If we declared a six-year moratorium the entire term of senators on pork barrel distribution, we would be able to buy all the ships and planes and armament to defend the country from foreign aggressors.
Or we could close the gap between the requirement for, and our ability to build classrooms, hire teachers, and purchase books and other learning materials for our children.
That may be too much to ask, with senators and congressmen so self-absorbed they just don’t care about the welfare of the country or its people.
One senator alone, the newly resigned Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, received P1.189 billion, the biggest single amount given a senator, over a four-year period: 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
The second and third largest Senate recipients of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) are Edgardo Angara and Jinggoy Estrada, who got P889.9 million and P680.6 million, respectively.
It’s called PDAF by its recipients. But you can’t come up with a more inappropriate term. It is this practice that sets back the country’s development. So maybe we should start calling it pork, its old name, but then the senators and the congressmen would probably object.
If regularly ingested, pork is bad for one’s health, spiritually, that is. But these legislators are spiritually dead anyway, so it doesn’t matter how much pork we throw them. They just can’t get enough of it.
Congressmen have their own PDAF allocations: P70 million each. It seems penny-ante, until you remember there are 287 members of the House of Representatives.
Each senator is entitled to P200 million a year, but, as the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) report shows, the amount can, and does, go much higher, depending on the pleasure of the sitting president.
As the reasoning goes, the senators have the whole country to take care of. But do they really use their PDAF allocations for development?
There are 24 senators, and every year they follow up and demand release of the funds for this or that project, but people would be hard put naming one project that has touched their lives: bridge, road, irrigation system, schoolhouse.
If the pork barrel were really intended and used for development, the senators should get equally the same amount. After all, each one has the entire country for his constituency. But that is being too naïve.
PDAF is a political tool dangled as a carrot. And with it, the sitting president does not need a stick, given the propensity of senators for the good life: flashy cars, frequent travels, and, yes, a condominium unit in New York.
To justify his share, Mr. Enrile would probably say he was Senate president and, as such, he had a larger staff, after all. That may be so, but a difference of about P300 million compared to the next largest pork?
It is observed that Mr. Enrile’s pork in one year alone, specifically in 2009, amounted to P727,7 million. Curiously enough, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was still in office that year. As everyone knows, Enrile was the former president’s close ally. He became president of the Senate during her term.
Another GMA ally, Ramon Revilla Jr., received P566 million.
After President Benigno Aquino 3rd assumed office, Mr. Enrile’s pork started going down year after year. That is not to say that Mr. Aquino, who filed one case after another against GMA, is also going after the then Senate President.
No, certainly not. Mr. Aquino may have just adopted a more equitable distribution of, well, the loot. Or to put it another way, he is an equal opportunity corruptor, if we subscribe to the proposition that pork is the biggest source of corruption in the government. And it is, as all reasonable people will tell you.
Loren Legarda got P593 million; Alan Peter Cayetano, P575.5 million; Antonio Trillanes, P462.5 million; Francis Escudero, P458. 9 million; and Aquilino Pimentel III, P444.5 million.
It might interest you to know that these Aquino allies received the biggest portion of their pork in the run-up to the May 13 elections, which should give you an idea of the way the current president handles the allotment.
Oh, yeah, that feisty old lady, Miriam Defensor Santiago, is not too far behind, with P545 million disbursed in her name. On the other hand, Lito Lapid received P501 million; Vicente Sotto III, P450 million; Teofisto Guingona III, P376.9 million; Ferdinand Marcos, P370 million, Ralph Recto, P350 million; and Sergio Osmena, P302.5 million.
The other senators got more or less the same amount, give or take a few millions.
Franklin Drillon? His PDAF was much lower than many other senators’, but things are looking up now. He is the putative Senate president, and after the investiture, he’ll start getting what is his due, although the P289.5 million previously disbursed in his name is not something to be sneezed at either.