Why we should march to #ScrapPork

#ScrapPork campaign reaches the US, with BAYAN USA picketing at the RitzCarlton in Los Angeles, where Jeane Napoles owns an allegedly ill-gotten property.
#ScrapPork campaign reaches the US, with BAYAN USA picketing at the RitzCarlton in Los Angeles, where Jeane Napoles owns an allegedly ill-gotten property.

For as long as we remember, every time we ask the government to do something that is good for the country, the standard answer has been “no way, magtiis tayo, walang pera ang gobyerno”.

And so many or most of us would actually stop asking government for what it should really provide in the first place. Like vital or essential social services from education to housing, flood control to airport upgrades, from OFW protection to suppport for entrepreneurs.

And we work our asses off to heroically fill the gaps, although it is always a herculean effort. Some have to leave the country to get fair opportunities. Those of us in the country endure daily taxation – from gas to electricity, that favorite latte to basic groceries. Everything is slapped with VAT. And then our payslip. Whether you like it or not, government gets a hefty share of the products of your labor.

It is in this context – of a country and people long told by government to suffer and to endure because we didn’t have much – that we have become angry and ready to march when we found out that President Aquino proposed P26-billion in pork barrel for senators, congressmen and congresswomen in his 2014 budget. This is on top of the P1-trillion in unprogrammed, special, discretionary funds – presidential pork! – for himself and his office.

This amount P1.026-trillion in presidential and congressional pork is just for 2014. Just imagine the so many opportunities we have missed, so many problems needing attention, so many national priorities taking a backseat to the individual wisdom of the President and roughly 300 lawmakers on how to spend these huge sums of money.

I leave it to you on ideas on how we could prudently spend P1.026-trillion in ways that would benefit the whole country or huge chunks of our population. But here are some for starters: This amount would be enough to fund immediate and long-term flood control projects for Metro Manila. Or build a new airport for Metro Manila with its own train system. A portion could go to a system of soft loans for startups and entrepreneurs. The digitalization of all government records so we could access them anytime, anywhere. The improvement of all airports and seaports. Filling up all the vacancies for teachers in public elementary and high schools. And so on.

Why the President, who is portrayed as God’s gift of righteous leadership, insists on pork for himself and Congress is truly a naked display of hypocrisy and takes away all credibility on his Daang Matuwid mantra.

The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which used to be called Countrywide Development Fund, is in itself an evil to the country. As it is, the President uses the release or non-release of PDAF to reward or punish Members of Congress depending on their attitude towards administration measures. For example, many anti-Arroyo congressmen were deprived their PDAF allocations during most of Arroyo’s long tenure as president.

Pork barrel is routinely used for projects that provide legislators and the President the maximum media exposure. This is where the Epal billboards come in. These elected officials make it appear that the multipurpose hall, gym, basketball court, roads or bridges were built using their personal money but in fact were funded by our taxes.

The corruption via pork which starts with the President cascades to the cities, towns and barangays. Members of Congress would choose which part of their districts should get portions of their PDAF, usually those led by loyal mayors or barangay chairman. Those who dare to fight the congressman would get none. We have yet to factor in all this the role of the contractors and the final sharing of the funds for particular projects.

Taken as a whole, the allotment of P1.026-billion for presidential and congressional discretionary spending steals adequate funds from pressing national problems and concerns. Pork poisons the presidency, Congress and the LGUs.

Those involved in the exposed scam involving Napoles, including the congressmen and senators who struck deals with her and her coterie of fake NGOs, should be investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The President and Congress must account for each centavo of public funds they obtained and spent under the pork barrel system. This corrupt system of pork should go.

As a hardworking people, it is our duty to demand that government be as hardworking as ourselves. And that starts with a hardworking, prudent and transparent budget process where everyone from the major urban cities and biggest departments, down to the lowest-class municipalities and ignored agencies like PAGASA would have a say. Those who are spreading fears that abolishing the pork barrel would deprive much-needed money to certain offices should not overreact and fret. Why make their funding depending on the whim and caprice of the President or individual Members of Congress. Their budgetary outlays should be included in the national budget if they are truly part of our national priorities.

This #ScrapPork project is a huge and powerful campaign because it rocks the traditional political system dominated by money, corruption, privilege and patronage. We must be ready for the counterattack of the biggest organized syndicate of thieves, crooks, liars and plunderers who thrive in this pork barrel system. While we hope that the August 26 march would succeed, we must be ready for the long haul and organize ourselves into a formidable, broad, popular, multisectoral, multifaith, open movement that will do battle with this syndicate until we rid the country of the pork barrel system.

The President and his minions have started the counteroffensive. PNoy said he is for the abolition of the PDAF but was silent over his own pork barrel. It turns out he only wants to “reform” the system, putting in place so-called safeguards against abuse. All told, the pork barrel system would remain and thrive under PNoy’s proposed reforms. Meanwhile, his minions are trying to drive a wedge in the growing movement we have to #ScrapPork by way of intrigue, paranoia and scaremongering. Specifically, Yellow Army minions are splitting our grand alliance by stoking anti-Red fears when in fact, the Left and the Reds have clearly stated their stand for the abolition of the pork barrel system.

Big and small organizations are welcome in our movement. The genuine NGOs and people’s organizations who have a track record of fighting for and serving our people have a stake in clearing their movements from the scandalous use of fake NGOs by Napoles and Members of Congress. They are our allies and friends, and in the final analysis, we have much to learn from them as they were long time veterans of the Parliament of the Streets

Ultimately, it boils down to several questions we should ask ourselves:

Are sick and tired of government telling you it is helpless and without any money after daily and monthly extorting taxes from you?

Are you fed up with the double-talk from the incorruptible President?

Do you want change by way of the abolition of the pork barrel?

Do you want public funds to be spent prudently and transparently?

If you say yes to any or all these, come to Luneta with your family, friends, colleagues, club members, organization, churches.

Let’s tell the government: Enough, Mr. President. Stop the lies. Stop saying we don’t have enough when you and your minions play around with our money. Abolish pork now.

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