Pork Barrel Corruption and Calls for a Shift to a Parliamentary System of Government

As it is, discussions on the mechanics of how the pork barrel scam was perpetrated outlines the massive collusion between the executive branch of government, the legislative branch of government, members of the supposedly independent constitutional body that is supposed to keep corruption in check, and pork barrel “operators”.

At this point, calling for a shift to a form of government where Executive and Legislative powers and functions are in fact FUSED may appear sublimely ignorant of the real issues at play and would actually be a call to WORSEN the situation instead of improving it.

you-cant-fix-stupid-but-u-can-sedate-itOne analogy for this call for a parliamentary shift at this time may be that of someone thinking they’d be ending thievery by signing over ownership of everything he or she possesses to the thieves. 

Right now, calls for a shift to a parliamentary form of government is a useless distraction from the main issues which are CORRUPTION and WASTEFUL GOVERNMENT SPENDING — both of which can happen and is happening regardless of the form of government.

What the pork barrrel scam underscores is that even with all the safeguards in place, a substantial percentage of any money given to the government will end up stolen or wasted.

Instead of a fancy info-graphic which seems to the “hip” and fancy way of referring to a diagrams these days, allow me to express this with a simple sentence:  Any amount of money you give to the government will result in a portion of it being stolen or wasted.

So, rationally and logically, the less money you give government the less there will be to steal and waste.

Fellow Marikina City dweller Sen. Koko Pimentel actually expressed the same idea better in a conversation in 2011, “The best policy I can think of is to keep as much money in the pockets of those who can spend it wisest and with greatest effect. You the tax payer.”

The thing is countries with parliamentary systems dominate the list of countries with the highest tax burdens, see BongV’s diagram here.  (You may also want to read Bong V’s post on well-researched and easy to understand article “Shifting to Parliamentary System Is not a Pre-Requisite to Economic Liberalization”)

Moreover, if you are calling for “evolving federalization” or federalism, you are actually multiplying the number of taxes you will have to pay.  This is because not only will you be paying taxes to support your state, you will also have to pay another tax to your federal government.

The result? Well, that’s more of your money stolen and wasted.

So, what do we do now?

Calling for the scrapping of the pork barrel system eliminates just one of the many items of the government’s budget which results in waste and money being stolen.  The thing is we can’t trust our senators and congressmen to completely scrap the pork barrel system and I don’t think it would be feasible for ordinary income tax payers to go through each item of the government’s budget documents or the GAA (which I am told is actually six books, each about two and a half feed thick) and ferret out other forms of discretionary funding similar to the pork barrel.  So, rather than go after the long list of ‘terminal points”, I think it’s much simpler and easier to reduce tax revenue theft and waste at its source: the taxes we pay.

Mon Abrea, a columnist at the Manila Bulletin and president of the Center for Strategic Reforms of the Philippines (CSR Philippines) as well as the Chief Strategy Officer of the country’s first social consulting enterprise, the Abrea Consulting Group (ACG), came up with a couple of directions that seem worthy of pursuing.

Here is an excerpt from Abrea’s column titled “Please Save Us From Despair”

What our legislators should be doing instead of making soft and infrastructure projects is to revisit the tax code and make two possible amendments in favor of our employees: first,provide a separate income tax table for employees, with lesser and reasonable tax rates; and second, increase the personal and additional exemptions to at least P200,000 and P50,000 for each qualified child, without limit as to the number of dependents, respectively.

Our tax code provides no incentive to our employees. Given their limited capacity to earn, their compensation is subject to the same income tax rates for sole proprietors and professionals without the benefit of deductible expenses. This is another reason why we should encourage our people to become entrepreneurs.

What are these deductible expenses? These pertain to those expenditures that a taxpayer incurs in relation to the conduct of his business or profession. These cannot be availed of by individuals earning purely compensation income as a result of an employer-employee relationship because they are not engaged in any business or practice of profession.

Our tax laws provide two ways of deducting expenses from gross income. The first is the optional standard deduction (OSD), which is equivalent to an amount not exceeding 40 percent of the gross sales or receipts. This must be elected by the taxpayer when filing an income tax return. The second way is deducting through the itemized deductions, which include among others, expenses in general, interest, taxes, losses, bad debts, depreciation, charitable and other contributions and premium payment on heath and/or hospitalization insurance of an individual taxpayer.

Apart from the block-quoted excerpts from Abrea’s column, he also batted for the Flat Tax Rate — which is a topic that I am still studying at this point.

What Abrea said in his column regarding deductible expenses actually led me to consider the possibility of recommending that salaried employees opt to become “consultants” or “service contractors” of their companies — if such an option were possible.

One warning from a friend whom I consulted about this idea, however, says that the price for doing this will be either doing a ton of paper work every month or having to pay someone to do it.

Anyway, in as far as proposing a viable and immediately implementable solution to the pork barrel mess, looking at our taxes seems ot be the better and more direct way to go than the Ruben Goldberg theory of solving the pork barrel mess.

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19 Comments on “Pork Barrel Corruption and Calls for a Shift to a Parliamentary System of Government”

  1. Calling it now – that one parliament-pushing organization is probably gonna give more articles about AP and GRP after seeing the last two articles you guys wrote.

  2. Exiting the airport and paying an airport tax is one example of how nobody trusts anybody and someone needs that money. I see change when the airport tax is abolished until then it’s every government program for themselves.

      1. It sure ain’t Minola cooking oil. hehe

        To be honest, I’m still open to the parliamentary shift. But of course, it’s not going to be the be-all and end-all of all things. There’s a lot more work to do.

        1. Yah! Especially if you have the same bunch running for parliament. I just can’t picture someone like Benjo Benaldo being even remotely familiar with parliamentary procedure.

        2. I had a classmate in elementary school who used olive oil on his hair. He was Greek or Spanish, I think.

          Anyway, parliamentary shift is obviously not the answer to every single thing that crops up and it’s really the wrong way to promote it.

        3. Paul Farol – “Anyway, parliamentary shift is obviously not the answer to every single thing that crops up and it’s really the wrong way to promote it.”
          ==========

          I second the motion. A parliamentary shift does not mean we’ll have an entirely new faces and characters in the government. The same people will still be there.

      1. I think it goes back to at least 2005-2006. I saw reference this paper back during the debates of the Consultative Commission on charter change during the time of Gloria Arroyo.

  3. The system of government in PI isn’t the main problem…it’s the culturally endemic corruption. Change what you like….nothing will change until more people change their attitudes.

  4. I think the problem can be solved by reforming the system. No need to change from presidential to parliamentary. What we need is an Anti-Dictatorship Bill(ASAP passed into law)as a deterrence against asses like the dictator BS Aquino from controlling co-equal, co-independent branches of government. Influencing courts and constitutional commissions should be stopped. This includes political influence on the AFP/PNP. Pass the FOI bill into law as this can be used to force the issue on documents that reveal graft and corruption. Pass an Anti-Dynasty bill to prevent political families from controlling completely branches of government that will serve as their milking cows. Reform the DBM and the COA. Resurrect the rule of law. For far too long… politicians have been using the rule of men. Revive strong COA oversight and even professional citizens oversight. Abolish the PDAF to make way for the Constituents Development Plans and Programs(CDPP)… with no more finger dipping by politicians on the funds. No more perks and privileges. No more NGO’s… Use reputable contractors in accordance with government procurement rules and regulations. Bidding for goods and services through reputable contractors is a step to bring down graft and corruption. Use allowances and let the politicians use their salaries for their lifestyle. Let COA audit and account for CDPP expenditures without exemption, fear, or favor! Let the courts try the guilty!

  5. Would “crap” smell better if we call it “roses” instead?

    Same goes for presidential to parliamentary change.

    I’m afraid that if we decide to form ourselves a parliament tomorrow it’d still be full of trapos. After all, they would have a head start if they decide to change the system. They’d tweak the new system to their advantage.

  6. To change the character of politics you must first change the culture of the people, not simply the system.
    Give a bad driver a jeepney or a mercedes and he will end up crashing it
    GIGO – garbage in, garbage out., or PIPO – politicians in, pigs out.

    The United Nations categorises the philippines as ‘a flawed democracy’, which is a black mark against all those trapos who have spouted hypocricy over the past 30+ years whilst stealing money from the poor, displaying no integrity or shame, fortyfying a self-serving system, and watching from their mansions as the country was overtaken by its once poorer ASEAN neighbours.

  7. Changing system or form of government may or may not change how people interact and/or transact with government and provide feedback on the quality of government delivery of basic services as well as performance evaluation of government officials and employees.
    Transactions including payments and reservations with the government should be online. No need for over the counter cash transactions that may induce corruption. That means we should overhaul the way we do business with the government. We need integrity-based online transaction systems like the kind implemented by Singapore. Government websites should have full social media accounts to reach the public. We start changes within the people bottoms up. That should serve notice to our leaders that we do not tolerate mediocrity and corruption.

  8. @Mr. Paul Farol let us all be optimistic. Why don’t we give a chance for parliamentary shift in our country? Our present constitution has a lot of loop holes and it allows rampant corruption. Well it is impossible to eradicate corruption as long as there are people who don’t make God the center of their lives. At least we can minimize corruption through a new form of government. Give chance for change unless you are an advocate of those Oligarchs that controls our country for decades now.

  9. government is not the solution – government is the problem.

    just look at the rice industry – is it better to have NFA do the importation using tax money?

    or to have farmers, farmer coops, agri-firms, retailers – produce/import/sell rice at prices they are willing to pay for and to have it available where and when they need it?

    the NFA bureaucrats do not risk their money – and will build their cuts into the importation fund.

    the private importers risk their own money and have to be prudent in using it or else they incur a loss. if they have crappy products, consumers will not buy it – and they incur a loss. the loss is borne by the business. likewise since the business was willing to take the risk, the reward also belongs to the business. if they sell fake products – they lose market share and go bankrupt.
    all these taking place without any government oversight or taxation for that matter.

  10. naniniwala ako na nakakadagdag ng tax ang federalism, sigurado tlga dahil sa mga dagdag na mga sub-government, mga opisyal at mga state-projects, pero yung “presidential better than parliamentary” puro kasinungalingan yan dahil wla sa systema ng gobyerno nakadipendende ang dami ng tax, dipende yan sa economy ng bansa. Natatakot lng si bongV na mabawasan ang makukupit nyang pera at yung mga pinakita ngang research o mga listahan, nagkataon lng yan at may mga presidential na mga bansa na mas mataas pa yung tax.

    sources:
    http://www.cigionline.org/articles/2008/03/parliamentary-government-trumps-presidential

    http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-opinion/parliamentary-government-trumps-presidential/article1220449.ece

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