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ONE PHILIPPINES REBUILDING THE NATION

October 16, 2013


THE PORK BARREL By Aaron Ong

The Philippines, the Pearl of the Orient, is a Southeast Asian country teeming with hundreds of beautiful tourist spots and tons of natural resources. A rich culture, together with hospitable inhabitants, permeates every part of the country. On the outside, the Philippines may seem like a tropical paradise. However, a deeper view into the experiences and issues within the nation will show that this country, just like any other, experiences its own set of conflicts. Some of which have already existed since the time of the Spanish and American Occupation. One such issue is the recent P10 Billion Napoles Pork Barrel Scam, which was brought to the public’s attention early this year.

Poverty in the Philippines

Before anything else, what is the pork barrel? The first thing that comes into mind when one hears the pork barrel is most often related to stealing, corruption, and such negativities. Contrary to the common thought, the pork barrel is actually for a good purpose. "Pork barrel" is an informal term for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) which aims to solve a number of problems in the country such as widespread poverty and economic disparity between the rural provinces and the capital. According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the people living in poverty made up 27.9% of the county’s population in 2012. PDAF would supposedly create projects that would tend to the needs of the impoverished in their specific areas. A list of projects ranging from delivery of basic services, rural industrialization, environmental protection, livelihood, education scholarships, job creation, manpower, sports and cooperative development, development of local enterprises, delivery of social services to remote areas and infrastructure projects are potential beneficiaries of the PDAF.

So, how does the PDAF work? Every year, each senator is allocated P200 million and each house legislator P70 million for the development of their respective constituency. The PDAF allocations are released when senators or congressmen make a request for the release of their assigned allocations accompanied by a project list. The projects are drawn from a menu of projects which lists the areas where projects and developments are needed the most, the menu is specified in the annual budget law. The request is then sent to the Senate Finance committee or the House Appropriations Committee depending on the official's position in the government. The committee chairman endorses it to the Senate President or the Speaker of the House who


then forwards the request to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). The DBM checks and confirms if the requested project list corresponds to the menu of projects. After that, the DBM releases the funds to the implementing agency specified by the lawmaker, who is provided a copy of the release document known as special allotment release order (SARO). The lawmakers are ideally not supposed to meddle in implementation of the project. They simply choose the non-government organizations (NGOs) to receive the funds and implement their projects. The alleged implementing agencies will then transfer the money to the lawmaker's chosen NGOs. The transfer is supposedly covered by a memorandum of agreement signed among the lawmakers, the agencies, and the NGOs chosen by the lawmakers. At the end of the process, auditors from the Commission on Audit (COA) will conduct a post-project implementation examination to see if the projects have truly been implemented.

But most of the time, before the COA conducts an examination, the funds have already been misused. Since the PDAF is discretionary in nature, the lawmakers are given too much power to decide on which projects they would allocate their appropriations. More often than not, the funds end up as sponsorship of the politician to a certain province in the form of basketball courts or funding fiestas to gain support from the people there to ensure their votes in the next elections. Aside from this, the pork barrel is institutionalized corruption as it gives the executive branch a means to control, entice and influence the legislature, which is supposed to provide checks and balances, into cooperating with them. Without the pork barrel fund, the executive branch would not be able to get the legislative branch into agreeing with it. Both branches could end up going in different directions which could cost wastefulness and lack of productivity.

Clearly, the pork barrel has more evil side effects than benefits to the society. Like in the case of the P10 billion pork barrel scam involving Janet Napoles and a number of lawmakers, 5 senators (Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong� Revilla, Gringo Honasan, and Ferdinand Marcos, Jr.) and 23 congressman. Janet Napoles was believed to be the mastermind of the P10 billion pork barrel scam. Using a list of bogus recipients and foundations, and forged signatures of local officials, her company, JLN Group of Companies has converted billions of pesos in government funds into kickbacks. The scheme has been running for nearly a decade now. The scheme involved the Malampaya funds, the fertilizer


funds and the lawmakers’ allotments from their pork barrel. Napoles reportedly established bogus foundations and nongovernment organizations (NGO’s) to serve as recipients of the funds and named her own employees, including a nanny, as presidents of these organizations. The funds which were deposited in the foundations’ bank accounts were eventually remitted to her and split between her and the lawmaker whose PDAF allotment was used. In some cases, there would be delivery of goods but with overpricing. In other cases, no deliveries were made. In both cases, the lawmakers would get a substantial cut in the fund sometimes going as high as 50% of the fund and the rest to Napoles. All it takes for the scam to succeed is collusion between the lawmaker, the government agency and the project implementers in which case are Napoles’ bogus organizations and forged signatures. With such a scam, the PDAF defeats its purpose of helping alleviate poverty in the country, it only enriched certain individuals at the expense of the taxpayers’ money.

The Effects of the Pork Barrel Scandal

In light with the recent pork barrel scandal, public demonstrations and rallies were staged by different groups to show their outrage and sentiments toward the government. Clearly, the scandal has had different effects on our country economically, politically, socially and culturally.

Economy

Although the Philippines has been experiencing a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of more than 7.0 percent for the last four quarters, actual growth has not trickled down to the poorest of the poor. Unemployment rate as reported by the National Statistics Office (NSO) is still high at 7.3 percent in the second quarter of 2013. Though we pay one of the highest taxes in Southeast Asia, yet we have the poorest infrastructure and the weakest military. In order for infrastructures to be built, the government has to resort to Public-Private Partnership


(PPP) and foreign loans. Why is this so? Because our taxes are being pocketed by those who are in power namely the politicians. Instead of doing their job as “servants” which is to enact laws for the good of the people, they only protect and preserve their interest. It is sad to note that the pork barrel scandal has left the county’s coffers impoverished. With billions of pesos squandered Undeveloped road in a rural town from taxpayers’ money, a lot of remote areas in our country where left with no basic services, problems such as lack of highways, classrooms, health centers and decent jobs are still rampant. Farmers are still stuck with their backward agricultural methods, widespread poverty is still evident, uncompetitive products and services hampers our export Children digging through garbage to industry as cost of electricity remains one of the highest in earn a living Asia coupled with poor infrastructure such as lack of reliable roads and bridges to deliver goods and services. All of these would have been addressed efficiently if the pork barrel were appropriated honestly and effectively. The pork barrel scandal has also discouraged foreign investors from investing in our country as honesty and competence of our lawmakers are at question. Business confidence was greatly affected as investors would sit down and wait for how the government would come up with anti-corruption reforms in line with its’ “Daang Matuwid” slogan and honest governance.

Politics

The pork barrel scandal creates political instability in our country. As citizens are frustrated over how the government handles this corruption illness that impoverished our country, they hold demonstrations and rallies. Meanwhile, the involved politicians resort to finger pointing and mud-slinging further exposing the evil effects of the pork barrel. The pork barrel scandal exposes the flaws of our presidential system. It undermines the independence of both the Executive and the Legislative branches because it prevents the principle of power separation by promoting collusion. The Executive branch uses the PDAF to “buy” or influence the legislators into agreeing with the programs or platforms that they have. The Executive offers the Legislature money by including the PDAF in its proposed budget, the Legislators in turn accepts the offer by approving the inclusion of the PDAF in the General Appropriations Act (GAA), this cements the collusion. The pork barrel scandal reveals the conflict of interest situation the Legislators are into. The Congress approves allocation or giving money to itself for work that


it is not mandated to perform. The pork barrel scam also hampers democracy as there is no transparency and accountability of the lawmakers. By giving them discretionary powers on how to use their PDAF, the lawmakers are not accountable to anybody as their beneficiaries are not known by the public. It reduces political competition and distorts political development as it gives incumbent legislators an unfair advantage over their electoral opponents, because the money they pocketed can be used to buy votes. The people’s trust on the government is lessened as they doubt the capacity for good governance. Confidence in the government is lessened.

Society The pork barrel scam causes disunity in the people. It discourages the people to work together for the common good as citizens are disheartened to know that their hard-earned money are pocketed by those officials whom they trusted and voted into office. Frustration and public outrage over the scam results in a weak civil society. The pork barrel scandal causes disruption in peace and order due to demonstrations and rallies held by different groups. It also causes social inequality and widened gap between the rich and the poor. There is increased poverty which leads to high crime rate such as robberies and kidnappings. Illiteracy among the people is still widespread as lack of education within the country was not properly addressed. Areas that were hit by calamities such as typhoons remains in a disastrous state for a long time as funds supposedly for them were not released to them but pocketed by the politicians and bogus NGOs. Poor health and sanitation among the people as health centers are scarce in rural areas. It has created political monsters in our society, emergence of many dark characters, criminals and unscrupulous Cramped up health center businessmen, many of whom build political dynasties who keep private armies which in turn results in political killings in various areas nationwide.

Culture

Corruption has become a normal practice in our way of life. Demanding and paying bribes becomes a tradition in our country. Gone are the days when you help without expecting anything in return. The pork barrel scandal has promoted the “utang na loob” culture in our people. When one receives a favor, one is indebted to repay the favor. It hinders nationalism in the people as money considerations rather than common political ideas come into play in the relationship between the legislators and his/her constituency. The people’s votes are bought by the lawmakers and the people allow it without taking into consideration its effects to the county.


Greed, Temptation, and Alike

by Eagan Tan

One should know when the opportune moment to stop arrives. It is hard though, to miss all the temptations of money, power, influence, or even fame. In the case of the Philippines what is most profound is very tempting indeed. It is something some of our government officials could not seem to keep away from. All that they do is take and take, with no caution, nor with any regret. Although, only a few are this way, not all. Those who do take, however, do not need what they are taking more than the nation. There is a saying, that money does not grow on trees. It is earned by the taxpayers, and only to be spent on by those who fall under greed.

This has been a problem for quite some time already, though the issue has only became pressing due to a recent event, when an official, or a group of officials, bit more than they can chew. Imagine what P10 billion pesos can do for a country. Roads can be fixed to lessen traffic, MRT and LRT public transports can be improved. In short, it could do quite a lot to improve a nation. Unfortunately, this money which belongs to the people and rightful owners of this hard-earned money. In short, the public found out P10 billion was stolen from them, and they began to revolt against the government officials responsible for this.

This is much like the scenarios of past events, such as the EDSA Revolution, when the people protested, not to the government as a whole, but to key members. By experience, and past lessons, we can easily say the people, especially the ones under a democratic government, will not rest easy when they are cheated on by the ones that supposedly lead them. I believe it is not too late for the Philippines. There are still acts we can do to turn these events around and stop the fighting, to become a nation, hand-in-hand.

First of all, we must rid of the biggest problem, corruption. If there are any people capable of doing this, then it would be the government itself. I propose that we have a sort of cleansing for the government. How this would happen will start with investigations on each and every member of the government capable of acquiring much of its wealth. Their bank accounts will be thoroughly checked, considering their salary. Investigators will continue to acquire data, and those who are determined corrupt by the group of judges, or possibly the group of investigators, will be removed from their seat in the government, will be blacklisted so they could no longer run for office, and will be replaced by candidates who were deemed fitting for the position, due to a similar investigation. Now that the technical aspect of it has been accomplished, all that is left are the morals, something the government does not have within their power. It is not beyond reach though, it is something the citizens and new government officials can do. On our part, it can be as simple as continuing to work hard for our money, not through cheating and shortcuts. We can also inherit the traits of a good government member, some include being just, thinking before acting, but most of all, putting the needs of others before one's own interests. If we can commit ourselves to becoming this way, we can all grow to be fitting candidates for office, and we can slowly eradicate graft and corruption. I know the Filipinos are very capable of this, for we are a nation good at heart. All that has happened was that we were entrapped by a layer of greed, brought by certain officials. If we can achieve all this, we will be able to slowly peel off that layer, and finally become a nation, standing side by side.


Is Our Country United? by Rian Dy

Is our country united? I don't think so. Many things happen here like the Zamboanga city crisis, the pork barrel scam, and many more. If things like this continue to happen, our country won't and will never be united. How can we Filipino citizens fix this? By thinking about the needs of others and not just ourselves. By doing this, step by step, our country can be united helping each and every one of us.

To make our country a better nation, everyone should work. Not only the government, not only the people, but everyone. As a Filipino citizen, we cannot make the country better by ourselves we would also need the help of the government. I think one thing what the government can do is make programs to help the less fortunate people have food, water, clothing, shelter and education for their survival and so that even though they are poor they can still have a bright future. This will help the unity of our country because if they do this, we can assure that we can depend on the government on other important things and we can trust that they can develop and make our country better. What I should do to help make our country more united is I can help in relief operations, donate goods and pray for them unity is about everyone being united and it can start with me.

We should learn from our mistakes like the pork barrel scam that we shouldn't always just think of your own self but also the needs of others. Because of this, many people lost a lot of money. We should care for one another if we want to be united. One example of unity is the EDSA revolution on that day, we were united as one. All of us shared the same problems and faced the same difficulties I know we can be united like that again we just have to show more care for others. Step by step, little by little, if we work together, we can achieve this.


The Solution by Joshua Mabasa

I believe that there is a possible solution for every problem. As for the porkbarrel there is a solution to stop being corrupt. If people were to stop being corrupt a valid thing to do is to be considerate about the needs of the others or for the better of the country. Given that the porkbarrel scam is being inconsiderate and may happen in different forms.

For the government, the main solution is to implement a law that prevents a government official from stealing money of the peoples taxes for the use of the countries needs. The person who is liable to the crime may be put to jail. The taxes of the people are supposed to be used for the needs of the country. If the government were not to stop this from happening the Philippines would remain a third world country, nothing would improve in our country. Another thing the government may do is to have a meeting about consideration.

As for the people, a possible solution is to start a campaign about consideration and about the needs of the country. Another thing the community may do is to follow the actions of the government and see if they improved. The money the government collects is from the people, the money people get is from hard work and if the government is using it for there own personal wants, just like in the pork barrel scam would that not upset the people. The people worked hard for the money and it would be a waste if the money was not used for the needs of our country.

For me as a student, I believe I can set a good example to others and hopefully they will start to show consideration to others and may start a chain reaction to other people. If everyone became considerate the community would be an even better place than before. Showing consideration is something my parents have taught me, to have a better relationship with others is to be considerate and what Janet Lim Napoles has done may have broken the trust of the people with the government.

Janet Lim Napoles stole 10 billion pesos from the taxes of the people, the money she got should have been spent on renovating roads, highways, bridges and a whole lot more things which could be improved. If our country were to improved what people should consider is what would be good for the people for the many.


Achieving Unity by Cezar Quiambao

A successful nation needs a government, people, territory and sovereignty to function properly. Without these components our nation could experience several problems such as the pork barrel scam. If problems like this would occur often here in the Philippines we would never be united or we wont be able to achieve anything. As a nation we all have to be united and we need to work together to achieve a united nation. But how? How do we filipino citizens fix this problem? To help make our country better we filipinos should have proper education so that we would most likely get a good job that could help expand the country's economy. Being educated also helps us filipinos to vote wisely when it comes to elections. We should be aware with what problems our country is facing so that we would be able to make better choices when it comes to choosing our political leaders. We should all work together as a team to make our country one united nation. For the government to improve our country's unity I suggest that they should make more out reach programs for the less unfortunate not just when calamities strike. This simple act could strengthen the trust of the less unfortunate people to the governments which could most likely reduce crimes, rallies and rebellions. But the government should not spoil the less unfortunate too much because they might end up relying too much on the government to provide their personal needs. Another way to strengthen our country's unity is to keep in touch with their citizens. It is important for the government to hear from their citizens so that they can know what they are concerned about and what they want from their government. I myself could partake in such activities like when the government hosts outreach programs I could be there and help them pack goods, once I get older I should vote wisely, and keep in touch with my political leaders etc.

We could learn a lot from the past problems that we faced here in the Philippines such as the pork barrel scam. That problem just shows how disunited our nation is. The pork barrel scam just shows how we shouldn't be self centered and that we should share and "Unity is strength... when there is think about other citizens as well to improve our unity with one teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be another. Te perfect example of unity is the people who took achieved." part in rallies in the Philippines, everyone in the pork barrel -Mattie Stepanek rally and Edsa revolution were united as one working as a team to achieve the outcome they wanted. I believe our whole country could achieve that kind if unity if we just take consideration about others and work together as a whole.


Nationalism, Pride and Proactive Citizens By Aaron Ong Today, our nation faces numerous pressing issues, one of which is the Pork Barrel Scam which causes divisiveness in our country. On one side, we have politicians who are corrupt, greedy and incompetent and on the other side, we have a people hungry for truth and justice. With corruption evident in the government, how can the Filipino people trust the officials to guide and lead them properly? This poses a threat to our sovereignty as people's dissatisfaction of the government might lead to civil disobedience. As situations prove that we cannot simply rely on the government for solutions, then we, the Filipino citizens, must assist in making the country a better one for everyone to live in peacefully, where equality and justice are valued. This is how we will "heal" our "wounded" nation and rebuild it. In the pork barrel scandal, massive corruption and dishonesty in the government may be identified as the root cause. Government officials sent the funds of their PDAF to bogus NGOs handled by Janet Napoles, who in turn circulated the funds among the officials and herself. As such, the PDAF did not serve its purpose. The culture of corruption and dishonesty was and is still in the Philippines. It is definitely impossible to spark a sudden change that would affect the status quo. The change must begin with oneself. We, Filipinos, must inculcate honesty in ourselves and in all that we do, be it at home, in school, or at work. As students, we must increase our awareness of the current and pressing issues plaguing the country by reading the newspapers and watching the news. In this way, we will be educated of the flaws in our system and prevent it from happening in the future. Abolishing the PDAF which initially was created for a good purpose would prove to be futile as the main problem lies in the lack of transparency. In this regard, the people can create a watchdog organization that can check on the activities of the legislators and their appropriations for the PDAF. This would allow the people to really see if the officials are doing their job and in turn, promote efficient working on the part of the officials. This organization should seek to encourage citizens to engage in public debate, provide input and make contributions that would lead to a more responsive, innovative and good governance. The government on their part should provide a timely, comprehensive report on the activities they are undertaking including making known to the public the appropriations of the lawmakers by either publishing it in the newspapers or posting it online. This system would account for transparency in the government system which would therefore allow the PDAF to truly fulfill its purpose. The beneficiaries of listed projects would be able to see tangible results and in turn, benefit from these. Erring officials should easily be persecuted as accountability and transparency is in place. Moving aside from corruption, poverty should be alleviated as it causes the people to be easily corrupted. We, Filipinos must patronize Filipino products as doing this will open up opportunities for Filipino businessmen and create more jobs. Furthermore, it will promote love and pride in our country which would translate to better governance. Our government must also prioritize education in the country in order to mold our youth into proactive citizens and good leaders. With these ways, progress and unity may be achieved gradually. Little by little, we will see the Philippines transform from a land tainted with corruption to a strong and united nation.


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