While Filipinos have the constitutional right to hold a People’s Initiative (PI) to stop the pork barrel system, it is not the only option available to institute changes, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that there are existing avenues for reforms in the Legislative and Executive branches of government.
“We share a common ground with advocates of reform towards greater transparency and accountability in the use of public funds.
However, while we recognize that people’s initiative is a valid exercise of citizens’ democratic rights under the 1987 Constitution, we believe that it is not the only available option at this time and all other options need to be considered thoroughly as this will have far-reaching implications on our people,” he added
According to Coloma, by holding a PI, it will be assumed that the Legislative and the Executive “are unwilling to enact and implement laws that will prevent the misuse of public funds.”
“We believe there are sufficient avenues for legislative reform and that Congress is prepared to enact laws to institutionalize these reforms,” he said
“The administration is supportive of legislative reforms and is prepared to adopt on its own appropriate measures that will safeguard the integrity of public funds,” he added.
Former chief justice Reynato Puno, who is leading the PI campaign to scrap the pork barrel system, has warned of possible chaos if the initiative failed.
Asked if the Palace is amenable to the suggestion to scrap the pork barrel system through the Supreme Court, Coloma said that the decision “provides an opportunity for bringing greater clarity on the separation of powers provision in the Constitution.”
“Such clarity will strengthen the system of checks and balances and thus foster good governance,” he added.
Meanwhile, Democracy Watch Philippines, a social initiative of advisory and research consultancy group Stratbase Research Institute (SRI), joined forces with student groups and non-government organizations to push for institutional reforms and stop fund misuse.
Prof. Victor Andres Manhit, president of Stratbase and Lead Convenor of Democracy Watch, said his group’s participation in the recent De La Salle University’s Bantay PDAF Forum sought to deepen public discussion on political issues such as the use of pork barrel and mobilize support for good governance.
“Educating people in democracy contributes to democratic deepening and of a more attentive public,” Manhit said.
He cited the need for reforms to strengthen the political party systems and steer the country away from patronage politics, an example of which is the disbursement of discretionary funds or pork barrel to senators and congressmen for their own use.
Transparency and Accountability Network Executive Director Vince Lazatin said pork barrel is one of the 4Ps that characterize patronage politics, with the other three being power, perks and personalities.
Institute of Political and Electoral Reform (IPER) Executive Director Ramon Casiple also believes that patronage is the engine of the political rule and influence, with the pork barrel serving the oil of patronage.
He said the case of Napoles showed that elite-based traditional politics has come back with a vengeance.
Catherine S. Valente