FELICIANO MENDOZA was enjoying semi-retirement in his hometown of San Rafael, Bulacan last September when he received a letter that jolted him from his life of relative calm.
The letter was from the Commission on Audit (COA), which was performing a cursory audit of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAFs) released from 2007-2009. The commission wanted to confirm if Mendoza had availed himself of a P120,000-loan in June 2007 from a nongovernment organization (NGO) that implemented a social development project of a Bulacan legislator at the time. That year, 2007, was also when Mendoza served his last term as barangay captain.
WITHIN six months after he took his oath in June 2010 as the country’s 15th Vice President, Jejomar ‘Jojo’ C. Binay, had two wishes fulfilled, with a lot of help from President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and his friends in Congress.
First, Aquino granted Binay’s request to set up official residence and workplace at the newly renovated Coconut Palace in Manila, a 2.7-hectare “Imeldific” complex built in 1978 supposedly for P1.2-billion.
Second, Aquino and Congress allowed Binay to have his own pork barrel – until then the exclusive perk of lawmakers – although they later pruned his plea for P500-million pork per year to only P200 million.
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.
THE OFFICIAL name of the pork barrel – Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF – should already make it obvious what it is truly intended for.
Yet instead of primarily being a means of helping more people gain access to basic services that the government should have provided them in the first place, PDAF remains a political tool wielded by those in the legislature and the executive to serve their own interests.
For the executive, whom and when to give pork seem to be based partly on exacting what one high-level official calls “historical justice” on its critics, and partly on its own need to ensure cooperation from members of Congress to achieve its political goals.
HE IS still about to give his third State of the Nation Address next week, President Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III can already claim at least one historical distinction: he is the country’s first chief executive to purposely fatten the budget for pork, or what is officially called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
In his 2011 budget, the first he submitted to Congress, Aquino increased the budget for pork by 223 percent, or from only P6.9 billion in 2010 to P22.3 billion.
In 2012, Aquino raised the pork budget further to P24.89 billion. Next year, it is set to climb to P30 billion.
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