

          Jerry, pork barrel-like discretionary funds in the Philippines date back to 1922, during the American colonial period. What you might not realise is that prior to 1990, pork was dispensed in a manner similar to the way American lawmakers allocate monies for pet projects in their district. What that did was to effectively concentrate power with the chief executive and the incumbent’s allies in congress. In other words, if you weren’t with the administration, you were against it. The president regularly used the pork as a blunt instrument to beat their opponents into submission. President Penoy’s father, Ninoy, once related how as a congressman in the 1950s, then President Macapagal (Gloria Arroyo’s father) forced him to switch from the Nacionalista Party to the Liberal Party in order to secure the release of public works allocations for their home province of Tarlac. Macapagal’s condition for releasing the money for Tarlac (including “pork barrels”) was no less than abject surrender. Under this old set-up, you play the pork barrel game, pocket the bribe and/or graft amount, or you won’t be able to serve your constituency. Today, Penoy is head of the Liberal Party.

          In 1990, Penoy’s mother, President Cory Aquino, established the Countryside Development Fund (CDF), the precursor of today’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). Her reasoning was that, ostensibly, the CDF would ensure NO public official would be “left out of the loop” when it came to fund allocations for local infrastructure projects. ALL congressional districts would automatically receive an amount for their own use without having to engage in political horsetrading that wastes time. In principle this would spur badly needed development in the provinces neglected by the previous regime under President Marcos who used budget allocations and pork barrel as one of the means to maintain control of the country. In some cases, this kind of pork dispensation did actually produce some results. Cebu would not be as prosperous today had it not been for initiatives like this. However, it should be remembered Cebu was an Aquino ally dating back before the 1986 “snap” election.

          In 2000, under President Estrada, the CDF was renamed PDAF and its coverage expanded. Since then, the allocation per lawmaker have grown to the outrageous amounts we are hearing about today. The largest allocation, by far, belongs to the Office of the President with a whopping ONE BILLION PESOS in the President’s Social Fund (PSF). That doesn’t even include the various “intelligence funds” — that aren’t subject to audit — which the president controls directly.

          Since its creation the CDF/PDAF has proven to be very unpopular, with numerous calls for its abolition. In the 1990s Filipinos were outraged over systematic corruption when it was revealed legislators and other government officials earned large commissions from overpricing CDF-financed projects. The revelation of this misuse prompted the enactment of reforms that led to the reworking of the CDF into the current PDAF. As you can see from today’s pork barrel scam, there has been little substantial change save the exponential increase in the scope of the corruption and the money finding its way into our lawmakers pockets.

          As I said in my first response, it isn’t the system. Whether it’s the chief executive implementing the budget passed by the legislature or pork allocated via the PDAF, institutional corruption and bribery, are funneling the money into our public officials’ pockets and their cronies’ overseas bank accounts. That’s what makes Penoy’s “reforms” to the PDAF a flawed solution. That’s what compels the public to call for its abolition.

          It’s like having a drunk in a bar. If the bartender knew his patron were unfit to drive, the responsible thing to do would be to take away his keys. That’s common sense. Without any “car,” a drunk wouldn’t be likely to run over people. In the same way, without any pork barrel, the corrupt will sooner or later be discouraged from joining the government.

        11. To my thinking the real reason why people in this country are so naive is the piss poor “education” system. It apparently teaches little of value and substance and what IS presented is often factually incorrect. Until there is a 12 year school system in place with everyone in the country attending all 12 years there will always be a bunch of uneducated people in power. At least 1 person has said to me in so many words, “your country is rich and that is why your education is good.” My reply is, “My country is rich BECAUSE we have good education.” The education comes first. It must be free, mandatory and attendance enforced. If the parents of the little kids running around begging were arrested for not sending them to school, the kids would start attending in short order.

  4. Pnoy aquino’s fatuous responses to the pork narrel scam, public opinion, and CoA report clearly highlight that he is incompetent and/or corrupt. Take your choice. Neither augurs well for the country and for democracy.

  5. So let us abolish the pork barrel along with the perks and privileges of the legislators. I am saying it again… Reform should include a strict itemized budget with complete and strict COA oversight to ensure auditing and accounting leading to actions against graft and corruption. Reform and concentrate the itemized budget into a Constituent Development Plans and Programs that would benefit only the people(constituents)and strictly exclude the congressmen. The constituents will need livelihood plans and programs, scholarships, medical assistance, disaster relief, etc. Strict bidding of goods and services from reputable contractors is a feasible option. Remove presidential control over the legislature as this is tantamount to dictatorship. Remove the lackeys of the president from leadership positions in the Congress. Restore the rule of law, freedom and democracy! Reduce the highly excessive and extravagant pork barrel funds of the dictator! The dictator BS Aquino is the godfather of the pork barrel scams. He withheld funds many times from the opposition and their constituents! Down with the dictator! Stop the dark political control and influence over the branches and instrumentalities of the
    government! Restore the rule of law! Defend the independence of the judiciary and the courts! Down with the yellow dictatorship!

    1. @eachhisown, the second paragraph in your comment proves the point you are saying is not true in the first paragraph. How can that not be anything but sheer idiocy, even if only by omission?

  6. “Filipinos were just too dumb to realise it over the last three decades.”

    I sincerely believe that Filipinos are not that dumb. As their nature, they’re just not brought up to have concern for other people around them and the environment. That’s all there is to it.

    Evidently this can be obviously seen on their conducts and behaviors not only within their homes but outdoors as well.

    If Filipinos have inherent in them concern for others, their country and the environment this pork barrel could not have been conceived, implemented and devoured by politicians up to this time.

    Pork barrel is the root of all evil in the Philippine society. It proliferates political dynasty, decay the values of the people, it makes the country a huge toilet stinking with urine and even feces, it emboldens kotong cops to flourish, makes all rivers and waterways nauseatingly dirty and pollute the environment with it’s septic tank-like stench,bury the people in the provinces in squalid poverty, and many, many more disgusting attributes.

  7. “A man was admitted to hospital over the weekend with a fork stuck in his penis after an act of self-pleasuring went wrong” ( the fork was removed without physical impairment to the mentally impaired idiot)
    In other news pnoy aquino was unavailable over the weekend during the floods due to …..

    1. Now, now. That fellow was a 70-year old Australian.

      However, I’ll concede Penoy comes off as someone who might attempt it.

      1. As that other australian dirty old man rolf harris would say
        “Can you see what it is yet”

        Yes – a bloody paedophile, sport

  8. If you got rid of pork barrel all those brainless and unemployable sons and daughters of corrupt dynasties, and has been actors/actresses, would actually have to try and do something for a living, and it would also close down restaurants in makati, ktv bars, reduce journalists pay on the philippine star, put lynda jumilla out of a job, have mistresses crying in the street as they look for their next customer, and make bimby aquino’s brand value plummet.

  9. Benign0:

    Here’s what former National Treasurer Leonor Briones said: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/471863/ex-national-treasurer-calls-for-scrapping-of-p450b-presidential-pork-barrel

    “Suspending the ‘pork barrel’ or scrapping it altogether is good, but why not slay the bigger monster in the annual national budget?

    “That creature would be the “special purpose funds” (SPF) of President Aquino which, at P449.95 billion, eat up about a fifth of the entire P2.268-trillion budget proposed for 2014.

    “The present subject of widespread public outrage—the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel—is only about 5.5 percent (or P25.24 billion) of the incoming SPF.”

    Briones adds:

    The “entire special purpose fund is under the control of the President,” a sort of pork barrel of his own.”

    Read the list of the “special purpose funds” for 2013 at the bottom portion of the “Summary of Allocations” at: http://budgetngbayan.com/summary-of-allocations/#dept

    1. Down with the dark, corrupt, shameless and useless dictator! Down with BS Aquino! Your matuwid na daan is finally exposed as pure black propaganda! Ang Baliw na daan patungo sa baliw sa kapangyarihan at baliw sa nakaw na yaman ng kaban ng bayan! Down with the yellow dictatorship!!!

    2. Oh my.. The opportunity costs!!

      With that amount of dough flowing unchecked, there’s no way any normal human being can resist corruption..

      I guess the only solution is to guilt them enough so they give more than what they take..

      “If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them which will hang him”
      -Cardinal Richelieu

      P.S. I’m not pious. But good point!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.