President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino 3rd is bent on retaining his pork barrel even after his “bosses” has aired their demand for the abolition of all pork. Didn’t he say that he had to listen to the voice of the people since they were his real bosses? Oh well, those words were spoken by a true BS.
He said he would abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the euphemism for the pork of legislators, on the mistaken belief that the people were only against this congressional largesse. This bared his supreme confidence (hubris?) that he still commanded the complete trust of the people even if he continued to use the pork.
Well, the first mass protest under his watch should serve as a wake-up call. He should now be jolted into the cold reality of the opinion on the ground—if he’s really listening to his “bosses,” which he definitely isn’t. Why should he? Who’s president anyway? Okay, okay, the people are now convinced that the president is truly BS.
On the other hand, I was never convinced by the announcement of BS Aquino, with Senate President Franklin M. Drilon (FMD) and Speaker Sonny “Serbisyong Bayan” Belmonte (SB) by his side, that the PDAF is dead. That was a sight to behold—BS, SB and FMD (again, not for Foot and Mouth Disease) standing side by side to tell the people there would be no more PDAF. The top three officials of the country failed to stop the citizenry from going on with their protest against pork.
Sure, some legislators, including FMD, have been generally careful in the use of their pork. I believe, too, that some nongovernment organizations used as fund conduits for the PDAF are well-meaning and really wanted to provide social services to the people. However, it’s now apparent that our pork barrel system is shot full of holes and no amount of assuring words from BS, SB and FMD could bring back the people’s faith in it. It’s now time to cut it off completely.
And this is where BS Aquino falls short, made more maddening with his ceaseless claims of being a reformist president. At the outset of his presidency, I already predicted that the abolition of pork barrel, along with that of political dynasties, would not be in his reform agenda. Last Aug. 3, I wrote in this corner (Ban the pork? Dream on!) that the calls for the abolition of the pork barrel would not make any headway. I wrote in that column: “The hold of Malacanang on the House and the political survival of congressmen would be jeopardized if the pork barrel is abolished.” I’d be delighted to be proven wrong. A stronger, louder voice of the people could put my cynical prediction off-mark. Of course, this presupposes that the whispers of people close to BS Aquino would not turn him deaf to the shouts of his supposed “bosses.”
I also hope that this renewed, reinvigorated protest against the pork would also educate the people against expecting their congressmen to deliver projects to their constituencies. Previous surveys showed that a congressman stood little chance of getting reelected if he didn’t provide new school buildings or better roads and bridges for his district. This holds true even if that congressman had excelled in lawmaking.
I still remember the words of a dejected young congressman from Metro Manila after calling a meeting of barangay captains and councilors: “I thought I represented a very sophisticated constituency. When I told them of my bills and how I voted on certain issues, they seemed unimpressed. However, they clapped enthusiastically when I told them about my proposed infrastructure projects in the barangays.” I considered this congressman idealistic, one who believed he could help transform this country and make it achieve greater heights by concentrating on lawmaking. Sadly, he lost his bid for a third term to a city councilor who was often visiting his constituency and drinking with them.
I still believe that it’s easier for senators and party-list representatives than district congressmen to give up their pork because of this mindset of many voters. I hope the mass movement for the abolition of pork would finally convince our politicians to act against their own interest, and the people that the performance of their congressman in lawmaking is all that matters.