AMID the public outcry for the abolition of the pork barrel system, Malacañang and Congress have agreed to delete the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), by name at least, from the 2014 national budget.
Yet behind the harried efforts to now design “a new mechanism” to implement what would be PDAF in substance, behind closed doors lawmakers and Cabinet members have talked about how to salve the political values of pork, the less flattering nickname for PDAF.
BUYING THINGS in small portions — “tingi-tingi” — is popular among Filipinos, but Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson is clearly not a fan of the practice. At least not when it comes to pork-barrel projects, or those that use monies from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
According to Singson, DPWH has had difficulty implementing PDAF projects whenever lawmakers tend to break them up into small chunks. In the past, he says, the propensity was for legislators to not finish a project in one year because they opt to spread out their funds in several locations. This has resulted, he told PCIJ in a recent interview, in substandard or partially completed projects that usually require repair and improvement later.
HOW DO you square a circle?
That’s a puzzle that has perplexed geometers for centuries.
Yet Malacañang and Congress say they have found a way to square the circle of abuse and misuse of pork: a bundle of tentative, broad strokes of a “new mechanism” to expunge the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), by name at least, in the 2014 General Appropriations Act.
SOME TRANSPARENCY online, but also some opaque and chaotic disbursement practices offline: That seems to be the sorry story so far of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) under the “Daaang Matuwid” administration of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.
Created as a full department by Executive Order No. 292 or the Revised Administrative Code of 1987, DBM “is responsible for the formulation and implementation of the National Budget with the goal of attaining the national socio-economic plans and objectives” as well as “for the efficient and sound utilization of government funds and revenues to effectively achieve our country’s development objectives.”
WHILE MOST of the tycoons who bankrolled candidates and political parties in the 2010 Presidential elections were curiously absent, the 2013 midterm elections still had high-roller donors who accounted for the bulk of the campaign donations made to the 12 winning senatorial candidates and their political parties.
Only 2,368 donors — 2,174 persons and 194 corporations — contributed the P1.69 billion that went to the campaign purses of the 12 winning senatorial candidates and their political parties, according to the Statements of Election Contributions and Expenditures (SOCEs) submitted to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
LAWYERS ARE taught early on to make the distinction between companies and their officers and shareholders. But Rona Ann Caritos, acting Executive Director of the lawyers’ election watchdog group Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), indicates that this may not be true when it comes to the law on banned donors to election campaigns.
“It is the position of LENTE that the officers, the board of directors, the board of trustees of these corporations are also covered by the prohibition,” Caritos says. “It is not just the corporation that is banned from donating, but the officers as well. Why? Because what you cannot do directly, you also cannot do indirectly.”
IN THEORY, elections are supposed to be the great leveler or equalizer of democracy. The vote of any ordinary man scraping a living off the streets is supposed to have the same clout as that of a tycoon living it up in his penthouse.
But in our rather imperfect world, even way before voters get their hands on ballots, things take place that tend to ensure that the wealthy and powerful will have influence on those poised to set policy and law.
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