Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Manila Hotel Kapihan reveals that PDAF abolition is just the tip of the iceberg

By Chanda Shahani

Abolishing the pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) would not solve the systemic problems of corruption and mismanagement plaguing in the Philippines, an emerging consensus at a forum at the Manila Hotel, held last August 26, 2013, shows.

I went to this forum with my mother, former Senator Leticia R. Shahani; which was held on the same day as the million person march. "Come with me instead," my mom said, promising that I would gain more in sights than merely attending the medley of sit-ins held right outside the Manila Hoitel and in other venues. And so I did.

One of the organizers of the march, Rasti Delizo of Sanlakas, said that the march was one where the miuddle class was expected to take the lead. "People are outraged at the misuse of funds worth PhP 10 billion or more," he said, adding that the uniting line of thge various groups involved in the march was to scrap all pork barrel, and to hold all those guilty to account and to punish them.

The forum or kapihan  also revealed the following which, loosely, could be lumped under the general heading of  "pork barrel" or funds which fell under government discretionary spending:

  • President's Social Fund, funded from Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and Philippine Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) remittances.
  • The Judicial Development Fund
  • The Mampalaya Fund
  • Local funds. For example, the Quezon City pork barrel is PhP 42 million a year.
  • Internal Revenue Allotments of the local government units (LGUs).
  • The intelligence fund of the President.
  • Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The forum was emceed by Manila Hotel President, former Senator Joey Lina. Atty. Lina said that the senators had PDAF or pork barrel of PhP 200 million a year, of which PhP 100 million had to go towards "hard" projects while PhP 100 million had to go towards "soft" projects. In the case of congressmen, they were alloted a total of PhP 70 million, of which PhP 40 million had to go towards "hard" projects while PhP 30 million had to go towards "soft" projects.

Sister Mary John Mananzan, one of the forum participants, said that rather than funding projects helter-skelter via PDAF, it was more important to use the money to fund "the most glaring" projects in order to solve these problems as quickly as possible. These areas were in housing and government hospitals.

Former Senator Leticia R. Shahani, a member of the Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) a group made up of former high-ranking Philippine government officials,  said that the million person march was "a manifestation of the anger of the people."  She said that no matter what form of structure evolved to take the place of PDAF and other pork barrel funds, it was "useless," unless long-term attention was paid to changing the values and mindsets of people, because ways and means could be found again and again to sybvert the structure and filch money from the people.

Given that Philippine-style government is operating under a system with two houses of congress with one president given one six (6) year term; and with congress given the power of the budget, it would become apparent that congress is allowed (under the 1987 constitution) to approve items on the budget. Thus, in order to remove this glaring self-serving anomaly; the constitution itself has to be amended in order to reflect a system of government that is more attuned to the people's needs.

More on our system of government later.

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