Pork Barrel: Granting of funds to legislators for their projects.
Bathtub: Place to store one’s share of pork barrel.
The stench from rotting pork is nauseating.
There is the P10 billion in ghost projects financed by the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of 5 senators and 23 Congressmen. This follows the P728 million fertilizer scam, the P195 million ZNAC bogus PDAFs of 3 Senators, the P20 million thrash deodorizers (send it to Congress!) of two Senators, and the P2.2 billion of 98 legislators to 244 bogus NGOs. And the beat goes on.
Like unfaithful partners, the lawmakers have fallen on the classic defense of deny, deny, deny. They claim (a) the attacks are “politically motivated” (b) their role is only to recommend, not to audit and (c) they are victims of fraud.
This is the PDAF process:
1. The Government lists in its Budget a “project menu” of eligible PDAFs. Legislators then designate the beneficiaries and specific Government agency where they want “their money” spent (P200 million per Senator, P70 million per Congressman).
2. The legislators’ recommendations are reviewed by the Senate and House leadership and finance committees and then endorsed to the Budget Dept. (DBM) for approval.
3. After review the DBM issues a Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) to the implementing agency e.g. DPWH.
4. The implementing agency bids out the project to suppliers.
5. Once awarded, the proposing legislator requests DBM for a Notice of Cash Allocation which is released to the implementing agency to pay the winning supplier.
The business model is complicated but not rocket science: It’s about making the calls and making the deposits. So let us debunk the myths:
1. Only Congress can cancel the PDAF- This claim by DBM Sec. Abad (whose office is at the heart of the controversy) is not altogether true. PDAF is a law but Malacanang sets its funding – like it could be zero.
2. Lawmakers propose, they do not dispose- Legislators are elemental to the process as are the DBM and the implementing agencies. For any scheme to succeed, the system must be wired all the way and this takes a certain skill. This explains why, rather than reinvent the wheel, legislators return to the same trough time and again. One action star Senator reportedly coursed his PDAF to a certain lady huckster 22 times, another 20 times, another (non-action star) 18 times until they reached P10 billion. Popular does not start to describe her.
Senate President Drilon, the CBCP and 99% of Filipinos are right, the PDAF should be abolished. Legislators are elected to legislate, not fund projects. The latter is the role of the Executive. Congressmen argue they alone know the needs of their districts. Senators -whose mandate is national- cannot even argue the same (more on this later).
Pork makes a mockery of the Constitutional provision for checks and balances. With pork, the Executive and the Legislative are co-dependents in a conspiracy (like the patient holding his dentist’s testicles: “We won’t hurt each other, will we?”).
Pork is the single largest perpetrator of family dynasties. In a study dated July 2012, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism concluded many Senators funneled their PDAFs to “local Governments usually led by their relatives as conduits and poured big pork to cities that are their political bailiwicks.” It cited 4 Senators, all members of the ruling coalition, who have either a spouse, son or brother-in-law as mayor, wife or brother as Congressman, or had massive property developments that benefited from road funding. Their idea of infrastructure, obviously, is building political moats.
Pork is financial lust waiting to happen. A Senator’s salary is P540,000 a year or P3.24 million over his 6 year term. His PDAF allocation? P1.2 billion per term, P2.4 billion for two terms, non-inflation adjusted. At the reported 30-50% cut, you do the math. No wonder Senators spend over P100 million to get elected.
The PDAF budget is better spent elsewhere. It is 65% of the Health budget; is 27 times the allocation to build schools for our kids; and is over 10% of our fiscal deficit which we pay taxes to cover.
The nation has called for an investigation of PDAF. Unfortunately politicians are not wont to eat their own, they prefer to laugh all the way to the bank. The Administration could end this legalized heist. Sadly, its response to the national outrage (and please do not talk about additional monitoring) is actually to increase the PDAF budget by 10% to P27 billion! Take that, Daan Matuwid. So every time another scandal erupts –and there will be more- we are reminded who wrote the multi-billion peso check that makes it all possible.
President Aquino, I suspect, is philosophically against pork but, like Lancelot’s sword, he perhaps feels powerless without it. Or is there something we do not get? Sir, if the governance is right, the politics will follow.
In the meantime, investigators should –like with CJ Corona- follow the money. If nothing else, we want to know whose bathtub our money ended up with.