Even from the way the pork barrel system originated in the Philippines, it is easy to see that its path will not be a smooth sailing one. The pork barrel system originated in 1916, when Americans used the funds to divide and rule the Philippine Assembly. The Americans used it to appease the Filipinos who wanted the country’s independence. Even from the start, it has been a way of buying off people’s support. During Martial Law, former President Ferdinand Marcos abolished the pork barrel system in the country, but he did not keep the money as part of the national budget.
Instead, he distributed the pork barrel funds to his supporters. Now, the country is facing yet again another problem in the misuse of the pork funds, with the P 10 billion pork barrel scam noted as the mother of all scams and the people’s protests necessitating the need for immediate reforms to be made. Due to the existing anomalies and lack of transparency found in the pork barrel system, it would be best if the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) were to be abolished. There are too many inconsistencies and loopholes in the system that are currently providing corrupt politicians multiple avenues for misusing the funds.
One of the biggest flaws with the current system is that the lawmakers, including the senators and the representatives, are responsible for deciding which agencies and beneficiaries the appropriated allowance will go to. Even if the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) will directly release the funds to the respective NGOs and implementing agencies, these agencies were personally handpicked by the legislators. This means that they could have picked their “favorite” NGOs, set-up their own NGOs and have their own relatives run it, or even strike up deals with local government officials and give them a percentage of commission. It would also make them more susceptible to civilians who would want to take advantage of the funds because they feel that they are free to spend the PDAF since it does not come out of their pockets. All in all, the loopholes in the pork barrel fund system translate to a general lack of transparency. Now with more and more problems arising from the pork barrel issue, the current need of the public is for the total transparency and accountability of the government.
Every fiscal year, each senator gets 200 million, and each district or partylist representative gets 70 million, but nobody can trace how and what the money is spent on. The important question that is on everyone’s minds amidst the crisis these days is: where did all the money go? While the PDAF is generally not a well planned out project, having its share of constant inconsistencies and providing infinite ways for politicians to misuse the national budget, it cannot be contested that it has been beneficial to the progress of individual districts. Pork barrel funds have been used by legislators to supply scholarships to financially lacking students, for infrastructure such as new buildings, schools and roads, for medical support to indigent patients, and for new pumping stations to combat floods.
If it were to be immediately abolished in light of recent events and not compensated for, many people will be cut off from government assistance and lose the financial support they desperately need. The PDAF is very vulnerable to manipulation and corruption because of the system of appropriating money, but to remove the funds that have helped so many poverty-stricken Filipinos is just another way of adding another set of problems to the country. An alternative to this issue would be to introduce a more transparent way of distributing funds efficiently to priority projects like housing, education, and healthcare. In this new system of fund distribution, legislators only have the responsibility of choosing the most relevant project from the many proposals sent to them by NGOs and LGUs. Then, they will write a proposal to the DBM entailing the specific requirements of the project they want to complete.
They will also be required to submit the breakdowns of their expenditures to the DBM. In the DBM, a specific committee will be made to process the proposals of these legislators. The committee will be in charge of validating the project’s urgency, and picking the agencies to implement the project from a list of accredited implementing agencies. Another citizen-controlled committee with an objective similar to the NAMFREL’s role in maintaining the transparency of the COMELEC, will also be created to monitor the movements of the new DBM committee and to give quarterly reports on where the funds are spent on. In addition to the new system, each senator will also only receive 100 million and each partylist or district representative will only receive 35 million in every fiscal year instead of the 200 million and 70 million that they used to receive. This way, a more airtight and transparent system will be implemented to service the people. Transparency and a faith in the government can now be assured because the
people can finally answer the most important question that has been plaguing them since the beginning: where does all the money go? Through the quarterly reports of the citizen-controlled committee, the people will be able to answer that question, and they will be able to know who is really helping them.