Pork Barrel System: Should we scrap it or do we have an alternative?

JC Delos Reyes on Pork Barrel System

JC Delos Reyes on Pork Barrel System

“[The pork barrel] is left to the discretion of legislators who are politically motivated to put the money in projects that would make them popular. That’s the problem: It’s an immoral system.”–JC Delos Reyes, Senatorial Candidate of Ang Kapatiran Party.

In the Philippines, the pork barrel of each senator is Php 200 million and that of each representative is 70 million (Wikipedia).  Last 2011, for example, the Department of Budget and Management showed that 8 of the 23 senators spent at least 100 million of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).  Here’s a sample of how the senators spent from Yahoo News:

Angara allocated P40 million for the construction of a school building, multi-purpose pathways, and installation of pipes and tanks for water supply in Aurora; Lapid spent P31 million for infrastructure projects including the rehabilitation of a hospital, and construction of a school building and line canal in Pampanga; while Recto set aside P45 million for concreting of roads and purchasing of facilities for police stations in Batangas.

On the other hand, Estrada gave away P50 million in financial assistance to indigent farmers through the Department of Agriculture.

Honasan spent P40 million for the planting of jatropha, a plant touted as a source of biofuel but later discovered that it was not commercially viable. The Arroyo administration reportedly wasted more than P1 billion for this project.

Sotto set aside P28.5 million for infrastructure and educational projects in Pampanga, home province of his wife, actress Helen Gamboa.

Villar meanwhile allocated P39 million for scholarship programs in different provinces

The Department of Budget and Management has issued a National Budget Circular  last February 20, 2012 entitled, “Guidelines on the Release of Funds Chargeable Against the Priority Development Assistance Fund for FY 2012.”  The implementing agency can be the LGU (e.g. Provincial Governor or Mayor).  So what basically happens is that a senator or congressman has a project and he asks an LGU to implement the project.  In doing so, the LGU becomes beholden to the senator or congress who made that fund available to the LGU’s constituency.   If the senator or congressmen is at odds with the LGU, then access by the LGU to PDAF can be cut-off.  There are many things you can do with a 200 million or a 70 million.   Thus, a senator or congressman wields a considerable clout over the LGU’s.  In effect what they are saying before elections is this: “Support my candidacy and you will have a share in my PDAF.  Support me not and not a centavo you shall receive from me.”

Do we have other alternatives to this pork barrel system?  What I propose is this: remove the pork barrel of each senator and congressmen and give it directly to the LGUs.  Since the main purpose of the PDAF is to prioritize the poor, the money can be distributed to the LGU’s per capita, that is, according to the number of constituents.  Each barangay will then have its own allotment depending on the number of its constitutents.  The implementing agency becomes the mayors office or the governor’s office.  The money will be given provided that the Barangay Council gives a project proposal and the progress of the project is monitored.  All detailed costs of the project shall be made available in public through a website, with pictures of accomplishments.  I think this can be done.  The governors and mayors already have automatic budgets from the national government.  They can use these for making projects beyond the barangay level.  What senators and congressmen should therefore focus on are projects that are national or regional in scope that would affect the whole nation.  This is the principle of subsidiarity: let small groups handle what they can at their level, and the government only intervenes on the national or regional level.

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

3 Responses to Pork Barrel System: Should we scrap it or do we have an alternative?

  1. It is great to hear the principle of subsidiarity invoked, as it is a Catholic principle, used in the old Catholic states. It is also a principle enunciated in leftist and liberal circles, simply because all things being equal, it has a chance of working when top-down decision making seems to have less. But here is something: are we sure that subsidiarity may be used with the best chance of success in a secular state, in any state save a Catholic one? Don’t people need the sacraments to make good decisions?–that’s how it seems to me. Just because a decision is made in a smaller group doesn’t mean that original sin can’t mess it up. Greed, anger, lust, they all appear in the smallest of social units. You know what psalm 127 says: “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”

    And so the Church always wished for the Catholic religious state to solve the many problems, including the pork barrel. Quas primas was Pius XI answer to the pork barrel, which Vatican II relinquished in favor of the secular state. I think subsidiarity alone, with the help afforded by justice to God in a state dedicated to His honor, cannot solve the problem, although I know and sympathize that short of calling for the religious state, it is the best cry we can raise.

    Hello and prayers at mass from Chicago!

  2. Angelo Perez says:

    It’s nice to hear that you are entering the pork barrel debate, Sir. I’m interested as to the current state of that debate. Of course, one way of abolishing the pork barrel would be through legislation, which Congress, with so many members loving their money, might not pursue. We say that pork barrel could be a form of corruption on the part of congressmen. How about if the money is transferred to the LGU leaders? I hope that PDAFs would be handles prudently at the local level.

    I’m also interested in the present system of auditing the PDAFs of the congressmen and how they’ve been used. Wasn’t it mentioned in the news that SALNs become mandatory for congressmen? I wonder what happened to former chief justice Corona’s exhortation for public leaders to reveal their SALNs.

    Lastly, I’ve heard (from you) that the Ang Kapatiran does not support the pork barrel. What would be its platform and form of action regarding the pork barrel? If not scrap it, what could be the alternative? I’m under the impression that this blog post is your personal take on the issue.

    Thanks, Sir.

  3. Quirino M. Sugon Jr says:

    Hi White Lily,

    We ultimately have to work for a Catholic state. For now, we first need to work for a secular state that is permeated by Catholic values.

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