PNoy’s Pork Barrel Republic


It’s certainly no surprise that President Aquino and the Congress he controls won’t be listening to calls to investigate the alleged corruption of pork barrel funds.

What for? The damage had already been inflicted on Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and his protégé Gregorio Honasan as well as presidential or vice presidential timbers Ramon Revilla, Ferdinand Marcos, and Jinggoy Estrada with the purported exposés painting them as pork-barrel thieves. The message has been delivered by this regime: cooperate with us, or with media as a tool, we will bury you.

There is a deeper reason though why Mr. Aquino won’t fix what he thinks isn’t broke. Pork barrel funds make up his gigantic carrot for getting Congress to kowtow to his every wish, from the removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona to the enactment of the Reproductive Health bill.

Never have pork barrel funds been as huge as it is under Aquino, so much so that calling ours a “Pork Barrel Republic “ isn’t an exaggeration. In President Arroyo’s last three years in office, pork barrel funds averaged P7.8 billion annually. Under Aquino’s first three years, these have tripled to P24.8 billion.

Source: Department of Budget and Management (“National Expenditure Program” for indicated years)

Source: Department of Budget and Management (“National Expenditure Program” for indicated years)

Pork barrel funds and the consequent “pork barrel politics” aren’t unique in the Philippines. Based on the practice in the US and elsewhere in advanced democracies, “pork barrel” has been defined as the “spending intended to benefit constituents of a politician for their political support”. In the Philippine case, these are appropriations quite ironically—or is it sarcastically—called the “Priority Development Assistance Fund” which legislators direct the use of, with the Budget secretary though approving or withholding the actual releases.

The hypocrisy of this regime self-righteously claiming tuwid na daan politics is demonstrated by the drastic increase in the pork-barrel funds allocated to Congress, while government finances for crucial infrastructure such as flood-control systems and mass transport and for health have decreased.

Quite illustrative are the pork barrel funds of Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad, wife of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

Pork barrel funds under her predecessor and political rival, Dr. Carlo Oliver D. Diasnes, amounted to only P13 million in 2009 and P17 million in 2010. After the Abads assumed power in 2010 (he as the powerful Budget secretary and purportedly Aquino’s ideologue and she as Batanes’ lone House representative), her pork barrel funds released by her husband, more than doubled in 2011 to P46.4 million.

How much pork barrel was released to her district in 2012? A staggering P92.5 million. Mammoth, considering Batanes’ population of 16,000 souls, making it the least populated province in the country, smaller than many barangays in Metro Manila.

Abad’s P92.5 million pork barrel in 2012 is in fact the sixth largest among 289 members of the House of Representatives, even bigger than Speaker Feliciano’s P65 million for his Quezon City district having a population a hundred times more than Batanes. A noisy advocate of good governance in the academe, Congresswoman Abad was the dean of the Ateneo School of Government. A new course would probably be offered there after her stint in congress: Pork Barrel 101.

However, even with those huge funds for pork barrel politics, Abad won by the skin of her teeth—137 votes—in the May elections, indicating something deeply wrong in her representation of the island province.

Pork barrel funds averaged P22.5 million for each district representative in Arroyo’s last budget in 2010. Under Aquino, these nearly tripled to P62.6 million in 2011 and P72.1 million in 2012. Do you still wonder how Aquino can ask the House to do his every bidding?

Do you wonder why the politically moralistic Akbayan, which on the side is Aquino’s rent-a-demonstration gang, has been silent over the pork barrel controversy? It’s been one of the biggest recipients of the funds under Aquino.

From only P30 million in 2009, Akbayan’s pork barrel more than doubled, to P70 million in 2011, and P132 million in 2012. Even the communist front Bayan Muna’s pork barrel has similarly expanded from P29.7 million to P125 million last year.

It’s not only the Akbayan and Bayan Muna party list representatives who were beneficiaries of Aquino’s pork barrel republic. In 2010, pork barrel funds for each party-list representative averaged only P24.4 million. This more than tripled to P83.1 million in 2012. No wonder even these so-called principled, crusading congressmen have been like kittens licking at Aquino’s shoes.

pork barrel

Pork barrel explains why incumbent senators almost always (except for a rare exceptions) win, since they in effect have yearly huge allocations to spend to build up political support for reelection.

Excluding Senators Joker Arroyo and Panfilo Lacson who refuse to dip their hands in the pork barrel funds, the 21 senators in 2012 got an average allocation of P197 million each. This is nearly three times the P69.3 million average pork barrel under the last Arroyo budget in 2010.

The senators with the largest allocations in 2012 were Pia Cayetano (P277 million), her brother Alan Peter (P256 million), Antonio Trillanes (P253 million), Teofisto Guingona 3rd (P229 million), and Francis Pangilinan (P227 million). Haven’t they been the noisiest in supporting each and every one of Aquino’s moves in the Senate?

What do legislators and congressmen do with their pork barrel funds? While I hope some political science academic would really count each and every pork barrel use and classify them, my cursory reading of DBM documents shows the following usual allocations:

• Construction of “multi-purpose buildings” in barangays. These are actually covered basketball courts, which are used by the residents for their social events. It would cost from P1 million to P2.5 million. The allegations are that legislators get some commission from the contractor building these. What a cheap way to steal people’s money.

• Small-scale construction or repair of barangay and farm-to-market roads and bridges. Again there are the allegations that legislators have favored contractors for these.

• Payment of hospitalization costs of indigent patients and scholarships. One legislator even used his pork barrel for scholarships at the Ateneo de Manila. Trillanes has given nearly P3 million to the UP Political Science Department, the purpose of which is not indicated in the DBM’s documents.

• Construction or repair of school buildings and public markets, the latter infrastructure project appearing to be Senator Francis Escudero’s favorite.

Other than commissions from the contracts, the purpose of these expenditures is obviously to build-up political support, either with the recipients being determined by a legislators’ local leaders or with the goodwill built up by the infrastructure. Ubiquitous outside Manila are signs saying: “This project funded through the PDAF of so and so.”

It is not always projects for the poor though. Senator Edgardo Angara for instance gave P5 million to the Lopez-controlled Knowledge Channel, certainly an educational channel but one which also disseminates mostly the Aquino-Lopez political narratives. Can’t the Lopezes with their billions fund their own brain-washing channel? Does an elite clan still need a senator’s pork barrel? Only in the Philippines. and


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  1. Ok, true or not, this is what I have to say: We are all sinful. Almost all politicians from the lowest to the highest level are tainted, tarnished meaning, at one time or another, in smaller or higher degree participated in some way or another in some funds maneuver, having the power to do so, the funds on the palms of their hands.. We are all imperfect human beings. Only God knows best who we are, what we are or our leaders are. What I just want to suggest is that, if we have to criticize, criticize what we think is bad action, decision or intention of politicians or people regardless of what political color they represent, bad actions/decision/intention of persons whoever they are. Let’s just be fair. If we have to complain, or if there is something we disapprove about, ok do it, but if there is something we see is good, then we have to commend too or appreciate. Too much negativity make us furious, enraged or angry people so much so that we fight against each other, Filipinos destroying one another…I’m quite tired of all this. Shall we then clasp our hands together in prayer? Can we not once and for all pray for one another? If someone is gone astray, can we not try to bring him back to his senses and lead him to become regretful or more apologetic of his ways? Let’s make our petition to God and trust Him to do something. After all, He alone is the most powerful being to intercede with all these our worries/anxieties. Complaining and criticizing is not enough and nothing happens, unless we offer some solutions. Prayer is our solution..thank you.

  2. How can the Philippines get out of poverty if our own political leaders are the one’s looting it’s own people? Thanks for bringing out all these dirts out of the bag.

  3. I just read your article mentioning the “pork” of our Dear Kaydian (Dear Kababayan), the Hon. Henedina R. Abad, although this has been the talk of the town since some angry/jealous souls got hold of their copies from the internet.

    Abad is accused of having brought her way to Congress in the 2010 and May 13, 2013 Elections. These are unsubstantiated. Some detractors say her campaign teams paid as much P10,000.00 per vote in the last elections, thru the monicker ” financial assistance”. I do not believe.

    The Abads have been in the forefront of Batanes politics as early as 1959 when Butch’s father, Jorge, was elected to Congress. He was later appointed DPWH Secretary. Butch’s mother, the indefatigable Aurora, became a member of Congress and later as Governor. They were followed by Butch to Congress. Clearly they have endeared themselves to the Ivatans.

    One should come to Batanes to see for himself where Madam Dina’s gargantuan “pork” has been well spent. Almost all farm-to-market roads are paved. The national circumferential roads around the islands of Batan and Sabtang are almost completed. The municipal airports of Basco and Itbayat have been rehabilitated. Name it and every development project in mind is properly in place. Several projects designed to employ her denizens of supporters are in the project sites until now.

    The tourists, who continue to come are the best witnesses to what Batanes is now today.

    Who says, Rep. Henedina Abad is not spending her “pork” to where it is intended?

    • Nieves Godinez on

      You write that your beloved Congresswoman has spent the 92 million pesos pork barrel well in a barangay that only has 16,000 people. Why the preferential treatment by the DBM whose head is her husband for Batanes? Is this the only island that is in need of the farm and market roads? Why is the development of a small locality getting more development funds than bigger areas with equal potential for growth as Batanes? It is obviously the connection of your Congresswoman to the DBM head. Is this a democracy we are in? Is partisan politics the way to growth and development? Are we supposed to pardon this, when pork barrel funds are not thoroughly checked? Where is the logic of this preferential treatment ? Pork barrel funds are evil and should be abolished!

    • Joaquin, that point is favoritism. Sharing of resources must be equitable. What a heck for a 16,000 population. How much is aBad country contributing to our country? A-bad practice, a-Bad example….anyway, that is tuwid na daan.

  4. We are all beating a dead horse. This scandal smoked screened the scandals before these. After all is said done another scandal will crop up and will cover this one and so on and so forth until the end of these Governments term. Wake up people open your eyes. If you will demonstrate do it for all the shits before this too.

  5. We are all beating a dead horse. This scandal smoked screened the scandals before these. After all is said done another scandal will crop up and will cover this one and so on and so forth until the end of these Governments term. Wake up people open your eyes. If you will demonstrate do it for all the shits before this too.

  6. Dear Mr. Tiglao,

    I am very impressed with your columns, as you always find hard data
    to back up your assertions. What I am disheartened about though with the media practitioners covering this nauseating corruption scandal that seems to involve everyone in government is the lack of discussion on political reforms. Isn’t the media a vehicle in a democratic process of transforming a system of government, making it more responsive to the challenges facing us as a nation? We suspected all along this extent of corruption in government due to pork barrel allocations, so what is the big shock over this?

    The current government system is repugnant and rotten at its core. How could people tolerate a presidential system of government whereby the head, the president has enormous power on the legislature due to his control of public funds? Isn’t it clear the bi-cameral presidential system of government we inherited from the Americans has only deeply entrenched corruption in the system? Why aren’t we able to discuss a solution to this corruption scandal by instituting political reforms like a shift to parliamentary system of government where pork barrel politics may exist but is kept in check by the safeguards and protections against abuse of power inherent in the system? I am expecting intelligent columnists like you to at least give an airing to the agenda of political reforms that even ex-president Arroyo had advocated for the country. We all know corruption exists and it is impossible to arrest and put all these culprits in jail, except that I would really like to see Aquino be held accountable for these acts of abuse of power.

  7. Filipino Pensioner on

    An eye-opener. Opens the minds of the people? Maybe if they would know about this sophisticated way of “panggigisa sa sariling mantika.” People are fooled using people’s money to brainwash them.They have been denied this info and would continue to be denied. No wonder PNoy couldn’t strike Pork out from the General Appropriations Act that both Houses would approve. Addict na lahat sila sa pork, aatake ang withdrawal syndrome. At ano itong gradual reduction ni M Santiago? Kagaguhan. It is like allowing criminals to withdraw from committing crimes at their own sweet time and convenience! Allow drug pushers to gradually stop trading drugs within 3 years? Hindi magawa ng Executive ang paraan ng pag disburse ng pork ng mga senador at congressmen? Talagang inutil pala ang executive branch, sa tuwid man o baluktot na daan.

  8. Beautiful article I agree with you we are really a pork barrel republic. May magagawa ba tayo rito. Sabi nga weder weder lang yan. Tiis mga pilipino di ba ibinoto nyo si pinoy. we deserve this politicians.

  9. So far Mr. Tiglao has been consistent in his column that whenever he is presenting something controversial meron siyang ipapakita na graphs or figures for compari-son. At least hindi masabing tsismis o haka-haka lamang di gaya ng iba na sasakay lang sa issue at saka babanat.Go on Mr. Tiglao, you hold on to your principle of being a true journalist.Sa pag browse ko sa internet Manila Times and Manila Stand-ard Today lang ang nakita ko na may mga columnists who dare “where angels fear to tread” ika nga.Sa ngayon masabi natin na mayroong silent majority.Most of the silent majority were those who voted for these group of people with the hope that they can bring changes that we were hoping for- but turned out to be illusions.

  10. No wonder malacanang is not interested in FOI bill to become a law. With all the yellow press covering up the scandals and corruptions still Sir Tiglao was able to get this data for us to know where and how our taxes are squandered. Keep writng Sir and informed the public of all the malice that plague our country.

  11. it is not enough to say no to pork. they should also advocate the punishment of those involved in the scam. Punishment like tanggalan ng balat ng buhay, tapos, asinan at paarawan, in short gawin silang Pork Jerky. because that is what they really are, baboy na jerks pa!!!!!!!!

  12. As one ordinary citizen, Mr. Tiglao should realize the sincerity of this ‘regime’ to curb out all forms of corruption in the country. Mr. Tiglao has done his research on how much ‘pork barrel’ is alloted some lawmakers, even the President of the Republic of the Philippines – the figures are astonishing. But it’s not about how much one gets but it’s about Mr. Tiglao’s insinuation of the President’s motive and the ‘Congress he controls’ that made me believe that Mr. Tiglao is a critic with eyes close to the reality – being that the country is now at a threshold to a new era of progress never seen and experienced before by this country. There is a big problem that only recently came out to light about PDAF allocation but there is also a big step being done by the government to correct this problem. A journalist like Mr. Tiglao must be careful with what he writes that his objectivity to the fact is not clouded by his personal likes or dislikes. Praise those who the praise is due and criticize with objectivity keeping in mind the powerful influence that the media has in the minds of the ordinary citizen (RA).

    • Ronnie Gabalda on

      In my view, Mr. Tiglao is obviously a critic of this administration. If you have data or information that would negate that indicated by Mr. Tiglao, I and other readers, would very much like to see these for ourselves. But for our country to attain and sustain that “new era of progress” that you mentioned, concerned citizens should keep an eye on government (even beyond PNoy’s administration) and become it’s critic if need be. It is for this reason that i was disheartened when this administration failed to mark the Freedom of Information Act as urgent during last congress. I pray that this bill will become law soon so that you and I can see the facts for ourselves and make our own conclusions.

    • Emerson P. Agcaoili on

      I agree. very well said. However, this underscores the need to pass the FREEDOM OF INFORMATION BILL under the Aquino Administration

  13. May I invite Mr.Lacierda, Ms Valte, Senate President Drilon, Speaker Belmonte, Sec. Abad and Cong. Abad, Mr. Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna, Ms. Riza Hontiveros of Akbayan and all others mentioned in this column to say in public that the information provided by Mr. Tiglao in this column are all wrong and present the facts as they know them. If Mr. Tiglao has the courage to bring these information to the public, more is expected of the government.

    Thank you Mr. Tiglao!

  14. Herminio Bautista on

    no pork is released without the knowledge of the budget secretary…so, please do not expect a deep investigation of the PORK SCAM.

  15. If this is true what a shame to Noynoy. Mr. President please clarifies all the accusations made by this writer to ease our worries. As an OFW, we earn our living to feed our family by trickle of sweat and blood unlike most of the politicians (perhaps, including you Pnoy) they earn by means of their urine and saliva.

  16. Nestor Trinidad on

    As a popular pinoy saying goes “weather, weather lang” (Panapanahon lang yan)… Seriously, this is why politics has become so profitable – its like winning the lotto jackpot every year!!! Guess the only way to stop this pork mess is to start with the source: the Taxpayer – the taxpayers/corporations stop/refuse to pay their taxes until this mess is solved and/or abolished.. in short a taxpayer’s revolt!!

  17. Andres de Saya on

    On the first thought, I perceived Mr. Tiglao’s remarks to be biased owing to his connection to previous administrations. but reading on the facts presented, the article is indeed an eye opener for us who are just observing at the background…nice article sir.

  18. Voice from the Wilderness on

    All this brouhaha on pork barrel will just be like a smoke as the old testament prophet Ecclesiastes describes for it will only be visible while it lasts. This present inept Regime have effectively mastered the art of the lelenovela wherein the naive general public is addicted to and likewise wherein a certain controversial scene is addressed piecemeal with a caveat for suspense in the next scene depending on the reaction of the audience. As the story unfolds a new character is introduced and a new twist and issue is tackled like wagging the dog until the previous scene recedes in the consciousness of the naive public with their interest gone and forgotten. This telenovela syndrome has numbed the senses of the public on the major national issues that affect their lives with their capacity for a visible display of anger attenuated through entertainment. It is quite sad that the only visible group that is organized enough to stage public anger are the militant left leaning groups that unfortunately have their own selfish agenda. So all these noises about this issue are just like voices from the wilderness which the present inept president is trying to ignore through the expert manipulation of his trusted factotums.

  19. Jose A. Oliveros on

    With the amount of pork barrel given to the congresswoman-wife of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Batanes should be the most developed and progressive province in the entire Philippines today. But is it? Or was the money used for research on how to outlaw typhoons or prevent them from passing thru Batanes? Truly, “kung sino ang may hawak ng gatang, siya ang tatakal.”

  20. As always, a well written and well researched article. Hypocrisy is a daily exercise for these thick-faced Congressmen and Senators and for sure they will cover their eyes and ears to the realities mentioned in this narrative. Despite being one of the very few columnists who are not under the control of the yellow media, it is hoped that Mr. Tiglao will not be discouraged and continue to write about the abuse the Filipino people are faced daily by these immoral and money-hungry lawmakers.