Everything Including the Squeal
This week, Congress has voted – for itself – P9.665 billion in pork funds. That is almost a two billion peso increase from last year’s pork allocations, at around P7.9 billion. Which makes for a lot of bollocks, really; today’s Inquirer editorial makes a rather poignant point about how “heartless and callous” this act is, especially at a time of global crisis.
If you say “pork” to someone in Congress, you’ll get a patriotic, impassioned tirade against graft and corruption that would have come from the throat of Raul Manglapus and the diaphragm of Camilo Osias. Yet if you say “Priority Development Assistance Fund,” you’ll get a long-winded explanation of why it’s needed, why it’s necessary, and why the two billion peso increase is justified.
I am sure that a million-peso waiting shed is in order, or that a side street near the school must be renamed (heck, why not the entire school), a scholarship has to be named after one’s self to establish one’s place in history. Everyone in Congress is mandated to give away overpriced relief goods to the “indigent,” as well as have a convenient source of money to perpetuate patronage and power. Everyone in Congress has to have a “pro-poor” program. Every member of the House is entitled to messages of progress in giant lengths of tarpaulin, or the long side-walls of pedestrian overpasses.
That is PDAF, that is the pork barrel. Everything including the squeal.
The PDAF primer written by Speaker Prospero Nograles and Rep. Edcel Lagman starts off with a rather IKR – if not ZOMG WTF LMAO – statement: “The public cannot appreciate what it does not understand.” Reading that primer has enlightened me – a bit – about what PDAF is: spoils. Congress makes a good point in justifying pork as nothing more than a very American system of corruption “transplanted” into the Philippines, and it just so happened that being who we are, and them being who they are, we made it so damn good.
Which means that the House of Representatives is a victim, just like you and me, of pork. Yet rather than repeal a practice that has more than just pejorative connotations, the House “adjusted” it to make it work. Theoretically, the Pinoy-style pork barrel (on the sweet side, hints of sourness with a bit of spice) is an upgrade; the Google Chrome of Congressional spending. Now you have “soft” and “hard” projects, and provisions that delimit and delineate where and how pork could be spent. Yet that should take into account that beneath the noble mask worn by PDAF is a system of corrupt practices, non-transparency in Government purchases, overpricing, scams, deals, and yes, the stigma that some politician out there is using his or her pork barrel as a war chest for 2010.
The problem of the PDAF, at least to me, is that it delegates Government functions to the point of micromanagement, that everything becomes subject to the near-total discretion of the person holding it; it is James Madison’s “power of the purse” taken to the extreme.
Rather than limit or cap the ability and the discretion of Government to spend and to allocate, the “power of the purse” here – like pork barrel – works in a different way. The fact that Congress can specify the project or activity as broadly or as detailed as it wants is not only a desecration of taxpayer’s money, it is also an abuse of the power of the purse. Never mind the earmarks found on the rest of the P1.415 trillion General Appropriations Act: you only have to look at P9.665 billion worth of pork barrel and wonder if you ever “ramdamized the kaunlaran” because of it. If you have a share in it.
The audacity – no, wait, gall – that comes with Congress bloating their own fund to P9.665 billion is defined by the sensibilities and prudence of governance at a time of economic crisis. The PDAF, as ratified by the House and the Senate, is:
- P2.655 billion more than the share of the Department of Labor and Employment (P7.01 billion)
- P6.05 billion more than the share of the Department of Agriculture (P3.615 billion)
- P6.74 billion more than the share of the Department of Trade and Industry (P2.925 billion)
I think it is best for a Congressman to explain why this happens; we live in a country where families starve, where people lose jobs, when the most equitable and just thing to do would be to take a cut like everyone else to allocate the money where it is needed most. That’s not economics; that is something mothers do on a daily basis with their own piddly versions of pork barrel.
A talking pig – dictator and fascist propagandist – explains it best:
You do not imagine, I hope, that we pigs are doing this in a spirit of selfishness and privilege? Many of us actually dislike milk and apples. I dislike them myself. Our sole object in taking these things is to preserve our health. Milk and apples – this has been proved by Science, comrades – contain substances absolutely necessary to the well-being of a pig. We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples.
– “Squealer,” in George Orwell’s Animal Farm