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Abolition of the Philippine Pork Barrel System

Image from inquirer.net

I could not but be affected by the top two news stories last week -- the massive flooding in Metro Manila and surrounding provinces and the Napoles-PDAF/pork barrel issue.  Even while physically in the province grieving over my father's passing I could also feel the indignation of citizens around the country and those who went to Luneta for the Million People March for the abolition of the pork barrel.

I am one of those who believe that the pork barrel should be abolished for three main reasons:

1.)  Congress (members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives) should focus on studying, making, amending, repealing, developing, correcting, and adjusting laws.  

Although Congress has plenary powers, the heart of that power is legislative in nature.  Implementing and giving actual services are organized under our government's Executive branch and the duty to interpret and apply laws are in the hands of the third branch of government, the Judiciary.  Members of Congress seem to want all powers vested on themselves.  They want to make laws, they want to implement projects (with devices like the pork barrel) and they want to tie their hands in investigations and other quasi-judicial exercises.

If Congress is forced to focus on its supposedly core competency and duty, that of legislation, then I doubt if there would still be a lot of dubious politicians who will still want to run for Legislative seats.  Perhaps we will find them running and killing instead for local chief executive positions that will give us a net result of having  "real" legislators in Congress.

2.)  The pork barrel system perpetuates patron-client relationships or the patronage system.

People should learn that they do not owe anything to anyone in Congress for services that they may receive.

People in Congress are not like the Patron Saints in towns all over our country that people pray, dance, gesticulate, or kneel to.  They are not demi-gods whom we have to hold processions for.

The second chamber of our Congress is a "House of Representatives".  It is NOT a "House of Lords" that can lord it over people in their districts.  It is not composed of royalty waiting for their subjects to kneel before them and beg for social, business, infrastructure and other services.

Hindi utang na loob ang kapalit ng kanilang mga serbisyo.  They were elected to serve and not to be served.  WE DID NOT FORCE THEM TO RUN FOR PUBLIC OFFICE.  They are to make sure that the voice and peculiar needs and circumstances of their local districts are heard in national affairs.

The Senate, on the other hand do not represent a single local district.  They should not be given discretionary funds to allot to people, organizations, projects and other beneficiaries of their choosing.  They are there to balance the municipal mindset of the members of the House of Representatives.

3.)  I believe that Congress' power of the purse is to be exercised by the entire body and not left to any individual's discretion and dispensation for his/her district.

Matters of the purse should be scrutinized, debated on, investigated and inspected as part of legislation like the General Appropriations Act and then be subject to controls such as audits.

It may be true that a person who has pure intentions can use those Millions and Billions of pesos for a lot of good but the question is how can we be sure whether even half of the members of both Houses of Congress can be trusted?  And even if there are, then how many of them are diligent enough to make sure that their staff have properly and judiciously researched and investigated candidate projects, beneficiaries and organizations?

Years ago I heard a fellow Asian who said that dictatorship is part of our paternalistic Asian culture so we just need to find a BENEVOLENT DICTATOR.  Power in the hands of this  benevolent dictator can be used efficiently and effectively for so much good.  But where can we find this benevolent dictator?  How do we give birth to him/her?  How do we nurture him/her in a fallen world where most people are not necessarily malevolent but definitely not benevolent?  The whole system of democracy's checks and balances is predicated on correcting or preventing this problem.

I believe that the pork barrel system that allows individual lawmakers discretionary funds for projects is like handing millions or billions to someone hoping that this individual is akin to my fellow Asian friend's belief in a Benevolent Dictator.

Sorry, this has been such a long post.  I just really hope and pray, for the benefit of our people, especially for the millions who are very poor, by the mercies of God and the leadership of our incumbent President, we could take another significant step in carving a just and humane society that will benefit everyone, including future generations.  Amen.

UPDATE Nov. 19, 2013:   The Supreme Court has unanimously voted to declare the PDAF and its earlier forms UNCONSTITUTIONAL.   Read Inquirer.net report:  PDAF, Malampaya Fund Use Unconstitutional

-- Related blog on follow-up comments here.


"In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul, and the one greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord.

O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

-- Psalm 10:2-3, 17-18 (ESV)


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