Thank God for the justices of the Supreme Court. By deciding—unanimously—last Tuesday to declare the pork barrel unconstitutional and illegal they have given our democracy and our Republic a vital transfusion of hope and strength.
Despite the remarkable growth of our country’s Gross National Product (GNP) during the 21 years of the Ramos, Estrada, Macapagal-Arroyo and the still-ongoing Aquino presidency, some 40 percent of us Filipinos are still dirt poor or so poor that they experience involuntary hunger often enough and have no decent homes.
Another 20 percent of the people are statistically not poor. But they and their children are also in dire need of most of the essentials for human dignity—adequate food, clothing, shelter, education and opportunities for personal development. Most of them jobless, they are pitifully bereft of medicine and medical care when they get ill.
Therefore, some 60 percent, maybe more than that, of our people are condemned to unrelieved poverty, lack of basic education and poor health.
The root cause of their poverty is our socio-economic system and our society’s culture of patronage that allows and abets government corruption. Corruption makes most top government officials as well as government functionaries thieves and misusers of public funds that should finance projects and programs to improve the lives and prospects of the poor 60 percent.
Killing the culture of patronage
Corruption is a plague that cannot be contained until the election and placement of government officials, employees and lawmakers—in the national and local levels—cease to be subject to the feudal culture of patronage. Most officials and lawmakers are from rich and elite families—including those who acquired and multiplied their wealth and power through illegal gambling, mining, logging and drug-dealing. They control all the sources of wealth and power.
Congressmen and senators corruptly surrender the powers they have under the Constitution to the President, whose Budget secretary, can release hundreds of millions in pork barrel funds to each of them. Even the few foes of the President who get seats in either house of Congress eventually become allies and doers of the President’s and his men’s bidding, instead of being the fiscalizers and checkers of abuses and corruption in the executive branch of government.
The pork barrel system, which gives billions to congressmen and senators, has been exposed recently to be truly a major reason why Philippine governance is so corrupt. The Napoles scam—without a doubt a conspiracy of people in the presidential Palace, the congressmen and senators, and scores of government functionaries—has shown how the conspirators have deliberately taken away milk and medicine from the mouth of babies and the poor and sick. Undeterred by any qualm of conscience, they cravenly created, on paper, non-existent associations of poor Filipino families, of peasants, fishermen and indigents supposedly crying for support and humanitarian aid. To these ghosts pork barrel funds in the hundreds of millions were released unjustly, dishonestly, immorally.
The justices of the Supreme Court see the evil of the pork barrel system as a major reason of our country’s corruption. They have struck down the Priority Development Assistance Fund. They have ruled that any law or sub-law to carry out the allocation and release of PDAF money is illegal. The death of the pork barrel system could be the first major step to kill the culture of patronage.
Highest commendation and deepest gratitude
The High Court justices have proven themselves in this unanimous decision to be men and women of august moral standards.
The Supremes deserve the highest commendation and the deepest gratitude of the people. They have given us Filipinos hope that one of the three co-equal branches of government can still be trusted to help the nation and our Republic tread the Matuwid na Daan (The Straight Path). President Aquino championed this Path of Righteousness in his speeches but has betrayed it in deeds as in the PDAF and his own pork barrel and through inaction against corrupt officials.