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Disequilibrium

Disequilibrium
Ronald Roy — 2013 July 24

Sometime in the early 60’s when I was a law-school sophomore, I asked my Political Law professor a few questions about the “pork barrel”, and he replied that although American in origin, he did not believe in it for a number of reasons. [Prof. Ruperto Martin would eventually become an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court].
The first reason: The pork barrel, a generic term for today’s statutory Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), had the potential for creating a disequilibrium in our system of checks and balances among the three branches of government, whereby the executive department, in particular the Chief Executive through today’s Department of Budget and Management (DBM), would have undue influence over legislators, in that: the allocated pork could always be used as a “carrot” to get a legislator’s support for whatever reason, by simply releasing to him without delay what he is legally entitled to — “without delay” underscored.
Prof. Martin saw this influence as dangerously awesome, especially if viewed as a tool which the President could use to create alliances in, say, the lower chamber where money matters originate and impeachments are initiated. And if regarded a little more somberly, this influence in effect could be utilized by the President to control — repeat: control — the House of Representatives.
Alas, the PDAF system has placed the President virtually beyond the pale of impeachment, especially nowadays — 50 years after Martin’s prophetic lecture — when greed in government has become the general rule rather than the exception!
Second: Because “pork” is given to improve the lives of congressional and senatorial constituents, undue advantage is given to those reelection lawmakers over other aspirants challenging them for their seats in both houses, not to mention the PDAF-sourced largess that is used to meet election-related expenses, legal or illegal.
Third: The function, the raison d’être, of legislators is to make laws, not to irrigate agricultural fields or construct highways for their respective constituencies! Countryside development is properly a primordial concern of the executive department, not theirs. It suffices that, with their power of the purse, they provide the funds.
By transcending that, as is now their practice, lawmakers open wide the door to graft and corrupt practices among themselves, as well as among entities that facilitate kickbacks also for themselves, through a web of nonexistent NGO’s and fake documents, such as those bearing authorizations from the DBM and clearances from the Commission on Audit, with the occasional net effect of recipient-localities not receiving a single centavo. This is not to say, of course, that elements from DBM, COA and other agencies are not bribable.
The following is my reaction to the argument that shifting the onus of countryside development from Congress to the local governments is pointless, since it merely transfers the opportunities for graft and corruption: Not quite, because crime prevention and law enforcement are the functions of the three branches of government, to wit, the executive through the DOJ, NBI, PNP, etc., the courts of law, and Congress by way of legislation of laws ensuring the highest possible levels of accountability and transparency, not to mention COA, the Ombudsman’s Office and other agencies.
Per se, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the PDAF because it is meant to accomplish noble purposes. It is even salutary. However, the most humongous “people’s money” scandal ever to rock Congress — the alleged 10 billion pesos worth of pork barrel linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles — demands its immediate abolition. But since abolition will entail enactment of a new law, the PDAF’s non-inclusion in the national budget for 2014 should suffice, as recommended by some quarters.
But I have a better idea. We do not have to wait for the PDAF to be abolished by Congress nor see its non-inclusion in next year’s national budget which, incidentally, is already prepared. All that needs to be done is for Pres. Noynoy Aquino to order DBM Secretary Florencio Abad not to implement it, heroically defying impeachment in an historic act of sacrifice for his bosses!
Parenthetically, allow me to state that, in all my 19 years of work as a bureaucrat in both houses of Congress (1953-1972), I occasionally got wind of rumors of pork barrel hanky-panky among some solons, yes, but never, never, never in the unconscionable magnitude of the alleged Napoles network of highly organized operations! Oh my God, one gets to ponder over our world nearing its end, just as when — during Noah’s time — the morals of the peoples of the earth had sunk so low that a wrathful God inundated them!
In any event, P-Noy very well knows he has the moral ascendancy to order Abad not to implement the pork barrel. The fact that he has not done that suggests he does not wish to relinquish his control over Congress by creating enemies therein. Indeed, he now appears to not mind the ongoing scuttlebutt that he too is involved as a recipient of unwarranted goodies, courtesy of Napoles.
Before the fourth presidential State of the Nation Address, or SONA, a scandalized Filipino nation reeled for almost two weeks over news generated by the P10 billion pork barrel scam, and during all that time P-Noy, himself a former legislator, was a picture of utter equanimity even if he finally broke his silence with a perfunctory instruction to DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima to conduct a thorough investigation.
For reasons of his own, P-Noy’s order to De Lima was his last statement on the scam, seemingly preferring to mimic the proverbial three monkeys seeing no evil, hearing no evil and speaking no evil. And his simian demeanor would continue well up to the end of his SONA.

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