Pork Barrel, the primary feature and, to many Filipino politicians, the whole point of Philippine politics is not dead yet. It remains alive, despite the crushing of its two biggest motherlodes, the so-called Prioritiy Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). The embryo for the new pork is already baked into the new 2015 national budget submitted by Malacanang to Congress for approval. And at 500 billion pesos it is bigger and meaner.
It will not go away, perhaps because prior rulings made by the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) on the matter were after-the-fact and on specific incarnations of pork — the “PDAF” and the “DAP”. Once you give a name or an acronym to a piece of dubious appropriation or accounting sleight-of-hand (in this instance, the PDAF and DAP respectively), it becomes subject to encapsulation — like the way a single symbol, like a crucifix, can be used to refer to a notion that takes millions of words over 2000 years to explain.
The trouble with the way Pork was encapsulated as “PDAF” and “DAP” and then ruled “unconstititional” simply means that mutant forms of pork that are immune to or exploit loopholes inherent to the specificity of the coverage of the SC’s DAP and PDAF rulings can evolve and proliferate again. The fact, that Ebola has a name, for example, means that it has become a defined target for vaccine development. When a vaccine is developed for Ebola, it will likely be called — what else — the Ebola Vaccine. But the Ebola pathogen can mutate into something else — something unnamed. And if the mutation awards the new pathogen with properties beyond the scope of that hypothetical “Ebola Vaccine”, it will successfully propagate and will likely be given a new name once scientists become aware of it and isolate it.
The 2015 budget, as columnist Neal Cruz points out in his piece Pork barrel in 2015 budget is fatally-infected with a new and unnamed strain of pork that will likely prosper — because the pork legal vaccine administered by the SC is PDAF- and DAP-specific. Granted it is the nature of transaction within a legal framework. Perhaps the groups that lodged the PDAF and DAP complaints (not to denigrate those heroic initiatives) had inadvertently framed the resulting SC rulings around the nature of their mechanisms rather than on the nature of their intent. Cruz states the obvious as to what this intent is…
[The President] can use [P500-billion lump-sum appropriation in the 2015 budget] to influence members of Congress, as had been done with the PDAF and its predecessors and with the DAP, as well as for electioneering, as had been done with the Fertilizer Fund, and for other purposes.
The SC rulings on those prior identified and named strains of pork are, in essence, not scalable enough, not resilient enough, not future-proof enough to inoculate Philippine society against mutant strains armed with the same intent. And Filipinos, again, are left with no legal basis to stop these outbreaks.
This illustrates where the next — and harder — battle needs to be fought to end pork barrel politics in the Philippines. This battle is around crushing the whole idiotic idea held among ordinary Filipinos that Philippine legislators are some sort of Santa Claus figures. They are not. Their job is to craft laws and refine on an on-going basis the country’s legal framework. In Australia, for example, the idea that one can ask money from a Member of Parliament is completely ridiculous. One can ask that certain types of legislation be pushed. But Australians do not ask money from their representatives in their legislature.
Contrast that with the mindset in the Philippines. Congressional and Senate seats are lost and won in the vote on the basis of how well or how inept a politician is at pandering to the renowned mendicancy of the Philippine electorate.
While the groups that lodged and successfully saw through complaints against the PDAF and DAP are commendable and deserve their place in history, we are, unfortunately already seeing the limits to combatting pork barrel politics via that angle. So long as the President (both the incumbent and future bozos who will reside in the Palace) and Congress (widely-described very aptly as the country’s biggest criminal syndicate) are in cahoots to keep all mutant strains of pork in this and future national budgets, Philippine politics will not change.
The key lies in changing the nature of the relationship between Philippine legislators and their constituents — from the current patron-to-mooch embarrassment to a more modern stakeholder representation model befitting a 21st Century democracy.
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