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It is an issue whose stench simply refuses to go away.  No other term has perhaps reflected all the negative qualities associated with its name than the pork barrel.

The latest episode in this stinking saga is the proposal of house minority legislators for the investigation of the alleged P10-billion-tip-of-the-iceberg pork barrel scam creatively sculpted by businesswoman janet lim napoles and eagerly participated in by scoundrels in government, a move rejected by the majority in the house.

Many view the pork as a source of corruption.  Stop the pork and a host of evils are bound to go away with it;  ghost projects, ghost NGO’s and those corrupt politicians spending millions in campaign funds to get even more millions in pork for himself and his cohorts.

This is a far cry from the real intention of the fund.  The pork barrel, more formally known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), is a mechanism for legislators to identify and implement projects to benefit a locality or a particular sector.  For this purpose, an allocation of P70-million is provided to each house representative while each senator gets P130-million annually in pork barrel or PDAF funds. 

For many years however this plan has been proven to be easier said than done.

These days, the national dailies are full of horror stories about pork misuse. On a smaller scale,   the mere use of the fund also spawns a host of local tales associated with its bi-polar character.

There was this  legislator who dug himself into a deep dark political black hole after constituents noticed that his counterpart lady legislator gave away one government vehicle too many, a feat he simply could not match.  The vehicle distribution was said to be funded by pork.

One legislator built his whole campaign and later snagged a three year term as chief executive over the billions of pesos in projects he was able to secure from the national government. This was smartly utilized as the backbone of his ‘Can be trusted’ slogan.

There is absolutely nothing wrong when politicians spend these funds for the purpose for which they were intended; that is to provide for the needs of the poor and the marginalized.  The problem comes when we brainwash ourselves into prioritizing all the goodies brought about by the pork barrel and ease out the whole responsibility of these politicos to legislate.  The problem gets even worse when come election time, we choose on the basis of how many projects one politico can give us as opposed to how much impact their political decisions and acts have on our lives. 

Some may see this as nitpicking.  After all, a lawmaker who utilizes billions in pork barrel on actual projects to benefit thousands is infinitely better than one who spends millions in pork funds only to be unwittingly publicized as a scammer in the end.  But we should truly nitpick if we are to see results from the billions of pesos in pork doled out yearly by the national government.

Really there is more to these projects than meets the eye.  In some cases it can be observed that there is no direct link between the number of projects implemented in the area and its resulting development.  Perhaps it’s the way the politico chooses his area of concentration.  Was it based on the needs of the community, or the level of loyalty displayed by his political minions in a certain locality? If so, then funds were ultimately spent not to dole out projects but to buy political influence.

The way these projects are implemented also leads to confusion on the real intention of the pork barrel.  Come law or memorandum circular, there simply is no putting a stop to the smiling faces and names of politicos displayed on these taxpayer-funded projects being disguised as gifts to the naïve constituent.  Much like a year round campaign extravaganza ably assisted by pork funds.

The eons long use of the pork barrel funds has given it not merely a dual character but a multi faceted one. Let us recognize its highly dimensional quality. While the multifarious benefits derived from pork can only be matched by the unlimited ways one can abuse it, the fund’s corruptible aspect repeatedly mishandled by its abuser is no match to the deep discernment and watchful eye of its rightful owner.

By: Liza Abubakar-Jocson

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