THE CALL FOR THE ENACTMENT of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill has snowballed in the wake of the growing scandal over the abuse of the pork barrel funds, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
More civil society organizations — spanning a broad spectrum of society — say that while abolishing the entire pork barrel system is principal, the FOI will ensure the plunder of public coffers of this magnitude cannot happen again under the scrutiny of a genuinely transparent and accountable government.
Transparency International Philippines, a local affiliate chapter of a global coalition against corruption, Transparency International (TI), said in a statement that the “one basic flaw of the pork barrel system is that it detracts from the check and balance safeguards institutionalized in the Constitution.”
“It is to be considered further that the constitutional segregation of departmental functions confines the legislators to enacting laws. It is not their business to propose projects, designate contractors and dictate how their allocations are to be spent. These are functions assigned by the Constitution to the Executive Department which has the expertise and the machinery to accomplish these,” Atty. Virgilio Manguera, President of TI Philippines, said in their statement.
The pork barrel system, Manguera argued, has long been used as a leverage of the President against Congress to ensure the legislative body’s subservience to the latter’s budget and other executive initiatives.
“This scenario subverts the independence of both the Executive and Legislative Departments and blurs their objectivity in the performance of their respective functions as a counterbalance and countercheck against the other, as intended by the Constitution,” TI Philippines’ statement reads.
The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) concurs citing how then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo successfully foiled five impeachment complaints against her by using the pork barrel system “adroitly to whip members of Congress into line to protect the President.”
“There should be a full disclosure of such public investigation. This again is necessary because of the sloppy performance if not utter failure of state’s anti-graft agencies in discharging their mandated responsibilities against graft and corruption for almost 30 years,” CenPEG’s statement reads.
CenPEG further suggests that the pork barrel funds of Malacanang Palace and Congress should instead be allocated to state universities and colleges (SUCs), health spending, socialized housing, and other other social services.
“The long frozen Freedom of Information (FOI) bill deserves to be passed now. As the first line of citizens’ watch on governance, the likes of the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam would have been unearthed earlier — and there would have been no need for whistleblowers — had there been full transparency of public transactions and government policy deliberations under FOI,” CenPEG’s statement reads.