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A number of people have been asking me, why is Bayan Muna (and other party list groups under the Makabayan Coalition) calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system when we ourselves previously accessed the Priority Development Assistance Fund (a.k.a. congressional pork)? A meme is even being circulated in social media showing the amount of PDAF we had allocated to fund various projects. They ask, isn’t this hypocrisy on our part?

A related question is how did we use our PDAF? Did we not steal it like the others? Did we not use it to illegaly fund rallies and demonstrations or buy arms for the New People’s Army?

These are old questions that have been repeatedly answered by me and other party list reprentatives from our bloc. But let me clarify the issues once more.

How we handled the PDAF

It is no secret that from 2001-2004 and again in 2010-2013, Bayan Muna used the PDAF to fund projects in various parts of the country. We did this in the belief that by properly spending said funds, we could provide much needed services to our constituents – the poor and marginalized – who most need them. From 2010-2013, my PDAF allocations reached P145.35 million. Thirty one percent went to social services, 21% to education, 29% to multipurpose buildings, 6% to water systems, 5% to livelihood support and 4% to roads (click here for details).

Using the PDAF properly was not an easy task. We learned early in our first term just how dirty the whole pork barrel system was. It was a constant struggle to ensure that public funds would not be hijacked by corrupt officials from the national agencies down to the baranggay. We had to be ever vigilant of kickbacks, rigged biddings, SOPs, overpricing, substandard materials and implementation, unnecessary expenses, ghost deliveries and a host of schemes that are common in government projects. We followed all procedures and COA rules to the letter. We tapped communities and people’s organizations to be our eyes and ears on the ground, reporting any perceived irregularity in project implementation. The party leadership was constantly looking over my shoulder, making sure that I was not being eaten by the system.

As a result of such efforts, to this day none of our projects have been tainted with graft or corruption. In fact, none of our representatives have enriched themselves or have been linked to any anomaly. We have managed to stay clear from the Napoles type characters and criminal syndicates that abound in almost all government agencies. It was not an easy feat and many lessons – from project identification to post-implementation follow-ups – had to be learned and relearned.

In relation to this, there is no iota of evidence to support the crazy accusation that we used the PDAF to fund rallies, demonstrations or to buy arms for rebels. Some point to classrooms and irrigation systems in alleged rebel-infested hinterlands funded by our PDAF allocations, as if it were a crime to give people in those places much deserved government services.

Resisting the carrot and stick

A challenge we faced was the President’s use of the pork barrel as a carrot and stick to get what she wanted from Congress. It is customary in Congress that major administration measures are put to a vote in plenary in time for the release of Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO) and Notice of Cash Allocations (NCA). In this way congressmen are reminded where their bread is buttered. The possibility of one’s SARO or NCA being delayed or disapproved is often the clincher for them to vote on a particular measure.

We in the Makabayan bloc simply refused to play this game. We did our legislative duties without regard to its impact on our PDAF. For five years, from 2005-2010, Pres. Arroyo did not release our PDAF allocations because we dared to impeach her and oppose her corrupt rule. But because we did not salivate for the pork barrel, we were never vulnerable to such pressure.

Still, pork barrel is bad

Sure as we are about the proper use of our PDAF, we know that in the hands of traditional politicians, it is a recipe for plunder. Worse are the equally vague, discretionary lump sum allocations under the Executive (a.k.a. presidential pork) which dwarfs the PDAF. Such funds are practically designed for plunder and the perpetuation of a culture of patronage that defines our political system.

Thus since 2001, our progressive party list representatives have always pushed for the abolition or reduction of the PDAF, or earmarking it to be used only for schools or hospitals. As for other pork barrel allocations, we have advocated for line item budgeting. Sad to say, all these fell on deaf ears. We were voices in the wilderness of Congress. Whatever public pressure there was before could not move Malacañang or Congress to do the right thing.

Thus it was with great enthusiasm that our representatives in the 16th Congress renewed the fight in the House for the abolition of the pork barrel system in the wake of the public outrage brought about by the exposé on the P10 billion pork barrel scam.

Why abolition? Why now?

The P10 billion Napoles scam plus the damning 2007-2009 COA report on the PDAF has made everyone realize the depth of the problem. It is now clear that the proper, well-intentioned use of the pork barrel by a few can never compensate for the plunder of the many.

More importantly, it has ignited widespread public outrage, the kind feared by those in power who benefit from the pork barrel system. Such outrage has reached a critical mass so that the abolition of the pork barrel has become a realistic, tactical demand.

At this point, the abolition of the pork barrel system, to include both congressional and presidential pork, is the only recourse. Proponents have to take the moral high ground by showing the example of not accessing the pork barrel anymore. I commend the seven members of the Makabayan bloc for filing a bill for the abolition of the pork barrel system and, more importantly, for deciding to indefinitely forego their PDAF allocations. For their constituents this is a bitter pill to swallow but a necessary sacrifice in the struggle for reform.#

25 thoughts on “Proper use by a few can’t compensate for plunder of the many (Or why, despite using it in the past, we want the pork barrel abolished)

  1. Pare hav viewed your bio yesterday. Nice journey there! And was your “Yes’ vote for RHB was your’s or that of Bayan Muna which you could probably have refused given your orientation in the Catholic Church on top that you have a brother-priest.

  2. Using the PDAF properly was not an easy task. We learned early in our first term just how dirty the whole pork barrel system was. It was a constant struggle to ensure that public funds would not be hijacked by corrupt officials from the national agencies down to the baranggay. —– How I wish Sir that you were one of the whistle blower to this kind of corruption? Matagal na pala.. I think you are not that courageous to be an example. Kanya you are then part of the rotting system. This my friend is our struggle why we fight our democracy on the streets.

  3. May the things happening now will not just reawaken us a nation but more importantly be active participants towards authentic change. May we act accordingly to the sensibilities of our humanity

  4. A really sad thing about all these is that the corruption of the pork barrel fund is so “expected” that it has already become part of the system. Kickbacks, overpricing and ghost deliveries are, in fact, already part of the projected expenditures of a member of Congress. True, our condemnation of the system now impels us to move for its abolition. There is, however, one problem: we ARE the system. And damn if we know what we should do after this.

  5. Papatotohanan ko ito. Nung panahong nasa unibersidad pa lang ako, nagkaroon ako ng pagkakataong maging volunteer sa Bayan Muna. Sa bawat punta ko sa opisina ni Ka Teddy, nakikita ko yung madaming nakapila sa harap ng opisina niya para humingi ng tuloy sa maliliit na bagay tulad ng gamot, pampa-ospital at pambayad ng tuition ng mga anak nila. Kaya lang ang bilis maubos ng PDAF nila kasi laging naiipit at napaka-liit pa, kaya minsan kahit anong gusto mo makatulong e di mo magawa.

    Dito ka magtataka kasi yung ibang mga congressman ang lalaki ng proyekto, ang lalaki ng hinihingi tas approved kaagad e kung titingnang mabuti e sa pagpapatayo lang ng basketball court napupunta. Pero alam naman natin na hindi naman talaga sa basketball court napupunta yun.

    • So kanino na credit ang tulong na binigay nya? Edi sa kanya din. Hindi trabaho ng lawmaker ang tumulong financially at kunin lang nya sa tax na binayad ko.

      • Hi warmglen,

        Siguro yung dapat ditong tingnan e yung kultura na binuo ng Pork Barrel. Tama ka nung sinabi mong hindi trabaho ng mambabatas na magbigay ng tulong pinansiyal. Pero dahil nandiyan yung pera at yung sistema, mas mabuti ng gamitin mo yung sistema para makatulong ng kahit maliit. Dahil kasi nandiyan yung Pork Barrel, akala ng mga tao kesyo kongresista ka ay may pera ka, at kapag may kailangan sila -may lalapitan sila. At ano ang kapalit nito? Edi boto nila. Diyan na naguumpisa yung masalimuot na kwento ng Patronage Politics, na gaya ng sinabi ni Ka Teddy, ay nangyayari na din relasyon ng kongreso at presidente. ‘Ika nga nila “I scratch your back and you scratch mine”.

        HIndi ko sinasabing ginagawa ito ng Bayan Muna (at itataya ko buhay ko – hinding hindi) pero ng nais ko ng ipunto dito e kung walang Pork edi mas maliit ng insidente ng corruption at patronage politics. Nakakita ka na ba ng bilboard sa Pilipinas na may malaking mukha ng 3 kongresista ng BM at sinabing “AMIN ANG PROYEKTONG ITO!” ? Sana wala pa.

  6. Lame! Where was your fire and thunder when you already knew what was going on and never let the taxpayers know? Didn’t you have a think tank to blow open this can of worms? Now, you appear as only riding the wave of the people’s anger. Isn’t that the trapo way?

    • Hi Danger,

      Hindi naman nawala yung “fire and thunder” ni Ka Teddy nung nasa kongreso pa siya. Sa katunayan, isa ang Bayan Muna sa naguna para sa pagi-imbestiga ng NBN-ZTN Gate, Fertilizer Scam at yung 7B Macapagal Boulevard Construction. Pero dahil na din sa puro paper trail at kasabwat ng presidente ang COA at iba pang ahensya ng gobyerno, madaling natakpan at nakalimutan ng tao ang mag issue.

      Nandiyan na din yung hindi mailagay ng mainstream media yung spotlight nila sa corruption investigations kasi hindi ito “sensational” sa mga tao. At bilang dagdag, simula pa noong 1992 noong CDF pa lang ang PDAF, pinanawagan na ng mamamayan at kilusan ang pag-abolish nito sa kadahilanang ito ang source ng corruption at patronage politics.

      Matagal na itong nababanggit at sinisigaw, ngunit dahil institutionalised at nasa consciousness na ng mga Pilipino and mga ito, bawat sigaw namin ng “Burukrata Kapitalismo, ibagsak!” at “Labanan ang pandarambong at korapsyon sa gobyerno!” ay makarinig ka ng bitaw na:

      “Naku, matagal na yang issue na yan, wala kayong magagawa diyan. Manahimik nalang kayo at nakaka-abala kayo.”

      Na siya naman talagang nais ng mga nasa poder dahil akala nila matatagalan ng Pilipino ang ginagawa nila. Ito din yung dahilan kaya pumasok yung Bayan Muna at iba pang kaalyansang party-list, para ipakita sa mga tao kung gaano kadumi at incompetent ang Gobyerno ng Republika ng Pilipinas. In short, matagal na ine-expose ng mga mamamayang lumalaban kasama si Ka Teddy pero ang issue ng korapsyon, mahirap iparating sa mga tao dahil walang JLN at COA na magpapatibay ng aming sinisgaw.

  7. ndi naman porke kinuha o ginamit ng isang mambabatas ang pork barrel ay masama na ito o gumawa na kumurakot sa kaban ng bayan. I’m not saying he’s one of them or not. who knows. pero kung may ebidensya kayo against him, ilabas nyo kagaya nung kay sen.estrada at revilla. pero kung ang ilalabas nyo lang ay listahan nung amount nung pork barrel na nakuha at wala doon ung pinaggamitan, I think nagmamarunong lang kayo at sumasawsaw sa issue. sabi nyo si sen. lacson ndi nya kinuha pork nya kaya mabuti sya? hindi ko rin sinasabi na masama sya. I”m just saying hindi masama kung kumuha ang isang mambabatas ng pork nila basta sa TAMANG PARAAN nila ito ginamit at sa TAONG BAYAN ito napunta at hindi sa bulsa nila. kaya lang sumasama ang pork dahil sa ibang mambabatas na umaabuso sa pondo na dapat ay sa taong bayan lang mapunta.kaya ok narin sa akin i abolish ang pork barrel para mawala na ung ugat ng corruption sa Pilipinas. .

  8. Ted, the BIR says tell the people to pay the correct taxes on time… what we are not told is that the people should see to it that those taxes are used properly…

    Pork is not the issue, vigilance on the part of the people is.

    remove pork, all we do is concentrate the money to the executive branch.

    the money that napoles is accused of stealing could not have been released from TESDA, DA, DAR to her NGOs without the go signal of the head of these line agencies.

    the people should continue on their own to check how their government is spending their taxes (and other funds sourced by government like casino earnings).

    if the people will not complain about poor service, not file complaints at the ombudsman and just rely on change through elections…. then misuse of government fund will continue,

    of course, the other way is for the people to ask the ABB to shoot the erring government officials and their families.

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