Opting out of the Million People March

Marlen V. Ronquillo

Marlen V. Ronquillo

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.



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  1. If for every 10 peso spent and 8 peso goes into the pocket of lawmakers, intermediaries and others……..don’t really know how long is the line of pockets, and that produce a few great student and improve their lives and road to market for poor farmers, etc: does that really mean we should continue with the pork barrel system, as it is now.

    The answer is obvious.

    We have well-known political leaders saying that it is not their business to find out if the NGO are bogus or not. And other politicians have equally wonderful excuses.

    WE have to ask ourselves honestly and answer honestly will the scrapping of pork barrel means corruption will be stopped. We have live long enough to know the answer. It is not the system that is corrupt it is the people who have corrupted it for their own personal benefits and throwing some crumbs in between to show their kind heart and so forth.

    The question is not, “now, what” and to ask of the marchers for answers. Blaming them or throwing cold water on the marchers does not solve problems.

    The questions to ask are two fold: one is what can be done to manage the “people” integrity aspects to minimize corrupted practice. And second is to analyse the systemic elements of the pork barrel to constrict leakages to a very narrow margin, that does who choose to go the crooked way will be caught easily enough.

    These two questions cannot be answered with more legislations, more rules and more regulations. I think we have enough rules and regulation to go up to the moon and back.

    Many Filipino admire Singapore as among the least corrupted country. What they don’t realize is that Singapore have probably less laws and legislation than Philippines. But as many say, the trouble is they try to implement and enforce their laws. The moral of the story is not how many legislative documents are pushed through Congress and the Senate to curb corruption. Actions speak louder than words.

    We must not expect immediate answers or short-cut answers and euphoric and popular answers. That is the greatest error in policy formulation and execution.

    People like yourself who have witnessed, seen, participated in the actual process or part of the process can make substantial contributions through consolidated white papers that provides critical information and that can substantially be incorporated into the overall study of making a pork barrel system very workable. All such information can be channeled into a depository that can be created by a presidential decree and sifted through and pick upon by dedicated working committees to create a solid buffer against people and system corrupted practice.

    The business group suggestion of passing into legislation the Freedom of Information, as though it is a panacea for stopping corruption is futile and foolish. A FOI can be instituted on an incremental basis, and the pork barrel information system that can be released on public information network, can be started immediately. Other FOI elements can followed and calibrated over a period of time.

    Thus, my challenge to you Marlen and to all contributors from the media, please come out of your comfort zone of merely writing, grumbling and so forth, and take positive actions, actions that makes sense, actions that can truly become a major milestone of stopping corruption practices of the pork barrel fund.

    This may be an unusual step out of the ordinary for media people, but the situation is not ordinary and it calls for an more than ordinary effort from the media. Why media, for the common men is much less knowledgeable than the media people who have many insight and inside information, for the media is supposed to the the third leg of democracy, is it not?

  2. The way I look at is, we voted these people into office because we believed that they can and will provide the services as well as the necessary laws that will enable our community, municipality, province, country to develop. That is why i do not see why I should thank the councilor, mayor, governor, congressman, senator or even the president for doing what they are suppose to be doing. They are spending our hard earned money in order to do their jobs. if they spend their own money, then yes I will say thank you. But if they are spending our money in order to do what they are suppose to be doing then i will just tell them good job. Nobody forced them to run for any government position. They did that of their own accord. They wanted the position. I am no do-gooder. I am not a member of any elitist club. I work hard for the money I earn. I sacrifice a lot, time away from my family, lack of sleep because a deadline needs to be met, sometimes not being able to eat because I am required to be at work. Which is why it makes me mad to learn that these so called honorable men and women of congress and the senate as well as the executive branch made stealing the taxes I pay legal through their legal machinations.

  3. Simon Ybarramendia on

    It’s not just the amount. Pork Barrel nurtures the pernicious culture of patronage and feudal relations between the leaders and the governed. It is an institutional bribe, a trading card that buys consensus and fortifies the stature of those who dispense it as the “hands of power and influence that feed the destitute.” It is a tool that establishes and perpetuates the hold of political dynastic families on their “bailiwicks.”

    Is local governance so weak, and the people too ignorant or powerless to articulate the things that they need? Do they need government agencies, legislators, and even a president to identify for, or tell them (or ram down their throats) what they need? Is there no bottom-up mechanism to find out what the communities (especially the poor ones) really need?

    The president might be both popular and trusted but this is not about him. This is about the workings of an institution. Presidents come and go and this is why this early, the president should not also hold pork in whatever form.

    The President should stop ennobling Pork Barrel by talking about “good intentions.” The road to perdition is paved with it. Intention without moral clarity is dead. There are diverse mechanisms on how to actualize good intentions. One way is to start the budget formulation right. Try doing it from the bottom-up, with the national agencies and consultants assisting the local people and stakeholders.

    The President even increased the allocation for the pork barrel. (How could he?!) But all is not lost if he will fortify Daang Matuwid mantra with a modicum of Paraang Matuwid. For if he does not, he might just wake up one morning and realize that there is no difference between his administration and the past administration.

  4. jaime del rosario on

    Sir, are you in favor of perpetuating patronage politics and graft? There are local government units which are the ones primarily responsible in delivering the needed
    government services. Legislators are supposed to formulate good laws.

  5. Congressmen and Senators are lawmakers not patronage-givers. We were at Luneta ‘coz we don’t want to be fence sitters on the abolition of congressional and presidential porks…

  6. Those who attend rally’s must not be chosen or limited to who we think are worthy of being there. For who are we to judge the intentions of others? Reminds me of what Pope Francis said “who am I to judge gays?’ In short Mr. Ronquillo, who are you to judge Mr. Corona? In the Good Book, Jesus said “those of you who have not sinned, cast the first stone.” I agree, Mr. Toto Jose, Corona was there because he was a victim of Pork being impeached for a reason which is not impeachable. My take is Mr. Corona went to the rally in good faith. I am just so sorry that hypocrites booed and heckled him and columnists, bloggers and opinion writers are trying to vilify him. His intention is good, if I may say.

  7. ex CJ CORONA was a victim of “PORK” that’s why he was there…at least he didnt steal from govt. coffers….