President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino’s fourth state-of-the-nation address is really big—big in excuses and big in promises. It will likely end in a big disappointment for us all, if we believe in everything that he says.
He enumerated some little blessings that we should all be thankful for. These “blessings” look big as long as we don’t compare them to our neighbors. And emboldened by his failure to curb poverty and corruption, he makes more promises for better things ahead. As for the things that he had failed to accomplished, he could only offer excuses, like blaming the “usual suspect,” the past administration
He had warned that heads would roll for those who wouldn’t follow his “tuwid na daan.” Mr. President, if you’re really on the ball, don’t just give warning, not after three years in office. Many will rejoice if you could order the prosecution and firing of those perceived to be close to Malacañang. Sic it to them like you’ve been doing to your enemies.
Some in the audience slept during the address that took 1 hour and 45 minutes. Lawmakers, however, applauded what BS Aquino said in his SONA. I’m sure they’re giving their biggest applause for what he didn’t say. Our legislators must be squealing in delight that the President didn’t mention at all the call for the abolition of their beloved pork barrel. Oh well, to paraphrase the unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service: Neither storms of protests nor snowing opposition nor gloom of the economy and a huge budget deficit can stop the legislators from the swift enjoyment of their pork.
I had predicted since the start of the Aquino administration that his “reform” program would not include the abolition of the pork barrel. Remove it and he’ll lose control of the House. Rep. Sonny Belmonte of Quezon City would not have been Speaker, regardless of his qualifications, had the pork been abolished. A neophyte, Rep. Sol Aragones of Laguna who won as candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance, said it all when she said that she voted for SB because she wanted to bring projects to her district. As if in an afterthought, she added that she also believed in the qualifications of SB.
Aside from their annual allocation of pork (P70 million each for congressmen and P200 million each for senators}, the lawmakers also get additional pork thru amendments in the proposed budget that Malacañang calls “insertions” or “congressional initiatives.” These “insertions” had enabled many of the more studious legislators to identify projects worth more than their “pork” quota. With barrel unstoppable, it’s best to implement some measures to make its use more transparent and their users, more accountable.
It might do well for our legislators and fiscal managers to look into the reforms introduced in the United States to curb abuses in earmarks, the more popular American term for “pork” thru congressional initiatives. Perhaps, they could come out with a Philippine version of an executive order issued by President Bush on Jan. 29, 2008. This EO required each federal agency to release all communications from members of Congress regarding any earmark. President Obama reiterated this fact, the next step in tracking earmarks is to enforce the requirement in President Bush’s January 29, 2008, Executive Order that each federal agency release all communications from members of Congress regarding any earmark for particular projects. President Obama reiterated this requirement in a memo he issued in November 2011.
With the implementation of Bush’s EO and Obama’s memo, each appropriations bill contained a section called “Congressionally directed spending” that contained the names of senators and congressmen requesting each project and its location, The FY 2010 projects appeared in the “Congressionally Directed Spending” section at the end of the bill, and contained the names of the members requesting each project and its location, and why the project is needed. If our congressmen and senators will follow these requirements, there would also be greater transparency in the use of pork and reduce abuses associated to it.
One thing sure though—don’t expect our Congress to follow the reform introduced by the 112th Congress (Jan. 3, 2011—Jan. 3, 2013) of the United States—a moratorium on earmarks.(There’s a move in the present 113th Congress to lift that moratorium.) If the Philippines’ 16th Congress would agree to a self-imposed moratorium on pork and congressional initiatives, just imagine the tens of billions that could be rechanneled to social services. However, that’s not at all possible under the present administration. Pork, like death and taxes, are unavoidable under the watch of BS Aquino.