The ties that bind

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Giovanni Tapang, Ph.D.

Giovanni Tapang, Ph.D.

A lot of interest has been generated by a work done by my students Pamela Anne Pasion and Gabriel Dominik Sison on the networks that were made from the common pork barrel releases of legislators. These and similar NGO networks were made from information contained in the Commission on Audit (COA) Special Audits Office Report No. 2012-03 that detailed out how the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Various Infrastructure, including local projects (VILP) were used in government agencies for the years 2007 – 2009.

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The report was unusual in itself as it is a government-wide Performance Audit of the PDAF and the VILP of various implementing agencies. Usually what we see from the COA are reports centered on a particular government office and rarely do we see such audit at a nationwide and government-wide scale.

It is also notable that the data was posted online. Once we got a copy of the report which was in PDF, I asked Ms. Pasion to parse it using tools such as Python in order to extract the numerical as well as names from the report. We purposely did not look into specific NGOs or legislators in order not to influence our perception of the data.

The data is in several tables and annexes that listed the non-governmental organizations (NGO) to which funding was given by a legislator. We built two networks. The first one is a “co-sponsorship” network where one legislator is linked to another when they both allocated their PDAF to a single NGO. If they did this several times to different NGOs then the weight of the edges increase by one. The number of links that each legislator has is called the degree and is equal to the number of NGOs that they have sponsored.

The legislator network that we obtained has 186 nodes with 3,976 edges. We find that the network has an average degree of 21.38. This implies that, on the average, a legislator distributes his PDAF to the same NGO as 21.38 other congressmen. Certain legislators, based on the COA report, have high degrees. For example, Rep. Adam Relson Jala tops the list at 73 with Arrel Olano and Mariano Piamonte follow at 66 and 64 respectively. On the average, each legislator gives his PDAF to 1.4 NGOs. The network degree measures how many other legislators each of them co-sponsor with.

The degree of a node does not reflect the amount that they gave from their PDAF since for Rep. Jala, he allocated only P32.086 million for the period in review. This is just an average of P0.43 million per NGO while the top releases belong to Senators Ramon Revilla (at P503.89 million for eight NGOs), Jinggoy Estrada (P491.495 million for four NGOs) and Juan Ponce Enrile (P469.49 million for 11 NGOs). In the legislator network, they have degrees of 30, 24 and 49 respectively. To round up the top 5 in PDAF releases, Rep. Philip Pichay gave P180 million to two NGOs and Senator Angara gave P151 million to seven NGOs. Their degrees are 32 and 9 respectively.

We also ran an algorithm to determine the groups or communities that the legislator network has. This is done by looking at the links between each legislator and determining to whom each one is more strongly connected to following a certain algorithm. For the legislator network, we found at least six (6) clear communities. These communities are composed of legislators that tend to give to the same set of NGOs together.

We did the same thing for the NGO network. The NGO network shows an average degree of 7.68 which implies that 7.68 NGOs typically receive allocations from the same legislators. The NGO network has 69 nodes with 530 edges. We found at least five (5) groups of nodes or communities. Each groups are represented by a separate node color. As such, nodes with the same color are NGOs which are more likely to have receive funds from the same legislator.

In our figure, the thickness of the arrows represents the weight of how the NGOs are connected with each other. The stronger the weight of the arrows, the greater their connection is. Thicker arrows are funded together more often by more than one legislator. It can be seen that the nodes in blue and green groups have more weighted edges than the other groups especially in the SDPFFI NGO in the blue group and KKAMFI NGO in the green group.

These are just a sample of the things we can do with the network representation of the PDAF releases. We have not looked yet at different years or even touched other lump sum items in the budget such as the President’s Social Fund, the Special Purpose Funds and the non-budget items such as the Malampaya fund, Pagcor and the like.

We are looking deeper in to this web of connections and money flow. We also want to connect this on how Congress works, party lines and the interlocking directorships of the NGOs. These visualizations are but a tool to study society. The real challenge is in changing the whole situation.

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