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.