On Monday, July 23, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III will deliver his third state-of-the-nation address and usher in the last three years left for him to bring the country to the path of “daang matuwid.”
But can we, in fact, walk the straight path when to this day, what has long been considered the single sharpest image of corruption in Philippine politics — pork barrel or officially, the Philippine Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) — lingers in value and volume much bigger, and thus, more perverse?
This early, President Aquino can claim at least one historical distinction: he is the country’s first chief executive to purposely fatten the budget for pork.
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, he raised the pork budget further to P24.89 billion. Next year, it is set to climb to P30 billion.
Yet while the pork barrel has become bigger, a PCIJ survey of 48,637 PDAF release records from June 30, 2010 to June 12, 2012, or since Aquino came to power, as well as interviews with Cabinet members, lawmakers, and some pork beneficiaries, show that it has not become any better than any of its previous incarnations.
Indeed, the PDAF is a big blotch in Aquino’s mix of firm and flabby, alter and adapt initiatives at promoting transparency and good governance.
Our latest offering, a five-part series titled Pigging out on Pork a la PNoy, reviews the PDAF processes and outcomes, from the points of view of the Cabinet members whose departments are assigned to receive funds, and bid and implement PDAF projects; the lawmakers who identify PDAF projects and beneficiaries; and the local executives, social workers, civil servants, and the intended and real project beneficiaries who roll out the projects on ground.
Part 1 focuses on the policy rules and procedural reforms that the Aquino administration has taken to merely adapt the PDAF process to the wishes of lawmakers, and how some congressmen have managed to defy these rules through creative, smart play.
Part 2 zeroes in on how PDAF has flowed in greater or lesser amounts to the various political parties, and on politically charged periods of the year, in the House of Representatives.
Part 3 looks at how 21 senators who get up to P200 million a year each in PDAF distributes the bounty for which projects and where, and why two other senators – Panfilo Lacson and Joker Arroyo – would not want to have any PDAF at all.
Part 4 reveals how Vice President Jejomar Binay has been spreading cheer among senior citizens through his annual P200-million PDAF, as he barnstorms across the regions well ahead of the May 2016 elections. A sidebar looks at how some local government units have also started to ride piggyback on the pork train through their own PDAF-like slush funds.
Part 5 exposes how mostly small and unknown foundations and non-government organizations have been so favored by some lawmakers to receive big amounts of PDAF, and why it now seems impossible for the government to recover hundreds of millions of pesos of pork funds that have not been liquidated since 2003.