Call it what you will whether Anti-Pork Barrel Rally or A Million People March to Luneta, that day will be remembered in history as the day when the middle class rose to be heard. A brother, a sister, former classmates, colleagues. They were all there to be counted among the 400,000 at the Luneta and the many thousand others in the other parts of the country and overseas. The message is clear: enough is enough! Tama na ang pambababoy sa pera ng taong-bayan! No ifs or buts. All pork must go! This is clearly the source of all corruption.
Moving it from the hands of legislators to the Executive through a new mechanism will not help any. We must kill the source of corruption and that is the pork barrel system. Otherwise, the corruption of the people’s money will continue. I heard Professor Prospero De Vera say over television that abolishing the pork barrel system should not be the first step. I beg to disagree. It is too late in the day for remedial steps. Our people have long suffered and a lot of money has been wasted which otherwise could have gone to basic services.
Like a person afflicted with cancer, the bad cells must be excised completely before it metastasizes and spreads to the good cells. And we’re not just talking about pork barrel of legislators here but also in the local level where governors and mayors lord over billions of pesos while spent unchecked.
I’m a taxpayer. And I demand to know where my taxes are going, damn it. I definitely don’t see it being used for projects to improve the people’s lives. My carpenter and handyman still cannot afford decent housing. His daughter has had to stop school to help augment the family income. I look at the PDAF of the newly-re-elected Congressman in the second district of La Union Eufranio Eriguel, Jr. and I see that in 2010 he drew 15M in PDAF, 68.5M in 2011, 71.5M in 2012 and 35M for the first half of 2013. And yet people of the second district don’t even have a potable water system to rely on. Farm – to – market roads are patid-patid or putol-putol because the barangay captain is not an ally. So when I heard Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda say that congressmen are necessary participants in the setting aside and use of countryside development funds, I cringed.
He explained that congressmen, being district representatives, are first to know what their localities need and are in the best position to relay their requirements to the national leadership. Yes they are supposed to. But politics always rears its ugly head and so if you want help, you’re not gonna get it if Mr. Congressman or Mr. Governor or Mr. Mayor does not like your face. Unless of course you promise to support him in the next elections. Patronage politics. That is what we have and that we must cut if we are to go forward.
So what next? The watch must now move to Congress where budget deliberations for 2014 will be soon begin. And while this indignation rally ended peacefully, the next time may not be so peaceful if government fails to heed the people’s call. President Noy, this is a great opportunity for you to make your mark separate from your parents. Leave a lasting legacy where people will remember you with fondness and not disdain.
Business is very much affected by corruption. In fact in surveys, it is the number 1 plaint. Here is the Joint Statement of the Philippine Business Groups on the abolition of the pork barrel system:
Echoing the call made in 2010, the people have again made their voices heard: ensure greater accountability and transparency in government.
We strongly believe that the Constitution is clear in declaring that public office is a public trust, and that funds entrusted to these elected representatives must be used with utmost prudence. Although the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) serves as a complement to national development efforts by giving due attention to local needs, the system has been corrupted by unscrupulous individuals, both inside and outside of government. Thus, there is a great and urgent necessity to institute reforms to better protect public funds.
In this light, we commend the Aquino administration for taking a bold stance towards greater accountability and transparency. The business community fully supports the abolition of the PDAF, as well as the subsequent establishment of the new mechanism proposed by P-Noy that will address the needs of various localities and sectors. It is our position that the measures to limit discretion and to open the entire process of allocating development assistance to public scrutiny will lead to a more judicious and transparent management of public funds. We also commend the leaders in Congress for helping initiate this reform. We, therefore, urge the respective members of both chambers to adopt the new measures into the 2014 General Appropriations Act and beyond.
Furthermore, we support the joint investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Commission on Audit. It is our hope that those found to have been involved in this scandal, whether private individuals or public figures, regardless of political affiliation, be prosecuted and convicted to the law’s fullest extent.
Taking into account the crucial role of the press in bringing this issue into the national spotlight, as well as facilitating public discourse and involvement, the PDAF controversy illustrates to us the power of information as a check on abuses in government. Thus, we renew our call for the swift passage of the Freedom of Information Bill. We believe that this piece of legislation, complemented by ongoing reforms in the management of public funds, will indeed institutionalize the highest standards of transparency and accountability that should bind current and succeeding administrations.
Moving forward, we call on the people to continue their vigilance in ensuring the integrity of the management and utilization of public resources. We fervently hope that with the quick resolution of this scandal, integrity and transparency will become the primary standard in our country.
God is Great!