MANILA, Philippines – If you take away the pork barrel from lawmakers, where does the lump sum go?
Two University of the Philippines professors – who both served in the executive branch under different presidents – just know where: to frontline agencies and the provinces.
Those serving on the ground are the ones who know best what services need funding, said economist Winnie Monsod and public administration specialist Leonor Briones on Friday, September 6.
They spoke at “What’s Next On The Menu? Pork After PDAF,” a forum organized by the UP Science and Society Program and UP Faculty Against Pork in Diliman, Quezon City.
“Ilagay sa frontline agencies. Ibigay sa probinsya. Sila ang may alam kung ano ang nangyayari. (Put them in the frontline agencies. Give them to the provinces. They know the situation on the ground.) It will be more coherent and integrative,” said Monsod.
In the current setup, she said, local government units “get the less of the share than what are costing them.”
Briones cited the President’s calamity fund as example of pork barrel better placed with LGUs. The appropriation, amounting to P7.5 billion, are given to localities only upon the Chief Executive’s approval.
There are proposals in government to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers following exposés on its misuse through NGOs that give them kickbacks.
Currently, the PDAF of each senator amounts to P200 million a year; of each district and party-list representative, P70 million.
So far, the only automatic appropriation for LGUs is their share in the internal revenue allotment or IRA. Even this has been the subject of futile lobbying by LGUs, which wants their 40% share increased to 60-70%.
Other special funds for LGUs are coursed through national agencies, and benefits select LGUs, making these funds vulnerable as tools for patronage.
‘PDAF is just a piglet’
Monsod defined the pork barrel as the “appropriation of government spending for localized projects, secured solely for or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district.”
She also made a distinction between legislative and executive pork barrel. Unlike legislative, the executive does not suffer from the “divide-by-n syndrome.”
This “syndrome,” according to Monsod, refers to the allocation of funds that lacks regard for economies of scale, as seen in the “manic proliferation” of airports, seaports and other infrastructures.
Briones also emphasized that lawmakers’ PDAF is only part of a bigger portion of the national budget. It’s only P25.2 billion of the Special Purpose Funds (SPF) totalling P310 billion.
“Iyan lang ay biik, ang inahin is P310 billion.”, Briones said. (That is only the piglet, the sow is the P310 billion.)
She also stated that the SPF is not in the constitution and is also very vulnerable to corruption.
“Napoles is very, very small. Ang P310 billion ang malaki (It’s the P310 billion that’s big),” she said.
Bigger budget flaws
According to the two professors, the pork barrel issue is just part of a bigger picture in the budgeting flaws of the government.
Reforms should be undertaken a step at a time, Monsod said, to make efforts more strategic.
Briones said concerned citizens should not allow this latest PDAF scandal to be overtaken by other issues and be forgotten.
“Every year nagagalit tayo sa pork barrel. Basta pinag-uusapan ang budget, lalabas ang pork barrel. Pero pagkatapos ng election, nakakalimutan naman nila.” she said.
(We get angry over the pork barrel every year. When we talk about the budget, the pork barrel comes up too. But after the elections, people forget.)
The outrage over the misuse of lawmakers’ funds should be turned into sustained vigilance over the budget process.
“We see it as a beginning, we see it as an opportunity. Nalaman na natin ang lahat. Hindi pa ba tayo aaksyon? Tutulog-tulog pa rin ba tayo?” Briones said.
(We see it as a beginning, we see it as an opportunity. We already know how it’s being abused. Are we still not going to take action? Will we still turn a blind eye?) – Rappler.com