The PDAF – equal opportunity for what?

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The Philippine Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a euphemism for pork barrel, is fondly called “The Great Equalizer” by our legislators. Why? Well, it’s because even the smallest congressional district gets as much PDAF as the biggest ones.

There are some districts in Quezon City where a single barangay has a population of about 200,000 like Barangay Commonwealth, Barangay Payatas and Barangay Batasan Hills. These districts will get “pork” of P70 million each, equal to that allotted to the smaller districts in Camiguin,

Basilan, Apayao, Eastern Samar, Sarangani and Batanes. See how great an equalizer PDAF is?

Let’s take Batanes which has a population of about 16,000 and where a vote of 2,500 is enough to get one elected congressman. With its small area (it ranks last in the country) and small population, Batanes has more than enough funds to pave all of its roads in just a few years, thanks to PDAF. Without it, this northernmost province won’t stand a chance of getting enough funds from the government. The same goes with the small districts in Camiguin, Basilan, Apayao, Eastern Samar and Sarangani.

With the infusion of funds for their development from pork barrel, they are now on the way to economic development. It isn’t called “development assistance” for nothing!

What? Most of these districts and provinces are still among the poorest in the country? Then what happened to the hundreds of millions of pesos received by their congressmen for their development? I thought they’re for development! Now, I’m getting confused.

Not so confused are the congressmen belonging to the Makabayan Bloc who followed the dictates of their conscience and gave up their PDAF. Well, they can’t possibly make noises against the “pork” and still enjoy it. Those who cast away their pork, all party-list representatives, are Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers, Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis and Terry Ridon of Kabataan. They followed the example set by former Senators Joker Arroyo and Ping Lacson who refused to touch their annual pork of P200 million each. (Lacson gave up his PDAF after catching his chief of staff negotiating for a project overprice.)

It’s very possible that more legislators will follow suit. Others who might have made some commitments could opt to reduce their pork. The most probable candidates are those who don’t represent any specific district like party-list representatives and senators. The rest will continue to squeal with delight for the continued enjoyment of their pork.

What I don’t consider possible is for our legislators to agree on a moratorium on pork funding. The senators and congressmen of the United States’ 112th Congress (January 3, 2011 to January 3, 2013) agreed not to do any earmarks to lessen the huge budget deficit. Oh yes, there’s a big difference between earmarks, or what we call congressional insertions, and our lawmakers’ identification of projects for their pork.

In the US, an approved earmark is invariably funded while in the Philippines, Malacañang has the discretion on the release of the needed funds for an identified project.

Talking about the United States, I’m still in awe from my observations in the second Major League Baseball game I’ve watched—the match between the New York Yankees and the San Diego Padres at the Petco Park in San Diego, California. I still can’t get over the fact that 43,504 people paid to see the game even if the Padres had virtually no chance at all of getting into the post-season. Well, the fans of the Padres went home happily for their team beat the slumping Yankees 6-3.

But more than the loyalty of the fans to their team, it’s the honor given by Petco and those in attendance to the military that’s made me more awe-struck, or should I say green with envy. A military officer made the ceremonial pitch. Honor guards from the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard carried the American flag. A daughter of a servicemen sang the Star Spangled Banner and servicemen occupied nine starting positions before yielding to the Padres. The audience gave them standing ovations. Laudatory videos of the military were shown in between innings. All these things show that Americans fully appreciate their soldiers. I presume that such demonstrations of affections have also made those in uniform prouder.

Oops, pardon my rambling digression. Going back to the pork issue, I advise the party-list congressmen to make sure that the PDAF they had foresworn is deducted not only from the total of the PDAF for the House but also from the entire budget of the House. Doing both will prevent their PDAF of P70 million each from being added to the PDAF of other congressmen or their getting realigned to other items of the House budget.

efrendanao2003@yahoo.com

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