• Did Abad’s new pork stop Aquino’s impeachment?

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    The quick death of three cases of impeachment against President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd in just one hearing, purportedly for lack of substance, was not much of a surprise.

    Aquino still holds by the neck the House of Representatives because of the still existing pork barrel system, wherein he completely controls massive amounts of money for allocation to selected projects in the districts of loyal congressmen.

    At best, these local projects (roads, livelihood, basketball courts, waiting sheds, what-have-you) have the potential of building congressmen’s political patronage. At worst, these politicos can take a percentage of the funds from these projects in connivance with local contractors.

    Aquino’s new pork-barrel system, which he masks with the virtuous-sounding title “Grassroots Participatory Budgeting” (GPB), certainly has proven to be a lifesaver for this president: it stopped dead in their tracks the impeachment complaints against him. (Pork-barrel is generally defined, as the Supreme Court itself noted, as “an appropriation of national government funds meant for localized projects and secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district.”)

    Amounting to only P70 million per year for each congressman in 2012, the 2014 and 2015 pork-barrel allocations have increased from P87 million to as high as P290 million, as shown in the accompanying table for a selected number of members of the House Committee on Justice that ruled on the impeachment case against Aquino.

    pork_barrel20140905

    Allocations for Eastern Samar, solely represented by Ben Evardone, who has become one of Aquino’s staunchest supporters, has been the biggest in 2014 and will be the highest next year.

    Justice Committee Chairman Niel Tupas will reap his rewards for serving as an Aquino attack dog, as the pork barrel for his 5th district in Iloilo has grown from P70 million in 2012 to P171 million in 2014.

    This is the result of a change in the pork barrel system in order to go around the Supreme Court ruling. Instead of designating an amount for each congressman, Aquino has, instead, allocated a certain amount – from P12.5 million to P15 million – for each municipality or city under a congressional district.

    Evardone’s Eastern Samar, it turned out, has 22 municipalities, all under just one district he represents, in contrast to the average 5 to 6 municipalities in a district a congressman represents.

    Make no mistake, though, that the scheme is egalitarian or is a poverty alleviation program. The allocation boils down to a “per district” scheme, and considerations of population and poverty incidence are irrelevant.

    One congressman, one vote

    After all, each congressman has one vote, no matter how big or small the number of his constituents. For instance, Abad’s fiefdom Batanes where his wife Henedina represents, with a tiny population of 17,000 will get a whopping P75 million in pork barrel next year, as much as provinces with more than 100,000 residents.

    Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on November 2013 that the pork barrel system practiced since President Corazon Aquino’s time is unconstitutional and should be scrapped for promoting political corruption, her son Benigno 3rd has defied the High Court ruling and carried on the tradition.

    Only, he has disguised it with a new name, “Grassroots Participatory Budgeting”  projects. His GPB has ingeniously gone around one of the features of the pork barrel that the Supreme Court had deemed unconstitutional, that is, congressmen designating projects after the budget law has already been passed.

    The projects listed as annex to the 2014 budget and the 2015 proposed appropriations law are mostly of the “pork barrel” type made infamous by Janet Napoles, the kind from which congressmen can easily skim money off, or extract kickbacks from their favorite district contractors: “livelihood projects,” “capacity-building seminars,” “wells,” “various agricultural projects.”

    Aquino and his budget secretary cleverly listed most, but not all, of the local projects they want undertaken in secret consultations with the budget department.  Many of the projects were actually not detailed, and were described in the list only as “various projects” or “to be determined.”

    Abad has also surreptitiously informed members of Congress that even based on the Supreme Court decisions on the pork barrel and the Disbursement Acceleration Plan (DAP), Aquino and Abad – through a blanket authority he can give to his budget secretary – can approve requests that the projects specified be changed.

    What he needn’t tell the congressmen is that those who didn’t cooperate with the administration would likely see the allocations for their districts unreleased for a host of technical reasons.  “Either support P-Noy, or gutom kayo [you starve],” Abad reportedly told a small group of congressmen, with his trademark smirk.

    With elections in 2016 not really too far away, congressmen are actually in a “last-two-minutes” mode to amass their campaign kitty for re-election and to show their constituents they can bring home the bacon.

    Soliman’s idea

    The idea for the new-style pork, I was told, came from, ironically, Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman.

    The DSWD early in 2012 started a project with an P8 million grant from the Australian  government, to undertake research on the feasibility of using  “bottom-up budgeting” (BUB) in the Philippines (later renamed as GPB).

    In such as system, imported from the business sector, citizens through town-hall meetings or through their organizations propose to government the projects their locality requires.   While effective in companies, such a process, though, would be extremely naïve in poor countries, where allocation of resources is so obvious – i.e., to provide jobs.

    Soliman and her NGO crowd got into the project with enthusiasm, and “bottom-up budgeting” became that crowd’s flavor of the month.  That’s really not surprising as this has been the kind of income Soliman had been getting before she joined government: Most of the P8 million cost of the project involved consultants’ and participants’ per diems, mostly for civil-society/NGO types.

    The reality, though, was BUB was very old hat, and it is mysterious why the Australian government financed the research project on it – it was one of the countries that tried it in the 1980s but junked it later. BUB was popular in the 1980s in the West, and had been used to a certain extent even by the US and OECD governments.

    It proved to be disastrous, though, even blamed for the fiscal deficits of many states in the late 1980s, and was junked by nearly all governments that have used it by 1992.

    When the Court ordered the pork-barrel scheme junked, these issues, of course, would be of no relevance at all to Aquino and Abad.

    It emerged as the perfect way to go around the Supreme Court ruling.   An added edge of the BUB or GPB would be that noisy NGO people — especially those who received huge consultants’ fees from the project — would be fooled that the BUB process in which they participated in one locality had been undertaken in all towns.

    They would be champions for BUB, naively believing that it was the masses, and not the local politicians, who determined the “poverty-reduction projects” in each district.

    Abad and Soliman agreed that it could be implemented on a limited scale, to be tested in municipalities with at least a 20 percent poverty incidence and with a mature civil-society presence, or else it would be mobs or the political kingpins that  would determine what projects government should fund.

    Abad in a press statement about BUB in mid-2013 explained that it would be implemented on an experimental basis in, at most, 300 municipalities.

    However, according to DBM documents, it has turned out that the 2014 BUB “poverty reduction projects” involved   covers 1,225 out of the country’s 1,634 municipalities and cities and involves P20.1 billion.  The 2015 GPB projects proposed by the Administration to Congress cover 1,590 municipalities and cities and nvolve P21 billion.

    If what Abad claims is true, that the national government budget starting this year is a grassroots participatory budgeting, the Aquino Administration will be the sole government in the world to undertake a successful bottom-up budgeting, and it will be lauded and studied in all public administration classes in the world.

    The reality, of course, is that only spin doctors would study it as a PR case study.  It won’t take too long for this GPB to be exposed, just like the ‘tuwid-na-daan’ rhetoric, as just another one of Aquino deceptions.

    tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
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    18 Comments

    1. the article is well written but it also has things hidden in between the lines for reasons only the writer knows. Although I am certain he also knows that not all those who received GPB for their district placed the money on things that did not benefit their people… There are congressmen who know where to put their share of pork barrel into good use.. Since the beginning of the anti-pork barrel issue, I had been saying to friends that the countryside is very, very much in need of development funds that has to trickle down from Imperial Manila in whatever name or form – i don’t really care, because without the much needed funds, school children will not be able to reach the classrooms because of the absence of foot bridges over rivers, moreover do not go to school until the kid is 9 or 10 years old because the nearest school is 5 kms. away, or pregnant mothers who are about to labor have to learn the traditional way of giving birth because the nearest clinic is many miles away. These are only few situations why the small but necessary pork barrel funding is wanting, if put into good use. For being in government and media for a considerable time, Mr. Tiglao knows these.

    2. “naively believing that it was the masses, and not the local politicians, who determined the ‘poverty-reduction projects’ in each district.” –

      Or, masterfully realizing that slicing the pie to smaller pieces with the “concerned citizens,” will further clip the wings of elective positions, giving mayors and all, more reasons to tow the line of the Palace. Worst, hand-pick from the masses who will happily oblige to any profitable suggestions.

      A competent Mayor or President can easily identify what his community (country) really needs and ensure such projects are judiciously and expediently implemented.

      Eh, competent ga sila?

    3. These corrupt congressmen should be put in prison together with Pnoy . Soliman and Abad they did not deserve to live outside prison cell while spending their loot. We, the Filipino voters should put an end on all of these corrupt congressmen, they should not be given a chance to hold any government positions for the coming elections , we should not forget corrupt men who pocketed our hard earned income taxes.

    4. Kahit ano gagawin makapagnakaw lang sila hay kawawa naman ang bayan natin sa tuwid na daan. Sana pag baba sa pwesto sa 2016 pakulong lahat ang mga yan. May kalalagian din kayo.

    5. When I saw the members of congress smiling with the thumbs up for Aquino, I wanted to puke! These are our country’s officials? I feel embarrassed, I feel betrayed by the people whom the majority voted last election. I don’t know what proof do our people need to make them fight for justice and reforms. I don’t know what would inspire the masses to take action against corruption. I don’t know what would make these members of congress pause for a moment and tell themselves, am I really doing this for my province or for myself? Don’t they have just a bit of dignity left? Every noble man and every respectable man or woman should rise up this coming elections and put a stop to this greed and hunger for power.

    6. We will not forget; we will not forgive until justice is serve. Remember the ” Nowhere man Pres. PeNoy, Rasputin aBAD, Pigheaded Drooling drilon, Pinocchio Tupas, and the rest of their gangs in LP[ Lapian ng mga Pandurugas]. Mga mapagkunwari. You bastardized public service here in the Phils.

    7. Maghintay na lang tayo ng tamang
      panahon at malapit ng matapos ang
      mga araw ng tiwaling pulitiko.
      Ngayong bistado na silang lahat.
      Salamat kay Mr. Tiglao sa kanyang
      pagbunyag sa mga katiwalian.

    8. Stop Pork Barrel in any name. Just automatic appropriation according to number of residents in every congressional district. Congressman will not pinpoint projects anymore but the local officials will decide where to use the fund Automatically allocated for them. No more Thief Executive, No more Financial Dictator, No more Congress Bribery is the only way for justice and fairness to come true in Congress.

    9. jose hernani m. parco on

      what a bunch of clowns of course as expected they do exactly as they’re told! then why do we have to spend the peoples money just so some despot can stay in power is so contrary to sense and reason. you take away their pork renamed “grassroots” blah blah blah and they won’t do anything, hell most of them don’t even bother to attend sessions anymore but still collect their unearned money that they don’t deserve. isn’t it “no work, no pay?” oh well what can i tell you…

    10. We call on all our patriotic citizens and our opposition congressmen to file a petition to the Supreme Court to remove the unspecified and undetailed lump sum in the proposed 2015 budget except for contingency funds for calamities and other disaster prevention programs. We are sure this lump sums are for Aquino’s bribes again for his lackeys in congress and for political patronage to ensure his Liberal Party candidates win in the 2016 election. Political patronage is a cancer in our society, a game being played by our greedy and astute politicians that is why wealth distribution in this country is very abnormal.

    11. Congratulations Ambassador Tiglao. Keep on exposing the dirty bones of corruptions under Aquino’s administration. I am sick and tired of this unabated corruptions in this administration. I feel nauseated to hear the daily sad news about our country. People living in far away barangays could hardly eat even a meal a day. Their siblings sometimes go to sleep with empty stomach except a glass of water to drink. The billions of pesos corrupted by the dishonest politicians would have been sufficient to put up several livelihood projects by cooperativising these projects in the countrysides. But there is no money left, it has been stolen. Son-of-a-bitch!

    12. Impeachment is a number game, rightly or most likely wrongly. The Thief Executive has a stronghold of the Lagaylative Branch.

      • Leodegardo Pruna on

        Good that we still have columnist who dissects issues for the masses to mull on and make decisions of their own. Continue the good work. God bless the Philippines.

    13. As I mentioned in one of my previous comments somewhere, it takes a rocket scientist (asleep) to know that the new pork stop Aquino’s impeachment. Nevertheless, I trust that the SC will come up with the appropriate legal interpretation once this question goes to court.

      Its quite obvious that the power of the purse which this sitting president insists on having, to keep some members of congress toe the line for him.

      But, as in the past events, “kung may baho, mangangamoy….at mangangamoy”. No wonder there are those who propose the abilition of the Philippine congress.