2022 Philippine Elections

Pork by any other name? Marcos wants to give lawmakers budget for projects

Lian Buan
Pork by any other name? Marcos wants to give lawmakers  budget for projects
The plan of Marcos to give congressmen a budget to 'bring home the bacon,' sounds like the much-discredited pork barrel scheme

MANILA, Philippines – For presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, the way to fix the corrupt system of the now unconstitutional pork barrel is give lawmakers a budget so they can fund projects that are approved by the national government.

This way, Marcos said, lawmakers can have something to show voters in their districts.

“Sa aking palagay, ay puwede namang bigyan ng budget ang congressman pero hindi pork barrel. ‘Yun lang kung talagang kasama dun sa plano ng national plan, ng infrastructure, ng kahit na ano na nasa programa, eh dapat nga, eh lalo na yung mga ibang lugar na masyadong mahirap ang tao, e tutulungan natin, dun natin ilalagay ang mga proyektong ‘yan, at masasabi ng congressman, I brought home the bacon,” Marcos said in his interview with Radio DZRH on Tuesday, January 25.

(For me, we can give the congressman budget but not pork barrel. Only if it’s part of the national plan, the infrastructure, or anything that’s part of the program, especially for poor areas, we should help them, put the projects there, so the congressman can say I brought home the bacon.)

Marcos said the practice of pork barrel was a result of lawmakers needing something to show voters.

“Mahirap ipaliwanag na maganda ‘yung batas na ginawa ko, na mararamdaman natin ‘yan in 10 years. Mahirap iboto ‘yan. Eh ‘yung mayor na kalaban mo, tingnan mo ‘yung tinayo kong eskwelahan, maganda itong tulay, maganda itong aking nagawa,” said Marcos.

(It’s hard to tell voters, I made a good law, a law which will affect us in 10 years. It’s hard to vote for that person. And then you run against a mayor who says look at the school I built, the beautiful bridge, I did a lot of good things.)

But what Marcos is proposing also sounds like pork barrel. Pork barrel is the common name for Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) which was a discretionary fund given to lawmakers.

The Supreme Court (SC) declared PDAF illegal in 2013, after the pork barrel scandal broke out where several lawmakers were found to have funneled their PDAF to questionable non-government organizations (NGOs) in order to earn kickbacks.

Marcos Jr accused of PDAF misuse

Marcos, in fact, was named in whistleblower Benhur Luy’s files as having used Janet Napoles NGOs to misuse his own PDAF. Marcos has claimed his signatures were forged, and the complaint against him has not progressed yet at the Office of the Ombudsman.

The DZRH panelists did not follow up. DZRH was among the five news organizations that Marcos granted interviews to this week after receiving backlash for snubbing GMA News veteran journalist Jessica Soho, whom he called “biased because she’s anti-Marcos.”

By proposing that lawmakers be given budget to fund projects that are found in the national plan, Marcos is recommending a pork barrel-like mechanism that continues to stir trouble in Congress.

For example, there was a budget standoff between the Senate and the House of Representatives in 2019 because the lower house allegedly itemized its lump-sum budget post-ratification, and supposedly distributed it to the allies of former House speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

To this day, budget reform advocates believe that infrastructure funds have become a new source of corruption.

Presidential aspirant Panfilo “Ping” Lacson is the Senate’s anti-pork barrel crusader, and was moving to slash infrastructure, national greening budget for 2022.

“Sa palagay ko, dapat ibalik na lang natin sa sistema na magbibigay tayo ng programa, magbibigay tayo ng proyekto dahil ang reklamo ng congressman ay pagdating ng halalan, bago mag halalan, wala silang maipapakita sa taong bayan na kanilang nagawa,” Marcos said.

(For me, let’s restore the system of giving a program, giving a project, because congressmen have complained that come elections, they can’t show anything that they have done.) – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.