The incoming president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday urged churches to stop asking for donations from politicians because it gives them reason to use jueteng money and their ‘pork barrel.’
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said the Catholic Church should show moral leadership by not asking and taking money from politicians to stop corruption.
“Church-based organizations and institutions must make it our mantra in relation to politicians “Walang hihingi!” Villegas said in a pastoral statement on the controversial “pork barrel” of lawmakers.
He added that when the people or the Church solicit funds or ask for help, “we tempt the public officials to get money from jueteng or the pork barrel in order to accommodate us.”
Villegas, who last month was elected the new CBCP president, said the people fuel corruption “by grabbing a piece of the pie” through solicitations. He said even ordinary citizens benefit from the discretionary funds of politicians when they ask for financial aid or other assistance.
The bishop pointed out that in theory, the pork barrel is pro-poor because “it attempts to make government projects available to the poor.”
“In reality, however, the pork barrel has been used by some elected representatives in Congress to prove to their constituents that they are concretely doing something for their welfare. It has served to strengthen the clutch of politicians to power,” he said.
“Let us make it our rule of life when we relate to politicians ‘Walang hihingi!’ Every time we ask our politicians for monetary help, we tempt them to dig into the pork barrel coffers or jueteng chests to accommodate our request,” Villegas said.
The bishop did not support calls to stop the pork barrel system but he said the practice of allotting huge money for lawmakers undermines the independence of Congress.
In law and practice, he said, the chief executive controls the release of the pork barrel to legislators.
“The consequence is the President can put pressure on legislators to toe his political line. The independence of Congress is compromised,” Villegas said.
“Public governance is stewardship but the pork barrel has made public governance a system of patronage. Stewardship liberates and uplifts. Patronage enslaves and insults.”
“The present system is very vulnerable to conflict of interest, parochialism and corruption in the selection of suppliers and the bidding of contracts,’ he said.