Disclaimer: I salute politicians who live by faith and moral conduct, especially those who strive to make the government system a better and people-focused one, rather than political-centered. The title of this post is not to generalize the negativity of the politicians but to emphasize the allocated funds for project development, and how this “Pork Barrel funds” is used for the good of the state or for personal interest.
ON MY way to the Philippines from a training in the USA, at the airport lounge, waiting for boarding, I had an opportunity to converse with another Filipino, who is also in the same flight as I. Clarita is a US citizen and lives in the US for 43 years. She’s married and have kids. To my surprise, Clarita boldly shared that she despises the Philippines. At the back of my head I thought, “then why fly back to the Philippines? It is very contradicting.”
She said that with our rotten political and justice system, lazy people, and a very slow economy, the Philippines is in a very worst state she’d “never want to go back–even as a retiree.”
Whoah! Wait a minute, I said to my self. Here I am, so passionate about the country and so proud to be a Filipino, so excited to go back and share what I just learned from the training, then BOOM, met this old woman saying all the negatives she could think of the country.
I remember my brother telling me, “ate (big sister) why don’t you just throw away all your hopes and dreams for the Philippines and give up?” My brother and I debate often about anything and this is one of those. Clarita has basically given up her dream for her homeland and has never looked back because of the poverty and struggles she could have undergone while young. At one point, I could not blame her for thinking that way. It’s true. Our political system is like a celebrity show. Our justice system? Never mind. Our economy? Rich getting richer and poor getting poorer. But the people? I’d say we are most hard working and loyal workers.
The PORK and its perks
Recently, the Commission on Audit (COA) has found irregularities in allocation of pork barrel funds among House Representatives. According to a news report, “ghost recipients, excessive allocations, lack of public bidding and release of money to a non-congressman were among the irregularities found by the COA in the use of pork barrel funds from 2007 to 2009. The agency said 74 lawmakers who endorsed projects had corresponding releases ranging from P71 million to P3.068 billion. Normally, a congressman receives P70 million while a senator gets P200 million in priority development assistance fund (PDAF) each year.”
Here’s another scandal that some politicians are involved in. The bad thing is: the funds were used for personal agenda. Should I say corruption? Or is it an understatement to this prevalent and recurring problem in the country?
Pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund is budgeted for each lawmaker to be used for infrastructure and other development needs of their district/ constituents–not to purchase properties or donate to pseudo- NGOs (non-governmental organizations).
Not too long ago, the Supreme Court Justice was impeached after found of corruption, and so was the former president of the country, who was elected Mayor in the capital city this May 2013 local elections!
So, what’s new? Clarita is right. Our political and justice system is hopeless. Look at how these things repeat itself, rather than correct them. Frustration, that’s what she feels. That’s what millions of Filipinos feel.
Well, on the other hand, having access to this pork barrel is a very big thing. Imagine the millions of pesos you’re budgeted for during your three-year term? That’s a lot, no wonder why many people also fight for that position–even to the extent of killing opposing parties.
But if politicians, I know some do, use the pork barrel to the right cause for the benefit of all the people, imagine what it could do to our economy and social dignity: a more friendly public transportation, an efficient drainage system, a more reliable equipment, free and quality education for all, and jobs for the many! I know some cities have these improvements!
A spark of hope
One evening, I asked my roommate, “do you think there is still hope for the Philippines?” Her reply surprised me, “it’s a matter of perspective.” Indeed, it is a matter of perspective. Where do we see hope? How do we partake in bringing that hope into reality?
I am so blessed to be surrounded by people who have been encouraging people to stand for what is right. They are friends from the church, media, other faiths, and just active citizens who believe that one day, the Philippines would be a better place. (So Utopian ideology).
With healthy conversations among optimists and pessimists, one thing led me to ponder, God’s promises in the Bible. Remember in the book of Jonah? Jonah was sent to Nineveh to tell the people about God’s punishment to them, unless they repent. Many times did Jonah proclaim the message and was even frustrated himself. “When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.” (Jonah 3: 10)
In reply to Clarita’s distaste of the Philippines, I told her that I would never lose hope for the country. “Even a tiny person can change the world,” a quote from Lord of the Rings. A few moments before I wrote this entry, my brother and I had a short discussion about our National Hero Jose Rizal. We both admire his contributions to the country, who despite his privileges to be educated and excel abroad, chose to come back and spark a revolution against the Spanish government, which colonized the Philippines for more than 300 years.
Jose Rizal wrote a novel that opened the eyes of the Indios (Filipinos then) and led the arm struggle against the Spaniards. Soon, he and his friends founded a printing press, and a year after his death, the Filipino revolution against the Spanish colony began.
God, from the Biblical times to the present, has always been present to give hope to all. Our Creator gave us eyes to see not from a bystander perspective but from an active, reaching with point of view. God gave us eyes to mend brokenness and be solutions of the problem, rather than running away from it or ignoring it. God gave us hands to work with those who are persecuted and outcasts. God gave us feet to go toward the need and not away from. God gave us heart to love and hope, not to cower and harden. God gave us souls to discern, not to be robots.
Before, I was disheartened to read and imagine the killings in the Bible. I thought, “why did God allow all these things? Isn’t God a God of life? Why?” Yet, instead of fear and anger, I see God as loving and faithful. That despite the tragedies and the people’s turning away from Him/Her, God never gave up on them and has always provided a helping hand and a big heart to restore the relationship.
There is hope. As long as there are still people who believe that transformation will happen in the Philippines, the struggle continues until we achieve a just and peace society.
Scrap the pork allocation and invest in young people
The pork barrel system and other governmental funds, which are from the taxes of each citizen, should be used properly. I am speaking from my end but I know that the majority of the population would also agree. The pork barrel has been a tool for corruption. I think it should be scrapped from the House Representatives allocation, and instead invest it to the young people. Pork barrel, which is P70 million to P200 million per Congressman/woman and Senator could go a long way for education, schools, classrooms, tuition fees, and health care. If there are 24 senators and 500 lower house representatives, imagine how much money can be used for more important spending.
The word politician is inevitably affiliated with CORRUPTION. I am calling politicians who are honest and just to stand up and fight this web of political instability and unjust society. I call upon active citizens to take part in lobbying to our policy makers just, equal, and reasonable, people-centered projects be implemented. I call upon journalists to be watchdogs and not underdogs. I call upon Christians to pray and partake in this advocacy not as passive citizens but as active ones. I call upon people like Clarita to see the good side, to keep envisioning change, and to be the change our country needs.
I am not sure if I really convinced Clarita to think as I do. She just smiled when we part ways after that long conversation. But I pray she would try to look back where she came from and try to be instrumental in changing our ways. Clarita is 66 years old. Somehow, maybe, when she was my age, she was also hopeful for something good to happen in our native land. I just thought that it would have been better if it remained that way, or grew even more. So that the bright future will not only be on the shoulders of the youth (The youth is the future of the nation, Jose Rizal) but also on all generations.
(Photo: courtesy of Philippine Daily Inquirer)
News source: courtesy of sunstar.com.ph