AUGUST 26 was memorable because it was the day when hundreds of thousands of Filipinos, many of them “unorganized,” spilled out into the streets to express their derision over the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), otherwise known as the pork barrel.
The activity was sparked in part by reports that several billion pesos in pork barrel funds had been channeled into the pockets of middlemen and legislators through the use of ghost nongovernment organizations.
With the very high-profile surrender of Janet Lim-Napoles to President Benigno S. Aquino III himself, the issues appear to have changed, and the mood appears to have shifted. Now, social media is a-buzz with how government would or should prosecute those guilty of squirreling away public funds to very private pockets. And so the question: Regardless of who is hauled off to court, will the pork remain?
Lest the public forgets, the issue may not just be how the pork barrel is misused; rather, it is, more importantly, about the continuing politics of patronage, and how those whose main function should be legislation have also taken on the task of appropriation. It is the politics of give-and-take, the politics of wheeling and dealing, and a system of perpetuated dependence.
When the President announced he was abolishing the pork barrel, what he really meant was that he was merely reworking the mechanism of pork. And so, despite the anger at the Luneta, the Presidential ‘abolition,’ and that high-profile ‘surrender,’ pork still remains as pork, allowing the smartest and the craftiest among us to bring home the bacon while the rest are grateful to have been left with the scraps.