The recent Supreme Court declaration of the unconstitutionality of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, has put to rest the question of the legislature’s authority to have the fund under their control. Whereas, prior to its scandalous deposition, everyone in the legislative and the executive branches of government were justifying its existence and utilization, but later on after the “deafening” public outcry of the “suspected misuse” of PDAaF, everyone was singing a different tune, short of saying that they are now shouting to the high heavens of the ill effects of PDAF; a complete reversal of their previous position (that is how politics work in this country).
But beyond the declaration of PDAF’s unconstitutionality comes a more pressing problem that the political leadership will have to contend with. The President with the High Court ruling has lost its grip and control on budgetary allotment associated with PDAF. Bureaucratic interferences which previously were not a factor in facilitating emergency expediencies will now have to find a way to address the immediate need associated with presidential pork. In fact, other presidential prerogatives involving expenses will now have to pass through closer scrutiny prior to its disbursement.
The destruction caused by natural disasters, primarily typhoons that are essentially inherent in the tropical region like the Philippines, could be aggravated by such ruling unless an alternative measure of budgetary allotment could be sourced out because of such prohibitions, lest fatalities soar to significant proportions.
Although the court ruling on the abolition of the pork barrel is the best safeguard to protect the people’s interests from unscrupulous politicians, a far more reaching implication may involve hindered local economic development and the delivery of basic goods and services essentially needed by the people. Whereas before, we fully trust our elected leaders in the dispensation of their pork barrel, our immediate falling out could have been a result of misdemeanors’ caused by some politicians misspending and as such, scenario of government intervention to fuel economic development has now been affected by the ban on pork.
While the High Court’s ruling may be deemed classified as a people’s victory in its quest against corruption, the negative implications of such verdict could be more if not equal to the possibility of operational breakdown, once a calamity strikes the country again. Though we always pray and wish that catastrophes may not happen, almost always we see this as incessant part of our geographic position.
It is therefore incumbent upon the political leaderships of both houses to map out a strategy or program that will mitigate the impact of such kind of “nature’s fury.” But over and above this political “setback” comes the possibility of the economy becoming unstable, because of the President losing grip of some financial controls that previously were under the Chief Executive’s disposition. The current situation will test the mettle of our political governance, considering that the country is in the midst of major reconstruction and rehabilitation and yet, we will now confronted by numerous governmental bureaucratic processes prior to responding to the needs and the needy, brought about by the ruling.
The recent “double whammy” (earthquake and typhoon) that hit the Visayan region has again put doubts on the achievement of the growth forecast the authorities has predicted. Prior to the events, the possibility of a 7-percent growth rate in the gross domestic product (GDP) was just lurking around the corner. Twice we did experience this year a credit grade upgrading from reputable credit raters. Everyone was bullish that would-be investors have shown interest and would like to take advantage of investment opportunities in the country. Coupled with the goodwill established by the President in several of his state visits, comes the investment interests expressed by foreign investors who would like to take a second look on what is in store in our country.
But with the recent “armageddon” the country has gone through in the Eastern Visayan region that left millions of people practically empty; their properties swept away together with their loved ones, their region totally economically bankrupt; are we still confident of the growth forecast? The possibility of Typhoon Yolanda’s destruction could go as high P100 billion is always there; and this is close to 5 percent of our GDP. Not to mention the sustainable financial support that the government should do until such time when a semblance of normalcy is brought back to the region. Over and above the effect is the province-wide unemployment that was created by the disaster. But this can hopefully be addressed immediately by the government through their “cash for work program.” But still, sustainability is the problem that we have to contend with.
Hopefully, this could be offset by the growth incidences that are realized by other regions in the country. Also, we are pinning our hopes on the continued support by allied nations and investors who have continued to display their confidences’ and trusts’ in our economy and business environment.
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