Dismantle, ban, condemn pork barrel


PUBLIC opinion against the pork barrel (generic term for the humongous amounts of taxpayers’ money made available to legislators and other government officials from unconscionable budget items) is at an all-time high after the depredations on the national moral fiber (presuming it still exists) that inevitably came with the dubious practice, an undemocratic acquisition of monetary power beyond checks and balances intended to control it.

We are now furious and rabidly trying to find the culprits in this unholy mess. Crying for blood is the last resort when the first should have been not to allow the acquisition of public funds for pork barrel purposes. While we sail on the seas of what we consider righteous anger, it is a bit of a delayed reaction and not quite so definitively righteous either. WE have known for some decades now that the pork barrel was present and on the ascendant in executive-legislative interaction. Quid pro quo was a way of life, of legislating, dealing with constituents, making a mark as a public official. We have allowed it to be established, it is not new but belongs to the past and the present.

For the record, three senators refused to use their pork barrel allotments in past legislatures. They knew something we suspected but neither the media nor civic organizations nor plain citizens took more than a cursory note or gave enough of a public adverse reaction to make it the issue it has become for the plunder that has resulted. One senator vainly tried to alert media and some NGO’s about how money was spent like water in the Senate – pork barrel allotments of breathtaking sums, unreasonable monetary gifts to each senator, lavish office and travel allowances. But it was taken as a political ploy in service to an individual.

To the credit of a few civic organizations and individuals, the issue was taken all the way to the Supreme Court who twice ruled the pork barrel to be legal

Even as the rumors now proven to be only too true that pork barrel funds were used by legislators as a source of illicit income by way of kickbacks, most of us practically cooperated by lining up for project funding, soliciting funds for our causes from this same pork barrel. We ignored the fact that in this way, legislators were not merely providing financing to please their constituents by being a funding source using taxpayers’ money for whatever they demanded i.e. scholarships, medical services, burial expenses, basketball tournaments aside from trivial infrastructure projects i.e. waiting sheds but money for themselves. In this way legislators were actually selecting the projects and their implementers, immorally taking unto themselves executive powers beyond their mandate. They were calling the shots and fixing the kickbacks that were built into the system. Rather, that they built into the system. Naturally, greed has no restraint when the opportunity to practice and profit by it is presented. The pork barrel was now institutionalized.

We all stood by in apathy as pork barrel fund sums escalated from Congress to Congress reaching P200M and counting per legislator. They were awash in cash and legislated on that basis. It was money politics – unequal, unfair, undemocratic. The basis was laid for executive-legislative interaction. Legislation proposed by the executive could be delivered virtually only on a cash basis.

The whole morally and democratically anomalous governance was the ultimate result. It could not have gone the other way. All reasonably informed and even casually observant among us knew and saw what was happening. Yet in effect we allowed it by keeping silent or making the occasional intermittent mild objection.

In truth, public opinion against the pork barrel was not there when it needed to be – at the introduction of the nefarious practice, the escalation of the funds allotted, the too intrusive legislative takeover of executive tasks which facilitated the kickbacks and indeed brought us to the precipice of fiscal irresponsibility and moral crisis.

We have seen the National Treasury raided to the extreme in a feeding frenzy, like wild animals at the kill, that spread everywhere from government officials to the smart opportunists among the public who pandered to their greed. The excesses were inevitable to the point of absurdity.

The pork barrel became the primary motivation for a run for public office. It became an incentive to join a favored class of rulers who used public office in order to profit and not much else. We saw elected public officials become rich on taxpayers’ money. The pork barrel was one of the easiest, quickest ways to wealth in this country whichever side of it one was involved in. Ironically, it brought on creativity, ingenuity, and indefatigability in the service of dishonesty. AS with those with a compulsion to get rich against every rule, there is no limit to how much they want. It just demands more and more rationalized as campaign funds for the next election, buying off voters and/or opponents, providing for their families to the nth generation, enjoying life at the top as oligarchs forevermore.

The lesson we have to learn is vigilance at all actions of a public nature, all financial transactions by public officials from public spending for infrastructure to management of funds for disaster relief, everything must be scrutinized and political and moral judgments made publicly and militantly. The lesson is that Democracy is a matter of checks and balances where the players are not just the Executive, Legislative and Judicial Departments but voters, constituents, citizens and their organizations, the general public that has and must ever protect its stake in this society day to day.

As for the pork barrel institution, it must be dismantled, banned and condemned.



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    30 years ago, the Philippines was well respected internationally. Let us face the facts.
    Filipino electorates are still immature. Why? What is needed in this country to
    win an election are the 3G’s (Guns, goons and gold). We use to elect people on the
    basis of sympathy, popularity and of course highest bidder or whoever can dole
    out something in return goes the vote. THIS IS THE MAIN REASON why today
    the Philippines is still lagging behind in Asia. Look at this president, he won the
    election because his mother just passed. In short, SYMPATHY VOTE. What happened? We have now a president that is incompetent, arrogant, corrupt and
    is acting like a gangster or a kanto boy. If he does not get what he wants whether
    it is against the law, he will come out challenging everybody who come against his
    way. I also cannot imagine this president who is supposed to be a statesman calling
    out his yellow gangsters to wear yellow ribbon as their sign of support to him. Is this
    not dividing the nation? This is just an example of how incompetent, arrogant and
    corrupt this president is.

  2. that is why we need the FOI bad! lahat ng ito malalaman natin dahil we all can have access to the information that these thieves do not want us to have. the more informed the people are, the more educated will the voting be. ang mga botante, kahit na pinag-uusapan basta walang pruweba, iboboto pa rin ang bulok na pulitiko. kung may black and white na proof, I don’t think he/she will simply ignore it.

  3. Ban for now. Lawmakers will find a way to bring it back or insert it in the national budget that no one will notice it or they’ll will change the name of it. Remember Jinggoy he manage to insert 200 million PDAF in the city of Manila and 100 million in Caloocan even it is already declared unscontitutional by SC. Like it or not filipinos are corrupt people about 90% of it from barangay level up to the doors of malacañang. Majority of the people sell their votes, WHOLESALE!!! Pls. don’t hate me, I’m just stating a fact.

    • You are an honest man for telling the truth. Pnoy could learn plenty from you.
      If the lawmakers insist on stealing our money by devising new means, let us do away with them by changing to a parliamentary system. A unicameral legislature will have less lawmakers and therefore, less potential thieves. We can also change governments that do not serve us. And there will be no president who thinks he is the king.

  4. Ms. Isabel Ongpin, I fully agree with what you denounced: Port Barrel has been institutionalized, not only by the politicians, public officials but also by the cognizant populace and the media, which must be DISMANTLED, BANNED AND CONDEMNED to its core!.
    Ms. Ongpin, Inot know how long you have been a career journalist but no matte, I also condemn not only as the most guilty (politicians, public officials and people) but the MEDIA for its tolerance, inaction and lack of patriotism. Pork barrel in different form and shape have been around for decades as a political tool to perpetuate in power and be filthy rich! Pork barrels were the source of front-line corruption which are publicly palpable and known to ALL. The MEDIA as the main source to disseminate news of corruption, modus operandi and knowledge of people involved did not act to investigate, expose and publicly uncover the nature of pork barrel. Was the MEDIA also a party to the wallowing wealth and fortune of public officials that MEDIA has to remain silent, uninvolved and tolerate. How, who and when can vigilance of public funds be dealt with to expose the underlying corruption a pork barrel system brought to for a good and transparent governance. True, politics is compromise and politicians exchanges favors towards one another, so that a President to be able to pass his agenda has to grease his way not via the old traditional way of exchanging favors (your vote for my pet bill and my approval of your project in my budget) but via simple exchange you appropriate “pork barrel” in budget and my approval of its release to you personally, as sponsor and allocator-implementor. This system has been known to the MEDIA and being silently demonized by all but there was no systematic and methodical investigation and expose the Media had done. Pork barrel is known as entrenched and untouchable due to sensitivity of the issue as you will just “stir a hornets nests” so they say, and the poltiicians and public officials will be all over you like hounding and hunting hyenas or beasts. Poverty in large segment of society is one reasons people tolerated and were silent and acquiesced to pork barrel cause indirectly they do get some random benefits out of it. Hence, people in needs tolerated pork barrel.
    I would be very glad if you can give the people the reasons WHY the media was nowhere until now to divulge or swarm the issue of pork barrel.!
    Jun Adan
    New York

  5. Alejo Rosete on

    You said it all. It has to stop.
    This Administration is enjoying it.

    The “people’s Initiative Law” banning pork barrel in any forms should be legislated by the people, since this government will not enact any law banning the pork barrel.

    The FOI bill should be certified as urgent by the President and passed into law to stop all these corruptions.