Pigging out on Pork a la PNoy

Senators’ PDAF floods
NCR, vote-rich provinces

Third of Five Parts

IN THE last 23 months, a total of P5.78 billion of taxpayers’ money went to pork – or officially, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) – to finance the pet projects across the nation of 21 senators of the republic. Two others, Panfilo M. Lacson and Joker P. Arroyo, have opted not to get any pork servings at all for years now.

Let’s do the math: The staggering figure means that from June 30, 2010, when Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III took his oath as President, to June 30 this year, each of the 21 senators with pork shares has secured P275 million for projects for his or her constituents, to his or her fancy. That also means that, thanks to pork, during the period, each of the 21 has had access to a slush fund of P11.9 million a month, or P398,000 a day.

A senator’s lawful monthly income is only P45,000, or P540,000 a year, or P3.24 million for the six years he or she must serve in office. Again, thanks to pork, PDAF ramps up his or her access to an additional P1.2 billion of public funds in six years, or by nearly 370 times more.

The Senate’s P4.2-billion PDAF share this year is 47 percent or P1.35 billion more than its agency budget of only P2.85 billion for 2012.

Members of the House of Representatives are elected by district and party-list constituents and thus bother with hyper-local issues and needs. In contrast, senators are elected by all voters and command national constituencies. Most assuredly, therefore, senators may be expected to employ their pork to respond to the “priority development assistance” concerns of all Filipinos across the nation.

Vote-rich areas

But a PCIJ survey of 3,284 PDAF release records for the Senate from June 2010 to June 2012 shows that much like their colleagues in the lower chamber, most senators have used their pork to boost their reelection bids, funneled the bulk of it in provinces with the largest numbers of voters, chose local government units usually led by their relatives as conduits of their pork, and poured in big pork shares to cities or towns that are their political bailiwicks. Some of the poorest provinces got so little, while Metro Manila and some of the least poor but also vote-rich provinces got a lot more pork from the senators.

(By June 21, 2012, the PCIJ had sent separate letters to 14 senators, including Lacson and Arroyo, to inquire about details of their PDAF projects. Only five responded. One replied in writing, two called up the PCIJ office, and two others agreed to sit-down interviews.)

To be sure, when pork and politics mix, in a few cases, potential or apparent conflicts-of-interest situations may emerge.

One senator, Lito M. Lapid, has used big sums of pork to roll out medical missions across the nation. In his latest Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, Lapid reported that his wife Marissa T. Lapid, owns a franchise of the Generics Pharmacy in his hometown of Porac in Pampanga.

Another senator, Edgardo M. Angara, has been supporting “educational and cultural activities” through the non-government READ Foundation. In recent years, the foundation has published four biographical and geographical books with Angara as either author or co-author.

Still a third senator, Manuel B. Villar, has used P64 million of his pork for “hard” projects to repair and build roads and portions of roads in Bacoor, Cavite, where his family’s real estate company, Camella Homes and Communities of the Vista Land & Landscapes, Inc. group is developing at least five real estate projects.

Additionally, Villar and two other senators, siblings Alan Peter and Pilar Juliana ‘Pia’ Cayetano have separately funneled huge portions of their pork money to local government units in their respective bailiwicks of Las Piñas City and Taguig City, where their relatives serve as mayors.

Table 1. PDAF Amounts Released to Members of the Senate by the Department of Budget and Management, June 25, 2010 - June 27, 2012

Under the special provision on PDAF of the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2012, each senator is entitled to get P200 million in pork every year – P100 million for “hard” or infrastructure projects, and P100 million for “soft” projects like scholarship programs, and medical, livelihood, and financial assistance.

Because they are fewer but have bigger constituencies, the senators get nearly three times more pork than the P70 million allotted every year for each of the 284 House district and party-list representatives. Like the senators, too, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay has also requested and secured P200 million of his own annual pork share.

Interviewed by the PCIJ, Budget Secretary Florencio C. Abad says the Executive’s efforts to reform PDAF includes shortening the “menu” of projects that lawmakers may select to roll out using pork, so that these are aligned with President Aquino’s priority development areas: social protection, basic education, primary health, and employment. The menu came as well with an exhortation from the Budget department for lawmakers to assign priority to 4th-class to 6th-class municipalities as recipients of pork projects.

This list intends to “limit the discretion” of lawmakers in selecting pork projects, but it is always subject to “negotiation” because, says Abad, “naturally, they would want discretion in terms of types of projects and how they are implemented.”

But in the back-and-forth between the lawmakers, and the departments and LGUs assigned to serve as implementing agencies of PDAF projects, the unwritten rule is that the lawmaker may choose whatever projects to fund wherever in the country, and for whichever beneficiaries, his or her pork should go.

Follow, ignore menu

To be sure, some senators have heeded the President’s “menu” of priority projects to be funded with pork. For instance, Sen. Franklin Drilon, Aquino’s Liberal Party ally, has released one-third of his P224.6-million PDAF share in the last two years to finance the construction of school buildings, in collaboration with the Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce. The Chamber is reputed to be able to build schools at a smaller cost of  P325,000 per classroom, or just half the P675,000 to P750,000 standard cost for the same project of the Public Works department and its contractors.

Table 2. PDAF Amounts Released to the Senators by Month, June 25, 2010 - June 27, 2012

Prudence somehow marks the choice of PDAF projects since June 2010 of even some non-LP senators.

Sen. Loren B. Legarda of the Nationalist People’s Coalition or NPC has allocated P143.7 million to roll out 264 school buildings in various municipalities.

Sen. Francis G. Escudero of NPC has spent P289 million of his PDAF to build 691 public markets nationwide.

Drilon tells the PCIJ that he has precisely focused his PDAF to assist the national programs on basic education and primary health, but adds that even he could do without pork. “I can win as a senator without a peso pork barrel because we senators can win an electoral contest based on the issues where we stand,” he says.

Indeed, senators, unlike congressmen, can get elected sans assist from pork, according to Abad. “They can do without the PDAF, unlike the members of the House wherein constituent service is a key function,” says the budget secretary. In fact, Abad adds, some congressmen “can forego even attending sessions but they can never be accused of neglecting or trying to meet their constituents’ needs.”

In contrast, Abad says, “’Yung mga senador, they’re more influenced by public opinion (and media).”  He says pork “is the least, this is not the thing that motivates them. You know, they can do without it… Take away that PDAF, they wouldn’t mind, eh. It’s not what determines their political fate.”

Politics rule, too

But Abad may have spoken too soon. By all indications, to many senators politics remains local and pork remains hinged on their respective bailiwicks and hometowns, as well as their favored LGUs and foundations.

Indeed, despite all admonitions of the Budget department for lawmakers to dedicate their pork to help alleviate poverty in the poorest towns and provinces, even most of the senators do not give a care.

For many senators, home is simply where the pork should go.

Former movie actor and re-electionist Senator Lito Lapid, for example, continues to think very local. While he has used more than half or P119 million of his PDAF since June 2010 to construct multi-purpose buildings, slope protection, canals and repair of roads and farm-to-market roads, the bulk of these have been in his hometown of Porac in Pampanga, where he had served as governor from 1995 to 2004.

Senator Ralph G. Recto of LP used up 87 percent or P173.9 million of his pork to finance, among other projects, “Ralph G. Recto-Type School Buildings” in his home province of Batangas, where wife and movie actress Vilma Santos is governor. Big amounts of Senator Recto’s PDAF also went to the concreting of roads and the repair of public markets in the province.

As a group, though, the 21 senators who collect pork funds have chosen to focus their projects in the vote-rich provinces of the country.

By the amounts of pork they received from the 21 senators since June 2010, the top 10 PDAF-favored provinces are Quezon, Albay, Pampanga, Batangas, Cavite, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Rizal, and Bataan. The so-called “Pangasinan-Lucena corridor” that straddles provinces of Luzon island is known to have the largest population of voters.

More for least poor

Yet even these provinces are no match to the 16 cities and one town of Metro Manila, which landed top of the list in terms of pork flows received from the senators.

As of the latest count of the Commission on Elections, the National Capital Region has 6,178,966 registered voters, or more than 12 percent of the 50,896,164 total registered voters as of August 10, 2011.

Save Albay and Nueva Ecija, the poverty incidence rate in Metro Manila and the other pork-favored provinces is actually way below the national poverty incidence rate of 26.5 percent of population, as of 2009.

In fact, these pork-favored provinces, among the least poor of the country’s 80 provinces, host fewer 4th-class to 6th-class municipalities – or big numbers of the poor – that the Budget department said should get priority in the use of pork.

Metro Manila's PDAF is artificially high on account of only three senators: siblings Pia and Alan Peter Cayetano, and Manny Villar. All three spent huge chunks of their pork on their bailiwicks in the NCR.

The 4th District of Metro Manila – which includes the cities of Taguig, Las Piñas, Pasay, and Makati, and the municipality of Pateros – is the wealthiest area in the country with a poverty incidence of 1.6 percent. It is also the most endowed district in Metro Manila with nearly two-thirds or P422.11 million of the senators’ PDAF allocation. This amount excludes as yet the releases made to big hospitals in Metro Manila.

The cities of Taguig and Las Piñas posted the highest amounts of PDAF allocation, with P186.61 million and P157 million, respectively. The Cayetanos released nearly all the pork shares of their hometown Taguig City, except for a livelihood project worth P250,000 funded by Legarda.

Spouse, son, sibling

Alan Peter’s wife Lani is the mayor of Taguig City. Alan Peter was also Taguig-Pateros representative from June 1998 to June 2007. He was replaced by Lani who held the seat from June 2007 to June 2010.

Alan Peter and Pia Cayetano released huge portions of their pork allocation to build and repair school buildings and health centers in Taguig City. These include the P10-million buildings at Sen. Rene ‘Compañero’ L. Cayetano Memorial Science and Technology High and Taguig City University, and P3-million to P5-million structures in six other schools. Alan Peter released P10 million of his PDAF for the construction of a health center, while Pia allocated a total of P49.43 million for the purchase of medical equipment at Taguig-Pateros District Hospital and various health centers.

Pia Cayetano also allocated a total of P18.5 million to Pateros, a municipality that has a legislative history closely wedded to Taguig. In addition, a total of P10 million of her pork went to Barangay Fort Bonifacio, where another brother, TV director Lino Cayetano, serves as barangay chairman. While informal settlers are surely to be found in that barangay, it is now more known for posh enclaves whose property owners include the recently sacked Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato C. Corona.

Housing projects

Las Piñas, meanwhile, has benefited from the pork of Senator Manny Villar who chairs the NP and ran for president in May 2010. Villar’s wife Cynthia had served as the lone representative of Las Piñas City since 2001, while brother-in-law Vergel Aguilar is now city mayor.

Since June 2010, Senator Villar has allotted about half or P157 million of his PDAF to his home city.  This is even as his son Mark A. Villar, representative of Las Piñas City in the House today, has also set aside for Las Piñas City part of the P85 million of his own pork funds during the period.

About P64 million of Senator Villar’s PDAF for “hard” projects involved the repair of the Bacoor section of the Daang Hari Road and construction of roads in Molino and Dasmariñas in Bacoor, Cavite, where the Villars have developed real estate projects through the family-controlled Vista Land & Landscapes, Inc.

Daang Hari crosses Las Piñas City and Bacoor, Cavite. Building a road there will in truth ease pedestrian and vehicular access to Vista Land’s rising subdivision projects in the area, notably Cerritos Terraces, Cerrito Heights, Lessandra Heights, Cerritos, and Springville.

According to the website of Camella Homes and Communities, a company of the Vista Land group, most of the Villars’ real estate businesses are located south of Manila – Las Piñas City, Daang Hari, and Bacoor and Imus in Cavite.

Next most wealthy

Then there’s the 2nd District of Metro Manila, which includes the cities of Quezon, San Juan, Pasig, Marikina, and Mandaluyong. It is the next wealthiest area in the country with a poverty incidence of only 2.4 percent. But it was also the next most pork-endowed district, receiving P203.2 million of the senators’ PDAF allocation.

In the district, Quezon City has the largest share with P119.5 million, the bulk of which came from the PDAF of Senators Francis N. Pangilinan, Edgardo J. Angara, Vicente C. Sotto III, and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Pangilinan and Sotto, both Metro Manila residents, allocated P31 million and P23 million, respectively.  Pangilinan set aside some of his PDAF for the purchase of medicines in upper middle-class Barangay Loyola Heights in Quezon City, where he once served as councilor.  Sotto as well released some of his PDAF for the purchase of medicines in Barangay Mariana and an ambulance in Barangay Marilag, where his son Giancarlo Jose serves as councilor.

By comparison, Metro Manila’s poorest 1st and 3rd Districts, which include the cities of Manila, Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, and Valenzuela, received only P37.09 million from the senators’ PDAF.

Less for poorest

The poorest provinces of the country, by the latest reports of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), also obtained hardly any slivers of pork from the senators. And it would seem like one reason is they are also among the provinces with the thinnest population of voters.

Table 3. Top 10 Recipients of PDAF from Senators

The numbers are clear proof: The poorest provinces got the smallest amounts of PDAF from all the 21 senators combined from June 2010 to June 2012.

Four of the poorest provinces obtained less than P5 million in pork money from the Senate. Only P1.13 million was allocated to Agusan del Sur, P3.5 million to Maguindanao, P4 million to Misamis Occidental, and P4.8 million to Masbate.

Some other poor provinces obtained bigger pork amounts of P10 million to P45 million, but their PDAF releases per capita (PDAF divided by population) remains lower than Metro Manila’s P109.

For instance, Zamboanga del Norte obtained P30 million of pork but its PDAF release per capita is only P33; Northern Samar had P43.25 million and PDAF per capita of only P7.87.

The NSCB lists the poorest provinces as, by order of penury, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao, Zamboanga Sibugay, Romblon, Eastern Samar, Misamis Occidental, Northern Samar, Bohol, and Saranggani.

By type of projects, the 21 senators used up 40 percent or P2.08 billion of their combined PDAF on “soft” projects. Of this, a third or P633 million went to livelihood assistance projects, another third or P728.4 million to medical assistance, and the balance, to scholarship, purchase of vehicles, and to forestry and marine development projects.

The pork funds the 21 senators spent on “hard” or infrastructure projects went mostly to high-visibility, small but pervasive projects. Roads and bridges top the list, grabbing P1.11 billion or a fourth of the P5.78 billion in combined PDAF that the senators have secured since June 2010. Another P632 million went to the construction of “education facilities,” and P508 million more for multi-purpose buildings. – PCIJ, July 2012

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