On to 2016
Will the absence of the pork barrel
change Philippine politics? Does this signal
the start of the end of pervasive
and persistent patronage-driven politics?
The staggering acquisitions by Napoles are believed to have been made possible by funds fished out of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) of lawmakers. The Supreme Court has ruled the pork barrel unconstitutional, banning lawmakers from identifying projects to be funded and even determining how these projects should be implemented. In short, no more appropriations for lawmakers that will grant them additional leverage over and above their oversight functions.
This, in itself, is a major achievement, the climax of massive public outrage as seen, among others, in the "Million People March," the first protest rally organized through social media. It was followed by a series of pocket rallies in Metro Manila, other parts of the country, and in some foreign capitals, where overseas Filipinos gathered to voice their anger.
What started out as ripples caused by the exposé of the shady deals of Janet Napoles and her business partners in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the executive branch ended up as outsized quakes that jolted the citizenry and government.
“Social media harnessed collective anger against unbridled greed”
The Supreme Court ruling meets the demands of accountability and transparency, and upholds the President's right to exercise his veto power over parts of the approved budget or the General Appropriations Act.
The lengthy Senate investigations and Supreme Court ruling will however amount to nothing if those guilty of stealing public funds are not sent to jail and punished within a reasonable time period.
“Investigations must lead to punishment of those guilty of stealing public funds”
On average, it takes the anti-graft court or the Sandiganbayan almost 7 years to resolve cases. Even if the Office of the Ombudsman completes its investigations and files cases against the 3 senators – Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla – and at least 12 former congressmen who misused their PDAF, these may just languish in court.
The President can act on this immediately. He can push his allies in Congress to pass pending bills that propose a dramatic increase in the number of Sandiganbayan justices so that they can conclude trials in record time of at least 1 year. One bill prescribes adding 30 more to the 15 current justices.
Some say the abolition of PDAF has great potential to change Philippine politics.
“The absence of pork barrel can affect election campaigns in 2016”
The transformative effect on our politics of the demise of PDAF will be tested in 2016. By then, we will be voting for new congressional and national leaders who can no longer claim credit for projects funded by taxpayers’ money.
Will 2016 then be more hospitable to outsiders not steeped in corrupt and traditional politics or to politicians not belonging to political dynasties?
“Reformists should be emboldened to seek public office”
The absence of pork to fuel election campaigns can change the Philippine political landscape. Hopefully, it will embolden and empower aspiring, reform-oriented individuals to run for public office. Already, this potential change is causing buzz and excitement among some sectors. This is one strong reason to look forward to 2016.
- Angela Casauay
- Miriam Grace A. Go
- Chay F. Hofileña
- Ayee Macaraig
- Aries Rufo
- Marites D. Vitug
- Emil Mercado
- Raffy De Guzman
- Hamilton Chua
- Michelle Fernandez
- Michelle Ann Lorenzo
- JayR Arciga Jr.
- Jom Tolentino
- Rey Santos Jr.
- LeAnne Jazul
- Chay F. Hofileña
- Gemma B. Mendoza