John McPhee’s profile of Bill Bradley’s final year with Princeton’s best-ever NCAA squad was titled A Sense of Where You Are. It was about Bradley’s amazing and many basketball gifts, including an extraordinary sense on where he should be on the court at game time.
You should know your place in the mahogany court and elsewhere to effectively function in a community or in an organization. That was the moral of the profile that even ordinary people—without Bradley’s physical and intellectual gifts—can learn and apply in real life .
I believe I know my place in life. And on Sunday, despite the flood of messages from so-called concerned citizens, I opted out of the so-called Million Man March against congressional pork. I can’t, for the life of me, inveigle against pork. For the simple reason that joining the March would smack of phoniness . And phoniness, in my list of a transgressions and sins, is worse than stealing money through pork. Though stealing public money through the corruption in the pork barrel system is abominable .
The truth—even if it were a sad one—is this. All the good things that government ever accomplished for my barrio , and the neighboring communities at that , came via the pork system. Pork constructed the cement roads. Pork built the irrigation canals and helped farmers maintain the irrigation ditches. Pork sent average to bright high school graduates from poor families go to college.
The infrastructure of meritocracy , at least from our impoverished lives , was erected by congressional pork. We don’t know if the lawmaker that facilitated the fund releases got kickback from the projects . We don’t know if the farm implements ( driers, tractors etc.) that we can borrow from the coops during crunch time got acquired by lawmakers with commissions from suppliers.
We have no idea on the level of shadiness and corruption that came with the construction or supply work. What we have is a proud roll of college graduates , now functioning effectively in the job mainstream as engineers, nurses and accounts which is increasing every year. Thanks , of course, to congressional pork.
Renato Corona joined the march . The other transgressors seeking public redemption from their ghastly behavior joined the march as well. Wait, wait . Those who sought pork from lawmakers from lawmakers were in the march and proud of their hypocrisy .
This is all true. Some of the institutions and individuals that figured in the march sought—and were granted— pork. The phoniness and hypocrisy is sickening .
Pork—discerning and non- judgmental people know this —is only facilitated then released based on a specific request. No request for assistance, no pork facilitation and released.
LGUs file 75 percent of the requests. Government institutions such as public hospitals and schools are the other frequent seekers of pork assistance. Private institutions also seek assistance from lawmakers. Their requests are mostly accompanied by proposals on how a lawmaker can navigate the audit and investigation powers of the agencies overseeing the pork barrel system to give donations/grants to them covers of legitimacy .
In short, these so-called reputable seekers of pork provide the lawmakers with the legal subterfuge or palusot to justify grants or donations to them.
The crusaders against pork have actually missed asking the most basic question that is tied up to the web of pork-related corruption. Who requested for pork? Any reckoning on the pork issue has to start with that question. And the lawmakers, having stripped of their pork, should dig deep in their files and name names, including the fakes that joined the Million Man March.
The lawmakers should name names to clear the air of sanctimony and hypocrisy that remains the dark underbelly of the pork rage.
Before he turned into a headless chicken in fear of the mob,. President Aquino summed up the reason why pork exists and on why—corruption aside—it has been serving public good. It is the lawmakers , the president said, who are most familiar with the story of want and poverty in their areas. It is they who can pinpoint the gaps to be filled and the void , in infrastructure and other development needs , that have to be addressed.
The scrapping of the pork would justly fit into the morality tale woven by the crusaders and do-gooders but other than satisfying the do-gooders fondest wet dreams, it would accomplish nothing. The government would cease to function in the barrios , where the face of poverty and underdevelopment is starkly manifested.
The do-gooders and anti-pork crusaders would enter their elitist clubs to rounds of applause for a job well done but the P25 billion for pork would just vanish into the vast budgetary bureaucracy with no way of checking its impact and effectiveness in changing and improving ordinary lives.
At the very least, there was also a system of checking in the pork system. It was all there for the public to see. And bidders on supplies and contracts acted as vigilantes to make sure there was minimal rigging. Now, what?
On the ”now, what” question, those in the so-called Million Man March should have to provide a plausible answer.