When the Napoles scam exploded and the public angrily demanded the abolition of pork, you probably thought that reforms were finally on the way. You covered all the messy details which were revealed and fed to the public on a daily basis. You trailed the developments in the anti-pork movement which captured public attention and further stoked their rage and fanned their loud demands for action. You went to the Supreme Court hearings and noted the various nuances in the arguments for and against pork.
Confession after confession, shocking expose after expose, hearing after hearing—all these you duly noted and reported to the public, with the air of a knight searching for the holy grail of reform.
And when the Supreme Court delivered its stunning 14-0 decision declaring congressional pork unconstitutional, you were elated. Like you, most Filipinos were cheering and expecting more reforms to come.
And then, the 2014 budget was signed by the President on December 20, 2012. Along with the public, you realized that congressional pork was not totally deleted but merely realigned. You discovered that the lump sum appropriations which the press described as “presidential pork” were happily embedded in the 2014 budget to the tune of P282.5 billion.
You saw that after the rallies, marches, congressional hearings and the unanimous Supreme Court decision declaring congressional pork as unconstitutional—the 2014 budget still remains lumpy. After a year of intense campaigns, do we deserve all these bukols? Were all our exertions wasted?
To add insult to injury another bukol has surfaced—unconstitutional use of savings. You had to report that according to the Executive, the issue is now moot and academic because they have stopped the practice!
You are now wondering if there is hope after all. Can the budget be truly reformed?
Isn’t it time to give up the fight, move on and leave the corrupt to their dirty shennanigans? Perhaps, they will self-destruct?
Of course, the budget can be reformed! As they say, the impossible just takes a little longer. We are trying to change a system which goes all the way back to the American period, a good 113 years go. We can’t do it in one year. But we certainly made a good start with the Supreme Court decision on congressional pork.
First, more and more people are aware of the national budget and what it does and does not do for them. The jeepney driver, the lavandera, the vendor and the housewife know all about PDAF (rhymes with Badaf, according to Gary Granada), congressional pork and presidential pork. Now, they also know that there are such things as DAP, special purpose funds, and off-budget funds. They even know how to spell “Malampayaand they know what PAGCOR is.
However, we have to sustain public interest. Right now, they are titillated and diverted by Vhong, Cedric and Deniece.
I have stated right from the beginning that only media and the organized citizenry—civil society, educational institutions, and civic and faith-based organizations can put a stop to banditry and thievery in public finance. The Executive and the Legislature obviously benefit from these abuses. Quid pro quo. The Judiciary can only come in if we petition them.
We citizens have every reason to take action. After all, it is our money. We are paying for this huge P2.264 trillion national expenditure program. It is in our interest to make sure that the taxes we pay go back to us in the form of services.
Secondly, what is involved here are not just the budget laws, circulars, memoranda and other issuances. What is involved is nothing less than the Constitution itself which clearly delineates the functions of the three branches of government.
The President and all officials are sworn to protect the Constitution, and not violate it. If no less than the government ignores the Constitution, we will be creating anarchy and encouraging widespread looting.
Thirdly, even beyond the Constitution, these are primarily issues that strike at the very heart of our society’s morals and value system. We pontificate and posture righteousness in our families, schools, churches and civic institutions. We know what is going on. We cannot stand by and just watch.
Yes, you are disillusioned. You are tired. Many of us are. The sensible thing to do is give up. But we need to go on and complete what we have started. If we stop now, we will have to start all over again.
If it will help, let me close with a few lines translated from the poems of the immortal Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.
“A slow death comes for those who don’t revolt when they’re unhappy
in their work or in love,
Who don’t risk the certain for the uncertain in order to follow a dream,
Who don’t allow themselves, at least once in their life,
to disregard sensible advice.”
And to those who continue to manipulate, prevaricate , and facilitate daylight robbery, let us, like Pablo Neruda, tell them:
“You can pick all the flowers but you can’t stop the spring!”