It was no surprise to me that the Makabayan Bloc in Congress, namely Partylist Representatatives Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers, Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Luz Ilagan ang Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis, and Terry Ridon of Kabataan were the first to give up their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or Pork Barrel, as they call it. After all, there is much to be said about consistently taking a stand against corrupt practices in government, even and especially when one becomes part of that august hall that has become the seat of pork barrel scams.
I didn’t expect less from the Makabayan Bloc, in fact, even when I trust that they use any access to pork barrel funds on real and actual projects that are all above board.
You might say what you like about activism, but show me your version of it, and tell me if your Congress representatives are giving up P70M each in pork barrel funds.
And lest you think this is mere celebration of the partylist representatives that I’d trust with my life, it is important to throw two Senators into the mix. Senator Panfilo Lacson stopped using his P200M pesos in pork barrel funds when he discovered his chief-of-staff engaged in a project-overprice negotiation; he has not touched it since.
Senator Joker Arroyo didn’t touch his pork barrel as congressman for nine years. Neither has he touched his PDAF as a member of the Senate.
The fact, really, is this: if the seven Makabayan Representatives and the two Senators can do it, all of them in Congress and the Senate can give up their pork.
I get the rational of a gradual phase out as proposed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. But any member of the Senate or Congress who’s got no problem with losing their pork in 2016, shouldn’t have to wait that long. If you think you won’t need pork in 2016, then you don’t need it now. More importantly, if you believe that the pork barrel can be used in the way that these scams reveal, then you have much to gain by saying no to your pork, if only so it’s clear to the people that you are in office to serve, and not to enrich yourself while in office.
Imagine what that would do for the national psyche, too, when we find out who among our Senators and Representative in Congress are ready to take on the challenge of no money. That the kind of money PDAF allows might be flaunted and misallocated, and dictates upon the relationships to be had; that it now carries the weight of fake NGOs and ghost projects, is enough reason to let it go.
As it is, along with the seven Makabayan Reps and Senators Lacson and Arroyo, it is worth lauding that Senate President Frank Drilon, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, and Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Grace Poe, and Bam Aquino have been supportive of Senator Defensor-Santiago’s proposed gradual phase out. But too, there will be nothing more powerful than already giving it up, seeing as it’s been proven that one can be senator without pork.
And like Senator Chiz Escudero, I want a Senate Hearing. I do not care that it might be embarrassing to other Senators or Congress Reps, I don’t care if in the end what we will realize is that our politicos are protected by non-disclosure clauses on their assets, or on their office’s liquidation of expenses – or lack thereof. I want to know who is messing up here, and why. I want to know which of our politicians have everything to hide. I want to know which NGOs are exactly like fake partylists: being given money that it doesn’t need or deserve, that doesn’t trickle down at all.