Short notes III: Reality check for those who want pork abolished

It ain’t gonna happen. Congress will only change its name. We had CDF then PDF and now PDAF. Anybody want to suggest a name for pork’s next incarnation?

There is a legitimate reason for pork.

“The PDAF makes possible the implementation, in every congressional district, of small-scale but significant projects which can not be part of large-scale projects of national agencies. These projects, which are generally in the form of infrastructure, health, education and social aid packages, directly touch the lives of our district constituents and make the government a meaningful presence in their daily lives.”

Yes, PDAF can be the source of massive graft and corruption but it can also make a difference when used properly. Just because there are crooks in some districts is not reason to punish those districts that have honest public servants. Cynicism and simplistic thinking will not get us anywhere.

Abolishing pork is a simplistic solution that comes from a know it all mentality that has no respect for the constituents of a district. Simply eliminating pork disempowers citizens. It takes away their prerogative to deal with their representative as they see fit.

Citizens do not lack for a course of action. They can sue their representative or never vote for them again or better yet, salvage their representatives and hang a sign on their necks saying, Magnanakaw huwag tularan. Why take that power away from citizens, why do for them what they should be doing themselves?

How will our people learn, how will they develop into mature citizens if know-it-alls are always trying to impose what they think is best for those they deem too stupid and ignorant to know what’s best for themselves?

There is a legitimate reason for pork. Let those who need it learn how to make full use of it. Better to abolish know-it-all ism instead.

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Uniffors.com. Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • I’ve come to find criticism tiresome as well, and have taken up ragging on critics who write into the “easy space” that is the gap between now and perfection without providing a constructive alternative. There is of course a risk that there will be critics who say JoeAm does exactly the same thing. But you see, I DO have a constructive solution to offer to the critics. “Shut up.” So my criticism of the critics is allowed.

  • Emmanuel Doy Santos

    There are so many things we can do between maintaining the status quo and abolishing pork. I suggested one, which was to centralise it with the political parties. Another option: split it fifty fifty. Half goes to legislators, half goes to campaign finance reform. Pork is designed to help the incumbent get re-elected either through epal projects or through corruption. It is not unique to the Philippines. African states experience the same thing.

    The whole anti-corruption thing simply becomes a populist game, in which politicians promise and grandstand but really do nothing about it simply because it is a necessary evil built into the system. So complete abolition is not going to work, because it will lead to narcopolitics or something worse.

    We need to gradually wean politicians off of pork by providing campaign finance to remove the need for pork. Whether we take the money from pork to provide for it is a separate question, but we can hit two birds with one stone by using pork to fund campaign finance reform. The ball is in the president’s court since he prepares the budget and has veto powers over congress.

    • manuelbuencamino

      Pork is a necessity. It addresses unique local needs that are not big enough for the national government to notice. If you live in a remote district, you need pork because you won’t be in the national radar, you are not going to be a priority, no highways, or airports or marketplaces etc. are going your way anytime soon. If you live in Dinagat Island or in some remote district even in Luzon, pork is the only thing that will address your immediate needs.

    • manuelbuencamino

      Plus I am not a believer in strong political parties and party politics. I believe in the old dictum “Every great cause begins as a political, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” I’d rather elect individuals who will sponsor and vote for the right laws based on his own judgment and reason and not because he is toeing some party line or platform

      • Emmanuel Doy Santos

        I can understand the Filipinos’ hesitance to rely on impersonal contracting by relying on an “institution” such as the party. We prefer to deal on the basis of close personal ties with kith and kin. That’s why our politics has been dominated by family dynasties from the late-19th century up to now.

        The beauty of centralising pork with the parties is that if the party turns into a “racket” as you put it, it can lose its accreditation as such and not receive campaign funds. If one of their members is caught performing some malfeasance then it will be the party’s role to discipline him or her by either suspending or expelling, at the very least not endorsing, that person at the next election. Once done, that person won’t be entitled to receive any funds from the party.

        This new arrangement will allow the party to groom candidates with no connection to any dominant political clan in the area. It will make our politics more contestable and open to more Filipinos (without the need even to ban political dynasties).

        In a party based parliamentary system, some members do cross the aisle to vote on their personal principles, too, particularly in the presidential system. That will continue.