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
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.