Life without pork

2
Mabel P. Villarica-Mamba

Mabel P. Villarica-Mamba

Pork is not bad per se. Actually, any kind of food, whether it is red meat, sugary sweet, and cholesterol-rich, is not bad as long as it is taken in moderation. It becomes bad when it is taken excessively.

Pork barrel, otherwise known as Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), is also not bad. It is supposed to respond to the needs of everyone, especially those belonging to the marginalized sectors or living below the poverty line, wherever they may be, in the form of soft projects (such as medical assistance, scholarship, livelihood programs, etc.) or hard projects (such as roads, bridges, classrooms, etc.). With 24 Senators covering the entire country, and 289 Congressmen representing districts and party lists all over the Philippines, the PDAF should very much cover every nook and cranny of our archipelago and fill the gaps which may have missed the attention of the national and local governments.

Alas, recent news, investigations (both in the Senate and by media networks) and revelations show that more PDAF fall through the cracks rather than spent on actual projects. What is more appalling is that some of the PDAF spent on actual projects are grossly overpriced.

How can a whistle, flashlight, metal rod and baseball cap cost P10,000? How can a plastic fertilizer sprayer and some bottles of what are said to be ineffective fertilizers cost P20,000 to P30,000?


Any form of corruption, no matter the amount, is bad. What more if the PDAF is coursed through bogus NGOs to purchase overpriced equipment and distributed to ghost beneficiaries?

It is no wonder the people are fed up. Why am I not surprised the call to abolish the pork barrel has become stronger and louder, despite the good it has brought – well, at least to some areas by some conscientious legislators.

I am not interested to know if there are still people who will run without pork, because the primary role of a legislator is to legislate, and not to implement or identify projects, much less endorse NGOs. I am more interested to know what will happen if there is no pork.

Each senator is supposed to receive P200 million as PDAF annually or P4.8 billion for the entire Senate, and each congressman P70 million or P20.230 billion for all 289 congressmen. If we add the PDAF for the Senate and House, this will amount to P25.030 billion.

According to the 2010 Census of Population and Housing, the population of the Philippines stands at 92,097,978 with 20.2 million households (computed based on the average household size of 4.6 persons). Using basic arithmetic, if the 25.03 billion pesos PDAF is distributed instead to each of the 20.2 million families, each family will receive around 1.24 million pesos.

A single 9×7 square meter classroom using the specifications of Senator Franklin Drilon’s classroom program in partnership with the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry costs P325,000. A sturdy school desk, meanwhile, is in the P800 range. If there will be 40 school desks per classroom, the construction of the building plus school desks will be P357,000. Thus, P25.030 billion can actually put up 70,112 classrooms.

The concreting of a regular road is around P20 million and a concrete farm-to-market road is around P12 million. If P25.030 billion is divided equally between regular and farm-to-market roads, there will be 625.75 kilometers of concrete regular roads and 1,042 kilometers of concrete farm-to-market roads.

A basic desktop computer costs P30,000. With P25.030 billion, 834,333 desktop computers can be purchased for the use of elementary, secondary and even university or college students. The average price of a textbook in 2010 is P42 to P43.

Unfortunately, cheap books may also mean grammatical error ridden and poorly written books. Increasing the baseline cost to P70 can easily provide each public school student a complete set of textbooks plus uniform plus school supplies.

Of course, I must admit this is a simplistic way of dividing the entire pork barrel per family, per classroom, per kilometer of road, per computer, per textbook. However, these examples show many things can be done if only it was spent for what it was intended for. By the way, let us not forget the P200 million per senator and P70 million per congressman budget are annual
allocations.

Not to be unfair to our Senators and Congressmen, the budget of local government units must also be looked into more stringently. The Internal Revenue Allotment released to provinces, cities, municipalities and barangay for 2013 is 302.3 billion pesos, but a discussion thereof is best reserved for another day.

There is definitely life without pork. There is definitely hope for a better Philippines without corruption.

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2 Comments

  1. Ms. Mamba, I strongly disagree with your statement that “pork barrel….is also not bad”. I say pork or PDAF is not just bad but evil due to the following reasons: 1) It gives the incumbent senators and congressmen, no matter how corrupt or unqualified they are, unfair advantage over their rivals during elections as their pork buys them the loyalty of legions of poor people who benefited from their pork hand-outs. The abolition of pork and restricting campaign expenditures will somehow level the playing field during elections.

    2)There are other ways, instead of through pork, to channel social benefits to the people, especially to the poor, by budgeting funds directly for education, medicare, food stamps for the hungry, low-cost housing, flood control, additional LRT lines for Metro Manila, etc. Instead of the poor going to corrupt Tongressman for scholarships, why not just make Grade I to Grade 12 in public schools tuition-free? Why not get our medicare universal, meaning all hospitalizations and medications in public hospitals free to all Filipinos, like in other countries, so the poor don’t have to go to corrupt governor for medical assistance? There is no need for governors and mayors, members of Congress or the President doling pork money out themselves personally and make them look like noble kings handing out crumbs to peasants. There is no place for patronage politics in a transparent governance. There should be a Freedom of Information Law in place too so the people could track down how their tax money are spent.

    3) I say pork is evil and must be abolished because it encourages corruption. With pork allocations of P25 Billion for Congress and P1 Trillion a year for the President to spend on whatever “projects” they please and with very little selective auditing, there is just too much room for theft. The P10 Billion pork scam today is just the tip of the iceberg. Who knows how much pork money had been stolen by, as Tony Lopez of Manila Times puts it, the biggest criminal syndicate in our country – Congress, and by the Executive Branch during the past 10 years.

  2. Ms. Mamba, while it is interesting the way you portrayed how the pdaf funds could be spent in the context of constructive projects, I must dampen your misplaced hopes of revamping the pork funds of the legislative branch. Our Pinoy social values have been completely eroded by the Marcos-Aquino-Estrada-Arroyo-Aquino regimes to the extent that graft & corruption is now ingrained within our psyche. Long story short, the middle class can make the noise it wnats to make, but in the end, the ultra-rich and the squatter sectors of Phil society will dictate to maintain the status quo. Pork barrel funds will simply assume new innocent-sounding names in the future.