April 17, 2007 · Posted in: 2007 Elections

Must-read in this election season

ANVIL Publishing has recently re-issued “The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy and Well-born Dominate Congress,” the PCIJ book on members of the Philippine Congress first published in 2004. Now sporting a jazzed up cover, “Rulemakers” is an important and timely addition — in case you still don’t have a copy — to your reading fare especially with elections coming in May that would fill up legislative seats in both the 14th House of Representatives and Senate.

Written by Sheila S. Coronel, Yvonne T. Chua, Luz Rimban, and Booma B. Cruz, “Rulemakers” comes in newsprint (P295) and book paper (P675) and is available at all National Bookstore branches and Powerbooks outlets.

Below is the back cover synopsis:

The RulemakersThis book tells the story of the Philippine legislature by examining the men and women who make up that body. It looks at their demographic characteristics (age, gender, education, profession), their assets and sources of wealth, and also their family lineage.

What we found was troubling, but hardly new: Philippine legislators constitute a select and exclusive segment of society. They are richer, older, and better connected than the rest of us. The great majority of them are also part of families whose members have been in public office for two or more generations. Those who make the laws for the country are therefore hardly representative of its citizens.

This book also shows how lawmakers have employed their powers to further enrich themselves and entrench their families in power. The powers to make laws, to conduct legislative inquiries, to examine the national budget, and to vet presidential appointments have been used by legislators to get benefits for themselves, their allies, and their kin.

The organizing principle of legislative life is the struggle for spoils. Congress as a body is obsessed with what individual legislators can wangle for themselves and their constituents. Rarely do long-term national interests and developmental goals matter. Thus, Congress has tended to spend more and more on itself, even while the rest of government tightened its belt. The spending on pork-barrel projects has increased dramatically through the years, as legislators used government funds to subsidize the patronage network that they need in order to court favor and win votes in their districts.

Congress is a notoriously unaccountable institution. Even as it is quick to investigate the shortcomings of other branches of government, it has refused to wash its own dirty linen. Accounting and auditing rules are honored more in the breach. Through the years, legislators have awarded themselves privileges — for travel, for district expenses, and for other perks — that they would never have allowed in other agencies of government.

The entry of reformist and progressive-minded legislators, especially with the introduction of party-list representation, provides some hope. These new representatives are motivated by causes, rather than self-interest. Although they are still treated as second-class lawmakers, they at least have one foot in a body that has been resistant to change.

2 Responses to Must-read in this election season

Avatar

INSIDE PCIJ » The perks of being congressman

July 30th, 2007 at 12:08 am

[…] Data from the PCIJ book, The Rulemakers, show that the annual upkeep of each congressman had almost doubled from P2.83 million in 1994 to P5.16 million in 2002. Latest data culled from the published expenses of the 13th House point to a continuing trend, with the annual upkeep pegged at P5.7 million each congressman in 2005, or P480,880.36 a month — the highest to date. […]

Avatar

The perks of a “tong”ressman « IDEOLOGICAL SOUP

August 15th, 2007 at 12:02 pm

[…] P92 million. In 2004, the House spent about P77 million on these expenses. Data from the PCIJ book, The Rulemakers, show that the annual upkeep of each congressman had almost doubled from P2.83 million in 1994 to […]

Comment Form