With Aquino, the End of Graft in Philippines?

BY NEAL CRUZ
Jun 11, 2010

Philippine President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III aims to tackle massive corruption in the country by completely doing away with “pork”.

 

Aquino, 15th President of the Philippines formally takes office on June 30.

Noynoy Aquino, the 15th President of the Philippines formally takes office on June 30.

Photo credit:  Jay Morales

 

Whether it is on the dining table or the national budget, pork is bad and unhealthy. In the body, it clogs the coronary arteries with cholesterol and leads to heart attacks. In the national budget, it fills the pockets of congressmen with illicit money that belongs to taxpayers. Even before he assumes the presidency, the pork barrel* is already a problem with Noynoy Aquino. It is the age-old problem of thieves fighting over loot.

This is the problem: Noynoy won on a promise of change. People hearkened to his promise that he would eradicate corruption. “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (“If there are no corrupt people, there would be no poor people”) is his slogan. And since most Filipinos are mired in poverty from which they are trying to get out, the people believe that at last here is a messiah who is going to deliver them from poverty.

Noynoy’s slogan gives the people an idea of what causes their poverty: corruption. And what is more corrupt than the pork barrel?

The pork barrel is the appropriation in the national budget disguised as Countrywide Development Fund and Priority Development Assistance, but is actually a bribe to legislators. The fund is used for projects of congressmen and senators such as roads and bridges, schoolhouses, puericulture centers, basketball courts, waiting sheds, etc. Each senator gets PhP250 million a year and each congressman PhP70 million a year in pork barrel. There are at least 250 congressmen, including party-list representatives, and 24 senators. Do the arithmetic and you have an idea of how much of the people’s money is wasted on the pork barrel.

If all the billions and billions of pesos in pork barrel funds are used on public works, the entire Philippines would be crisscrossed by concrete highways and there would be no shortage of classrooms every time schools open.

But only a small portion of those pork-barrel funds actually goes to the projects. The rest goes into the pockets of members of Congress, public works engineers, private contractors, auditors, cashiers, clerks, etc.

For decades, the people have clamoured for the abolition of the pork barrel. Now comes Noynoy Aquino promising heaven for the believers and hell for the sinners. Like a thoroughbred, he comes with a pedi

gree. His father is a national hero. Had he not been assassinated, he would have become president. His mother became the president instead, and she was so loved by the people they would have made her a saint had they the power to do so.

That’s what made people believe in Noynoy. All candidates promised heaven and earth to the voters but Noynoy is different, he comes from good stock. He is the son of Ninoy and Cory – like Superman is the son of Jor El. How can he go wrong?

Now comes his first test: the pork barrel. What will he do with it?

 

Read the rest of the story here.

 

*The use of government funds for projects designed to win votes

This post was originally published on thePinoy in May 2010. Neal Cruz also blogs at thePinoy