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WORM’S EYEVIEW: Who Likes Pork Barrel?

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/22 August)–President Aquino does.

He’s adamant about retaining pork for congressmen and senators in addition to their already over-generous perks. He even includes the vice president who, strictly speaking, is only a spare tire with no ex-officio function of an executive or legislative nature.  (Jojo loves him for it of course; there’s nothing like pork to trump the chances of Mar Roxas to become president!)

P-Noy goes so far as to say that pork isn’t all bad, that it has a good side, that it can serve a good purpose, and that it should not be scrapped altogether. To do away with it, he claims, is to throw away the good it does. He then cites his use of his own pork to build infrastructure in Central Luzon. That’s the way he excuses abuses engendered by it.

Tribal followers of Ali Baba?

Our society stumbles on, groping to find the coordinates leading to the straight and narrow path that PNoy vaguely describes. When confused, or caught in darkness, it does help sometimes to chant or recite a mantra. So P-Noy dictates a mantra for everyone to repeat after him: matuwid na daan!  We’re assured that just by repeating it, change follow and reforms will materialize. Meanwhile our president wants us to close our eyes to corruption and trust in the mantra’s magical power.

“Oh yeah?” Northern Mindanaons exclaim, “tell that to the marines! Or to the MILF and the MNLF and the BIFF!

Meanwhile, can anyone deny that corruption is widespread? That anger is rising?  P-Noy himself acknowledged its shame-faced, continuing occurrence during his State of the Nation Address and expressed dripping frustration at its seeming unstoppability in the Bureau of Customs.

Yet he acts and sounds as if we don’t know what’s going on. We the people, his Boss, are daily violated and victimized by corruption…and we don’t know?

Come clean, Mr. President! You’re an ex-senator, an ex-congressman, the favored son of Ninoy and Cory—and you don’t know how bad pork barrel is in a corrupt political culture, where political and economic crime is blithely committed? The temptations occasioned by pork and the rewards for cashing in on it—with utter impunity—loom larger than life in our political, economic, and moral environment, and you don’t know how bad it is?

Even in the best of times, one doesn’t let leaders be selected on the basis of their ability to pry public coffers open so that everyone can get a share of the loot. Not unless you’re a desert tribe deciding who’ll replace Ali Baba to head the Forty Thieves!

Legalizing bribery, vote-buying

To tolerate pork barrel-based politics is as bad as accepting bribery and vote-buying as legitimate tools for winning elections. What’s pork barrel about but year-round bribery, vote-buying, and grandstanding for re-election—all at government expense? There’s nothing decent about using or justifying it. Only scoundrels resort to it.

It’s appalling that this is being debated at all. It reflects very badly upon the sense of morality or lack of it in today’s politics. The leadership of our society and of every community is the point at issue here. The ethical values associated with leadership are being questioned. Honor, honesty, integrity, propriety are under assault–and we tolerate characters that seek prestige or honor through the roll of a pork barrel!

Where is the honor in taking advantage of a corruptible grant given for clearly political ends? What honor is gained from squandering money to which one is not entitled? And who deserves to stay in power on the strength of a fiction that pork is spent in the name of local development?

Emasculating autonomy, development

Seriously now, how does it serve public service for legislators to dishonor, belittle, and marginalize agencies the law established to empower the people and enable them to develop their community? This is a question that every congressman or senator who uses pork must answer.

Consider what they’ve done and continue to do to the local development councils. These are the special bodies created by the so-called Autonomy Law (R.A. 7160) so that the principle of subsidiarity will suffuse the operations of local governments and bring about genuine local development while also enabling autonomy to mature.

There’s a development council at every level: barangay, municipal/city, province, region and each one is supposed to formulate a “comprehensive multi-sectoral development plan…setting the direction of… development, and coordinating its efforts within the jurisdiction.”

Who do you think cause these councils to be neglected, belittled, and rendered inutile? No other than the “honorable” senators and congressmen and, now, the vice president of the republic! They’re the culprits. They bastardize good governance by encouraging people and local officials to think there’s no need for these councils, and no need to involve constituents in local development.

Why do they do this? Because they think PORK BARREL and their trivial KNOWLEDGE OF THE LOCALITY are better substitutes for development planning and the people’s participation in it.

Their message to the local officials is—and always will be under the culture of pork-dependency: “Forget the people! Forget autonomy or self-governance! All you need is my attention and my good graces!”

Their message to the people?

“I am the source of patronage and public benefits. I provide for all your needs. I build infrastructure for your neighborhoods. I finance health care, scholarships, occasional feeding program, and many others. I am your godfather and your livelihood-giver. Therefore, you are all in my debt. Therefore you owe me and my dynasty your loyalty and your vote!

This is what the corruptors and parasites of our society and government are telling us loud and clear as they are wallowing in pork, abusing it and bastardizing autonomy!

Join the Million People March on August 26! (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at valdehuesa@gmail.com.)






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