Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pork In Government (PIG): PNoy’s Options

Born and raised in the rural town of Rosales, Pangasinan, Philippines, I grew up learning the valuable significance of the word “PIG”.  

First, it denoted SAVINGS.  My parents inculcated in my mind the value of saving for the future.  They encouraged me to have a “Piggy Bank” as a start, and then deposited the savings to a Postal Savings Account.  The passbook was the most valuable document that I possessed for a long, long, time.

Second, it meant INVESTMENTS.  Piggery is a household business that we were encouraged to invest in because of the high returns.  

Third, it meant EDUCATION.  I remember my parents “earmarking” one pig for my College Education Fund.  I made sure that the pig marked in the ear as “Ben” became “Big Ben” to generate a higher selling price for my fund.

Fourth, it also meant SHARING.  The pig also symbolized family and community participation and sharing of the bounties, grace, and luck bestowed upon us by the Lord.  Every so often, a pig had to be sacrificed for the family and the community to serve as “lechon, adobo, bacon, ham, nilaga at pinakbet.”

Fifth, it also meant a TEAMING ARRANGEMENT.  In our neighborhood, the owner of a male pig (hog) offers the latter to mate with the neighbor’s female pig.  A pre-arranged deal is contracted depending on the number of piglets that are eventually delivered.

When I went to school, the pig had positive significance for me as I learned the nursery rhyme about the “ little pigs that went to market, stayed at home, had roast beef, had none, or cried ‘wee wee wee’ all the way home.”

As I moved up the ladder of both education and age, I began to learn words and expressions that are identified with “pig”.  Suddenly, it connoted a different meaning and value.  Sadly, negative in many instances.

In fact, pigs are associated with greed and dirtiness.  Hogging as in hogging the ball or the road means monopolizing the ball or the road.   Eating like a hog means poor table manners and going hog wild is behaving wildly.

Your room is a pig’s sty. (Dirty).   
Don’t be a pig! (don’t overeat!)  
That’s hogwash! (Nonsense).  
It ain’t fitting to roll with a pig.  (Filthy or uncouth).  
Evolution of the Filipino Politician (forwarded by Vic Floresca
When a Congressman says he will give up his PDAF, it is in a pig’s eye – meaning no chance of that happening.   Radicals called the police a pig while the Women’s Liberation Movement called the male chauvinist also a pig.

Now because of the expose on the Pork Barrel Scam, the Filipino politicians are being called many names – from greedy pigs, representa-thieves, to Senatong and Tongressmen.  CONgress has become the opposite of PROgress!  As described by Manila Times columnist Tony Lopez, “Congress is the Philippines’ biggest criminal syndicate.”

The clamor from practically all sectors of society of all ages be they online or offline, is undeniably loud and clear  - ABOLISH the Pork Barrel!  

Like the million people march on August 28, 1964 led by Martin Luther King, Jr. who delivered his now famous “I have a dream” speech, Filipinos are also encouraged to gather at the Rizal park in Luneta on August 26, 2013, National Heroes Day. Attendees will protest this brazen display of shameless greed and “systemic diversion of public funds for private aggrandizement”.  They will demand its abolition!

PNoy has to respond to the cry of his “Bosses”.  His anti-corruption legacy is at stake.  What are his options?

Immediately, he should suspend the release of all pork barrel funds to all beneficiaries designated by all lawmakers.  It should stay suspended until 1) all criminal, civil, and administrative investigations are concluded; 2) corrective and/or remedial measures either legislative or administrative, are put forward and in place to safeguard and protect public funds; and 3) cases against co-conspirators (including lawmakers) are filed as soon as evidence is found to merit the filing to show sincerity and seriousness. 

Can PNoy abolish the pork barrel system of funding?  Unfortunately, in at least three occasions, the Supreme Court had ruled the constitutionality of such a system.  It had affirmed the power of Congress not just to make, amend and repeal laws but also to spend and appropriate money for projects.

PNoy, of course, may veto whatever Congress proposes.  Congress in turn may override the veto.  A greedy Congress may just do it.  

PNoy may submit a budget that Congress may reduce but not increase.  So, if PNoy does not propose PDAF funding, Congress cannot include it.  But it can also reduce the proposed budget for all the Executive Departments and for all the projects of the President.

This is why Real Politik and effective governance sometimes demand some compromises without sacrificing public welfare, morals, and legal mandates.  

In compliance, PNoy proposes a budget that includes PDAF funding.  Congress will approve it including most if not all his proposals.  The appropriation becomes law, and PNoy has the power and obligation to execute and enforce it.  Included in the power is the power to realign.

PNoy may not be able to legally abolish pork barrel funding, but he can prevent its pernicious effects.  First, he can suspend releases of pork barrel funding indefinitely subject to the conditions described above.  This he already did.  In effect, today there is no pork barrel funding!  Second, he must show his interest in an accelerated conclusion of all investigations and probes that must include both private and official culprits.  The filing of cases and the issuance of arrest warrants would serve as a warning as well as a preventive measure for any attempt to abuse and misuse public funds.

PNoy has been enjoying an upward momentum for the last three years because of his anti-corruption campaign.  With the expose on the Pork Barrel Scam, this momentum could reverse to downhill if PNoy makes the wrong moves.

PNoy might want to take a clue from the Washington Redskins football strategy in winning 3 Super Bowl Championships in a decade.  Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs strengthened the offensive line that ironically called themselves the Redskins Hogs (male pigs) to have a very effective running game.  He had starting tackles Joe Jacoby and George Starke, guards Russ Grimm and Mark May, center Jeff Bostic, and tight ends Don Warren and Rick Walker.

 The best defense is a good offense.   PNoy currently has a very good offensive line.  Composed of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, COA Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan, BIR Commissioner Kim Henares, and SEC Chair Teresita J. Herbosa, they must be provided with all the resources (human, material, logistical, and financial) to effectively function in a speedy manner.  They are an all female winning team but as Ninoy Aquino would say, “each has the heart of a lion.” In the case of de Lima, RED LION!

I have no doubt that, if the evidence warrants, Ombudsman Morales and DOJ Secretary de Lima would not hesitate and, without fear, to include even Senators, Congressmen and other high officials in any charge.

Who knows, PNoy through these women of courage might be able to do what several presidents have failed to do – criminally charge and imprison the son of Marcos and Enrile who illegally imprisoned Ninoy Aquino during Martial Law and whose assassination we commemorate on August 21

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