“Why don’t we just abolish Congress?” Sen. Franklin Drilon blurted out the rhetorical question six days ago, tired of the criticism raining down on the Senate and the House of Representatives. He meant it to serve as a reality check, but people are starting to believe that it’s not such a bad idea.
The clamor is to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel for short. The legislators should listen to the outcry and act FAST! There is a corollary movement, which is to shut down Congress and save the money for its upkeep. The only way to head it off is to abolish pork barrel, and pray it will be enough to mollify an angry populace.
The idea is gaining traction. More people are embracing it day after day, and when the tipping point is reached, nobody can do anything about it, least of all the senators and congressmen. They are perceived as thieves, which is why the people are marching in the first place.
If you abolish Congress you do away with all manners of corruption, and with it the hated legislators, who have robbed us blind all these years.
Why not, indeed? The members of both the Senate and the House of Representatives are not intellectually or morally superior to the rest of us. There are no scientists among them, no captains of industry, no authors, educators, or doctors of note. There is a surfeit of lawyers, but most are third rate, fit only to chase ambulances.
Other countries have only one legislative body, and many people regard it as a necessary evil. The masochists that we are, we have not one but two: the Senate and the House of Representatives. We embraced the idea of a bicameral chamber from the United States, which copied it from Great Britain.
The British House of Lords, the US equivalent of the U.S. Senate, should have been dissolved when the House of Commons was instituted, but it was maintained and has continued to exist to this day to accommodate the nobility who sit in it for life.
It was a bad idea, and we’ve made it worse in practice.
Our system of government is one of checks and balances, or so we’re told. The legislature is supposed to check the excesses and balance the power of the executive, and vice versa. That looks fine on paper, but it doesn’t work out that way in real life.
In our case, the principle has given way to horse trading. The congressmen, who hold the power of the purse, would not pass the national budget unless they could include—insert is the word used—pork barrel allocations for each. Now the budget still has to go to the Senate, and the senators would not vote for it either unless they too could have their own pork barrel allocations.
Under the pork barrel system, senators get an annual allocation of P200 million each, while congressmen receive P70 million each. The amount is only the floor, not the ceiling, and most legislators naturally exceed it.
For one year alone, the total amount of pork barrel allocations is P27 billion, enough to buy 41 BRP Ramon Alcaraz, refurbished and equipped with ship-to-ship missiles, said Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio in a recent speech.
It is supposed to be used by the legislators for poverty alleviation, but PDAF goes to support the lavish lifestyle of congressmen and senators instead. It enables them to live in mansions here and abroad, drive around in flashy cars with a coterie of bodyguards in tow, and send their children to exclusive schools.
Meanwhile, the whole nation wallows in poverty.
The greed is of long standing. In 1972, Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and padlocked Congress. The people hated the legislators so much for their corruption that they didn’t object to the measure. The congressmen then were appallingly corrupt, but they paled in comparison with the thieves in both chambers now.
There is a difference between corruption and thievery. The pre-martial law senators and congressmen were merely corrupt. The legislators who rule over us now are thieves.