When the President Follows Instead of Leads

aquino-sonaI suppose if I were looking for a unique word to describe President Noynoy Aquino, it would be “reflective”.

He thinks about things. Reads, talks to people, gathers information, and then makes a decision. Sometimes that decision is fast. That is when his mind may already have been made up. This occurred when the Sultan invaded Malaysia and he quickly determined that the Sultan was in the wrong.

Generally, however, he takes his time. He took his time on the Taiwanese shooting incident, and that time allowed matters in Malayisa to settle down from “war footing” to reason.

But when does “taking time” become a problem? For instance, when will the public EVER learn about the results of the NBI investigation into the Taiwanese fisherman’s death? That incident took place on May 9, 2013, almost four months ago. When does the laggardly response become another casual, dysfunctional application of the clock, Filipino style?

Well, I suppose it may only seem dysfunctional to us outsiders who march to much more precision, timewise. Here, the casual style is “de regueur”. The way it is done.

And, frankly, I think there is a useful functionality to not acting on things right away. It allows friends who are under investigation to get out from under the spotlight. It allows evidence to dissolve as memories dissolve or witnesses die. In the case of the Taiwanese fisherman, the greater the distance the President can put between the incident and outrage, the better. That outrage might come either from Taiwanese that the Philippines was not tough enough on murder, or from Filipinos that the President did not stick up for his Coast Guard troops, if the charge indeed is “murder”.

So time is both a healer, and it buries things. In the Philippines, it is used far and wide to bury things.

That brings us to the Pork Scandal, which is a mammoth case of things being buried since the time of President Arroyo, when great gaping holes in the distribution of the people’s honestly paid taxes allowed those taxes to be siphoned off to the pockets of thieves far and wide, and evidently on high.

I am sorry to have to opine that President Aquino is not properly out in front on this. He risks becoming reactive. That is he risks becoming a follower instead of a leader. The President has issued three rather mild commentaries about the matter:

  • One, that Pork (PDAF) is a legitimate means of doing constructive work, and the mechanisms for distributing it merely need to be tightened up and violators punished.
  • Two, that further distributions of Pork will be deferred until the outcome of the NBI charges that are being prepared.
  • And, three, the abuses are “disgusting”, he will listen to ideas for improvement, and it is important to recognize that the abuses originated under his predecessor, and things are different now.

Perhaps he does not have a clear reading of the anger that exists in the realm of his “boss”, the People. Or perhaps he DOES comprehend, and is once again letting time cure the outrage . . . or bury the evidence.

I roundly support President Aquino and all that he is doing for the Philippines. The doors he is opening to honest governance and better economic performance are extraordinary. Refer to a recent blog I wrote that states how I see this: “The Philippines: Tiger or Stuffed Kitty?”

But President Aquino is now off the mark in his leadership position.

Two issues come together to put the President in an unfortunate, passive, non-leadership position.

  1. He has offered no backing to Freedom of Information (“FOI”) legislation.
  2. He has endorsed the use of Pork as an acceptable means of doing government work.

His failure to support FOI is a mystery. It is a piece of legislation that fits like a glove around the whole anti-corruption effort. It wraps the public’s eyes around the flows of money and the doing of deeds throughout government. It would reveal misdeeds like the Pork scandal without need of whistle blowers risking their jobs and lives.

Is he afraid of what might be revealed? Is there an element of the legislation that he finds distasteful? I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

His support of Pork as an official means of allocating funds is not a mystery. Pork does two things: (1) It gets important work done, and (2) it empowers the politicians who distribute it. What better way to garner influence among two audiences:

  1. Voters.
  2. People whose backing you need to get your agenda done.

What is unsettling is the President’s willingness to conclude the debate before the arguments have been waged. Before understanding the scope of the transgressions or alternatives or considering exactly what has to happen to make the Pork distribution method whole and respected.

That’s where I think he has slipped into “follow” mode. He has not explained how the political benefits of pork are to the public’s advantage, and why it is a better system than, say, simply allocating money to municipalities.

I’m guessing Pork will NEVER be respected, and the Public, his boss, will let him know as soon as the next presidential popularity ratings are released. His ratings are likely to drop sharply.

And the Pork scandal adds more fuel to the fire of demand for public scrutiny of government work and expenditures. It says point blank, clear and plain, we need FOI. Frankly, there is NO one, not one single government representative who has not had his “trust index” dinged by this scandal.

When the People have lost trust, it is time to pass FOI so public officials have a way to EARN that trust back.

I think legislators and upper level Executive branch people fall into two classes: One, those who have something to hide, who have been criminal or negligent. They will run around ducking for cover and mealymouthing everything. Two, those who are honest and must be highly upset that their diligence has been stained by their crooked or negligent colleagues.

My guess is there are honorable legislators about. I don’t know who they are, frankly. But it is time for them to step forward and lead.

If this President won’t do it, the next President can.

This is the time for Grace Poe to show what she is capable of doing.

Or Sonny Angara.

Or, Hell, Nancy Binay. Although she would surprise me.

Because on this issue, this joined issue of FOI and Pork, the President is not leading.

There is a vacuum, and the next President can fill it by correctly interpreting the People’s will.

And leading.

Comments
57 Responses to “When the President Follows Instead of Leads”
  1. On the pork barrel, scholars said that President Quezon created and used the pork barrel to influence the legislators and gain the majority in the Congress for his political survival. PNoy might be afraid that he will lose his congress majority if he pushes for abolition of the pork; every crooked legislator might just vote against the bills supported by the admin. The FOI is a much more intriguing story though. Is PNoy a trapo inside? Does he want to cover up Cojuangco; Aquino or someone’s secrets? Or just like the pork barrel case, is he afraid of losing the majority in the legislature?

    Regarding the next election, why not Escudero? I’m sure he couldn’t launder his pork because he was a vocal critic of GMA; I highly doubt whether he received PDAF when GMA was president. Still, there’s a thought that he is a mere critique and not a good policy maker. Another fact:GMA was Escudero’s godmother. Mar Roxas is my presidential bet, but the DILG post makes him look incompetent and unpopular. He should have been given an economics/finance-related position.

    Sonny Angara has a trapo feel; I remember that his father is also embroiled in the scandal. Poe is more of a newbie compared to Pnoy in 2010. She seems principled, dutiful and clean cut at this point. I remember she pushed for giving tax incentives to companies which will provide meals for school children. NO NANCY BINAY. I hope that she’ll implode in the Senate and drag down the popularity of VP Binay.

    • Joe America says:

      I was taken aback when, about a year ago, DBM head Abad dismissed complaints about the political application of Pork with the rationalization along the lines of, “that’s just the way we do it here.” Cultural enlightenment about the power-principles of Philippine politics, right up front.

      It seems to me the Pork debacle increases the visibility of FOI, and the President’s mysterious negligence in capping his drive for straight government with a whitewash of FOI. It boarders on bizarre to me, not to use all the tools available to make sure government is transparent and working on the People’s behalf. His legacy will be tarnished, for sure.

      I don’t know Escudero at all. I’ll have to put him on the study block. I agree with your portrayal of Roxas, Poe, Angara and Binay. Roxas to me also carries the stigma of “loser”, and that will cost him a lot of votes. I very much like Poe; her committee chairs (Public Order & Public Information) should allow her to take a lead position on FOI and the Pork matter. I hope she grabs the opportunity and does not let go for nine more years.

  2. Yes, that’s the one that bugs me: PNoy is not gunning for his legacy. In the last half of his term, he should go all out in the transparency and accountability thrust. I hope it’s not the case, but it is uncovering that his “underlings” and political allies are his real bosses. I find it funny that you don’t know Escudero at all. Where were you when he was running his mouth against GMA? HAHAHA

    I expect Chiz– you might as well start your study with his nickname– Escudero to resign right before 2016 elections. I suggest you google his romance with actress Heart Evangelista; it appears like it will be the new Mar-Korina pre-election love team. As it stands, it will be an Escudero-Binay showdown in 2016.

  3. edgar lores says:

    1. There are no excuses for not supporting the FOI.

    2. Undoubtedly, the pork barrel is a fount of corruption. But what happens if you abolish it?
    o Does corruption magically disappear? Or is corruption lessened at least?
    o What takes its place, if any?
    o Should the pork barrel be rechanneled?
    2.1. Let us explore.

    3. The pork barrel has one formal purpose. As institutionalized, it has acquired three informal aims.
    3.1. Formally, to assist in the development and implementation of local projects, identified by congressmen, that are not allocated for in the national budget. The implementation may be carried out by national government agencies, local (LGU) agencies, government corporations (GOCCs) or non-government organizations (NGOs).
    3.2. Informally, to incentivize the Legislature to support the policies and programs of the incumbent Executive.
    3.3. Informally, to support the politics of patronage whereby elected politicians can (a) recover campaign expenses; (b) fund future campaigns; (c) help constituents in their requests for assistance.
    3.4. To line the pockets of elected politicians and their accomplices.

    4. The formal purpose of the pork barrel arises from the recognition that no amount of central planning can effectively and fully respond to local conditions. PNoy sees the truth of this as he nominated a local dam project for pork-barrel assistance.
    4.1. Without the pork barrel, these small-scale projects will not be attended to.
    4.2. On the other hand, legitimate pork barrel projects, because of limited planning, financing, controls and kickbacks, are often of substandard quality.

    5. Let us examine the first informal purpose of a symbiotic relationship between the Executive and the Legislature.
    5.1. From a certain perspective, there would be no problem if a dominant party won the Executive and both houses of the Legislative branch. The problem only arises when there is a hostile lower or upper house.
    5.2. In the latter situation, one would have an ineffective president, although certain presidents in this exact situation have been able to overcome this liability, not necessarily by the pork barrel, but through horse-trading.
    5.3. But the power of the pork barrel is real. Without it, would Corona have been adjudged guilty? Without it, would the RH Bill have gained passage?
    5.4. On the other hand, from another perspective, would congressmen suddenly become real and true servants of the public if the pork barrel was abolished? This is the current hope of the people, but is it realistic?

    6. Let us examine the second informal purpose of a symbiotic relationship among elected politicians and the voters.
    6.1. The theory is that without the attraction of the pork barrel, dishonest politicians will not seek office. There would be no way for them to recover campaign expenses or fund future campaigns. The corollary is that patronage politics – and dynasties – will disappear.
    6.1. This theory has holes. From the supply side, one hole is that there are other sources of corruption, and unless all rivers of gold are dammed, the hope of the people will be in vain as corruption will still find its way like river water wending its way to the lowest level.
    6.2. Another supply-side hole is that corruption exists only at the national level. Until the last presidential elections, the Binays were just local politicians. Now, there is a Binay in almost all levels and branches of government with the possible exception of the judiciary. (But then who needs the judiciary, right?) The total Binayization of the country, a civilization of unparalleled corruption, is likely to occur 3 years from now.
    6.3. From the demand-side, will the people stop asking for assistance from their political godfathers?
    The padrino system is so deeply embedded in the Filipino psyche and culture that it is almost impossible to uproot. There are not only political patrons but also patron saints. There are the priests asking for vehicles and Forbes Park residency. There is the INC bloc using religion to gain access to plum government positions. There is nepotism, cronyism and fraternity bros even in the judiciary.

    7. Nature abhors a vacuum. The pork barrel may not be abolished just like that.
    7.1. The web of corruptions spreads into all branches and institutions. Removing one thread will not destroy the web. It is necessary to catch the spiders that spin the webs.
    7.2. There was an idea that the lost pork would create 27,000 instant millionaire families. There was no suggestion of how the redistribution would take place. I suggest that all the properties of the erring congressmen and their accomplices be seized and sold. I further suggest that the proceeds of the sale be redistributed by a raffle limited to CCT recipients and blog commenters of limited assets who have expressed outrage at the scam. (That would exclude me as I have a deep vocabulary.)
    7.3. There was another suggestion to redirect a portion of the pork barrel as a legitimate source of campaign funds. This is an eminent suggestion as it would strengthen the political party construct.
    7.4. There is another reason for keeping the pork barrel: to spark the revolution.

    • Joe America says:

      If I correctly read the tea leaves you are casting, I conclude that President Aquino is steeped in the padrino system and the confusion I face falls click click click into clarity, for FOI is a gross violation of the ethics of that system. Perhaps I should stop reading Ian Rankin novels, for some of these power brokers seem downright ruthless and if Binay wins the presidency in 2016, I’d better have my wife’s U.S. spousal visa in hand and our suitcases packed.

      Thank you for this elaborate essay. It reads a lot like an Ian Rankin novel.

    • edgar lores says:

      The PDAF is dead! Long live the PDAF!

    • Tristanism says:

      Edgar, thanks for that well articulated response. It’s harder and harder these days to find write-ups and commentaries that are not frothing in the mouth. Seems everybody is busy being indignant, offended and offensive. Nobody really takes time to understand the issue.

      Everything from blogs to newspaper articles/columnists, people are busy inflaming people.

      The president’s stance against the abolition of the pork is perplexing, but I want to find out more why he took that stance.

      Also, I know a lot of folks who benefit from the PDAF of lawmakers: patients at PGH and NKTI. What happens to them under the new pork scheme since it no longer allows for ‘soft’ projects?

      • edgar lores says:

        Tristanism,

        1. It’s a difficult situation, isn’t it? Because of the people’s anger, the President has been forced to modify the PDAF, throwing out the good bits with the bad. The PDAF for 2014 will stay, so this will give time for people to come up with solutions to preserve the legitimate uses of the pork barrel particularly the soft projects. Perhaps medicine and medical paraphernalia should be excluded from the exclusions.

        2. There is a perceptive essay by Dean La Vina in Rappler wherein he observes that the central fault of the pork barrel “is the legislator’s involvement in how the projects are implemented and in particular who implements the projects.” He argues that the “iron wall between the legislative process of budgeting and project implementation” has been breached.

        2.1. That is all very well and good but, as MB counter argues, the proper way might be to put constraints in the process, rebuilding the iron wall, because thieving politicians will always find a way to steal. And it will get harder and harder to discover their sneaky ways.

        2.2. Just recently in Australia, some state politicians have been adjudged guilty of corruption because of their inside knowledge of future projects. They knew the government was committed to developing a certain area and bought surrounding properties at very low prices only to sell them to the government at inflated prices. So the opportunities for corruption are legion.

        2.3. If you ask me, the only proper way is to instil the fear of God in these thieves, but if the priests who “walk” with God have no fear of Him, how much more so are those who are so many times removed from Him?

        3. The thing is even the President’s discretionary fund has been dragged into the imbroglio. We do not know how the President uses his fund, but I can imagine him using it to send Trillianes to China to conduct back-door negotiations. I know this is not a good example, but this is what comes to mind and I trust the point is made?

        3.1. I do question why the Vice President needs a discretionary fund, but it’s more because of the incumbent’s character rather than the legitimate requirements of the office. 😉

        4. It’s good to see the “bosses” frothing at the mouth and the politicians frightened into silence. It reinforces the notion that government is for the people, and it shows that Filipinos, contrary to past impressions of a 380-years servitude, are not complacent. Now if only the rage can be maintained and put to good use. Like punishing the culprits. Like keeping the bastards honest.

        4.1. But there should also be cool analysis and a rational consideration of options and solutions. Hope it does not rain on the people’s parade tomorrow.

  4. manuel buencamino says:

    “But when does “taking time” become a problem? For instance, when will the public EVER learn about the results of the NBI investigation into the Taiwanese fisherman’s death? That incident took place on May 9, 2013, almost four months ago. When does the laggardly response become another casual, dysfunctional application of the clock, Filipino style?”

    Joe, the investigation was completed about a week or so ago, charges are going to be filed against the coast guard guy who shot the Taiwanese fisherman. You missed the news because of all the noise from the squealing pigs.

  5. manuel buencamino says:

    I guess this is a good time for Congress to officially bury PDAF so that it can be resurrected as congresssional earmark. The tactic has so far worked for those boys in that domed building atop a hill. Earmarking includes the pork as part of the budget so it makes it look like the legislator is not directly involved in the process. But, and I speak from experience, Congress reserves the right to put a hold on earmarked projects. So, what happens is the department handling the earmark must inform the legislator that it is ready to spend the money. And so the legislator tells the department, okay hang on to it till I give you the go ahead. Now he calls his boys back home and tells them “I got the money for project such and such so you better set up to bid for it. Don’t be greedy now, share it among yourselves.” And they say, “Thanks and which PAC do we send your share to?” “I’ll have my chief of staff call you.” And then he picks up the phone and calls the department concerned and tells them, “The hold is lifted. You may open the tap now.” That is done on the district level. And on the big ticket items like outsourcing intel gathering etc. Now how is that different from PDAF?

    • Joe America says:

      I don’t think I’ve written anywhere that the Pork program should be disbanded because I have not considered the alternatives in any detail, and know that important projects get funded through distributions. Maybe the President is actually correct, but he needs to clarify how two opposing forces reconcile: political self interest and public interest.

      Indeed, the U.S. has rotten political dealings in its buildings. I find the way things work there to be quite disgusting, if I may borrow a word from President Aquino. Especially since the politically-stacked Supreme Court ruling allowing unfettered corporate donations to political groups. But I can only work one country at a time, and these days I’m working the Philippines. And I find myself getting repetitive with this explanation.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        Joe I was not criticizing your system. I was merely pointing the value of learning from your country’s experience.

        Being similar systems, we evolve similarly.

        You solved your pork barrel corruption issue a hundred years ago. You didn’t get rid of it, your legislators just thought of a way to disguise it. That is where the abolish PDAF movement is taking us.

        They will force our legislators to invent a way to keep their pork so that it will be very difficult for us to keep tabs on it.

        PDAF is easy enough to keep tabs on. It is a special fund for each legislator. It is easy to keep track of what one legislator does with his PDAF if one cares to do it. But the next step in the evolution of pork is a congressional earmark. That will be difficult to track.

        The legislator who inserted it is not even identified by name, his earmark will be inserted as a subcommittee measure that is passed up to the committee which, in turn, includes it in the general appropriations bill. No sponsor names just amounts for such and such. How do you single out culprits?

        So my mention of congressional earmarking was not a dig at your country but a warning to my countrymen that they don’t know what they are getting themselves into with the abolish PDAF movement.

  6. Jo says:

    Ditto on FOI–I don’t understand why PNoy is not pushing it.

    Grace Poe, I have more confidence in among the names floating about. Chiz I used to be a fan of, until I grew up and realized that his articulate speeches I was enamored with… are roundabout and hardly makes sense. He was also part of the Brat Pack that impeached CJ Davide when his court ruled that the Coco Levy Fund was ill-gotten. And generally, he just seems slick to me.

    Plus I partly blame him for Jojo Binay becoming VP, haha.

    Roxas, I agree on the loser tag. He seems used goods now. And I campaigned for him among family and friends during the last national election too. Lately he looks like a wet shirt wrung dry. I blame Korina, haha.

    Sonny Angara seems clean, but there’s the economic zone mess I still don’t understand.

    Binay… I want that names stricken out of the country. Trapo through and through, and I wouldn’t be surprised if daughter is the same. She may seem like a nice girl but it’s a woman we need.

    I can’t wait for Ms. Poe to start working. If she proves herself, she may have a shot at 2016. She’s yet to begin and already, a lot of people are rooting for her. Plus I’m confident that when (optimism, right there :D) she succeeds PNoy, she’ll continue what he started.

    For now, PNoy needs to follow through on his promise of supporting FOI during election. His term is almost over, he should be more uncompromising on his stance regarding corruption by now. Both Houses don’t need PDAF, their job is legislation, and PNoy should’ve realized by now that if he abolishes pork and the Houses ‘bully’ him because of it by refusing to pass his measures, his Bosses would not take it sitting down. His popularity ratings should be testament to that. We have faith in him, he should have faith in us too.

    Right now, paying taxes is so damned painful. It’s hard to be a law-abiding citizen when the lawmakers are not abiding themselves. We both wish there’s a system in place where we can choose which departments our taxes would go to instead–we’d earmark our taxes to DepEd, DAR, DENR–and maybe the rest would shape up when they realize no one’s supporting them financially. It’s our money after all, we should have a hand on how it’s used.

    But yeah, wishful thinking.

    I hope PNoy makes a surprise appearance on the Million March on the 26th, if only to listen. I can’t be there as I have to work but I will be railing against the pork barrel in spirit.

    PNoy is good at listening–let’s hope he listens this time as well.

    • Joe America says:

      “Slick Chiz” and “Sweet Nancy” and “Wet Shirt Roxas.” 🙂 🙂 :). I enjoyed your review. Sent me rolling on the floor laughing loudly. Sorry about that tax pain though . . .

      • Jo says:

        Glad to make you laugh, haha. 😀

        Well, nothing is certain except death and taxes–and as much in pain as we are right now, I’m not in a hurry to pay the former. 😀

  7. Jo says:

    By the way, I saw your article this coming Wednesday. With Rappler fast falling from grace in my eyes, I can’t wait! 😀

  8. andrew lim says:

    Joe, sent you via email my essay. Just use apropos pics. Pls acknowledge receipt. Tnx.

  9. andrew lim says:

    Boy oh boy. This pork discussion is so good. I keep waffling on my position as I see very sound and sober arguments on both sides. Buencamino raises very good points. But I think there is a greater argument for its abolition aside from corruption – it distorts the working relationships and balance of power bet legislative and executive and kills the development of a party system based on ideologies which we all want.

    So I argue for its abolition. By the way, Manuel, you do not argue for the retention of something which begets evil by arguing that the evil will just go somewhere else (i.e. earmarks) if you abolish it. You work for the eradication of corruption and not allow it to go elsewhere.

    I figure this is a turning point in our political system and if the stars align, we could see a significant development. It could turn out to be Pnoy’s shining legacy, even beating Corona, RH and his anti-corruption agenda.

    • Joe America says:

      It is indeed a big, big moment.

      I’ve got to reflect on your point regarding distortion of working relationships. Politics seems to thrive on distortions. Spins, favors, spiteful positions and voting.Take a contested issue or project requiring funding. The purest contest is one of facts and argument of principles and impacts, without emotion or vested interest. But emotion and vested interest seem always to enter the picture. Accusations, mistrust, vengeance voting. It seems to be the nature of the beast, that public interest is expressed through pipelines of party interest or personal interest.

      Information and intelligence promote the best analyses, and are the key checks and balances. THAT is what FOI is intended to address. I think Pork with FOI is manageable. Pork without FOI is what is being revealed. Scheming corruption. Pulling wool over taxpayer eyes.

      FOI is the bigger issue to me than Pork. Pork is the gas. FOI the pedal.

      • andrew lim says:

        Are legislators really in the best position to determine a district’s micro-needs? Isnt it better to have the local govt execs handle that, in consultation with the national economic and planning agencies?

        Why cant they just legislate?

        • Joe America says:

          Three excellent questions, answered no, yes, and because it is harder to get votes without pork. They have to EARN them through good work.

          • andrew lim says:

            Which means under the new paradigm, legislators will have to earn votes not through largesse anymore, but the quality of their legislation. Which is what it should be in the first place.

            Another great reason for abolishing it!

    • manuel buencamino says:

      Andrew,

      I am not arguing for the retention of evil. PDAF is not evil. It is well-intentioned. It is neutral. It can be good, it can be bad, depending on how it’s used.

      Evil are those who misuse it. So I am saying it will go somewhere else because thieves never rest. It’s their nature to steal.

      I say we work towards the abolition of corruption by putting constraints on it, by making it difficult, if not impossible, to do it, by plugging leaks. And we can only put constraints or plug leaks if we are familiar with what we are trying to plug.

      PDAF is easy to recognize in its present form. It is labeled in the budget. We know the steps from DBM to the benficiaries.

      My argument is: if we abolish PDAF it will take on a new form, it will become more sophiscated, and it will take time for us to find the leaks if we can even get a handle on how that new pipeline looks.

      By the way, there was no PDAF during martial law. There was no congress. Still, there was pork barrel and thieving, right? Because in any enterprise be it government or public sector there will always be occasions where discretionary spending is required. Call them contingency funds. That’s what PDAF is.

      • andrew lim says:

        thanks for the clarification. i find it hard to read your arguments because it causes me to waffle again ha ha ha ha

        • manuel buencamino says:

          Andrew,

          The fault is mine. I am muddled when I argue. I should stop and organize my thoughts before I write and not do this stream of consciousness bits like I was sitting in a bar and having a conversation over tequila shots.

  10. J says:

    “Perhaps he does not have a clear reading of the anger that exists in the realm of his “boss”, the People.”

    — Indeed, Joe. The President is sadly underestimating the anger over the issue. Things could go the way of Brazil if not handled properly.

    • Joe America says:

      Yes, I caught your article at The Observers, and was amused to see that we had come up with the same interpretation. I’m thinking that the Philippines is not quite as explosive as Brazil. I hope that the message becomes clear to Mr. President and that he does not continue to “follow” or “bury” or “misread”.

    • manuel buencamino says:

      Looks like the president heard you. He announced the scrapping of PDAF this morning. Does that mean no more pork? No. Like I mentioned to Joe, it will now become earmarks. Same wine, different bottle. Except this time it will be harder to follow ass legislators will not leave any fingerprints unlike with PDAF where their prints were all over it.

  11. Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

    First time I hear of Pork Barrel Scandal. So, I Googled Philippine Development Assistance Fund. Voila! 4 to 5 hits! Opened each one of them. All useless pieces of information. It does not say where the Fund went to. It did not name the NGOs. Who received what from whom. Nothing!!! No details at all. All I read are Senators wanting to scrap the fund.

    I may not understand it because I am a Filipino and English is my second language. So I have my 100% white blue-eyed American read it and tell me what it is all about. After a few minutes, she told me “there is nothing much to go on”! Tumpak! I knew I can understand English very well I just need some vetting and validation from truly 100% American English-First-Language if it is giving vital piece of information. She said Nothing. I said Nothing. Therefore, Philippine Media are bunch of worthless freaks!

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      There is million-Filipino-march coming up. But, what do they know about the Pork Scandal? If I cannot know it, how can they know it? They are just marching for marching sake? They should know that marching is not Walk-for-Breast Cancer. They are walking against Pork Scandal that few details are known. BASTA! MERON SCANDAL! They do not need to know the details because to this day it is still under wraps. I hope funny guy Alan has some tidbits from Mr. & Mrs. Anonymous.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      Oh, darn! Why does it have to be difficult to eke out some morsels of information. I got it from PhilStar. So, IT IS WHISTLEBLOWING the cause of COA investigation again! AGAIN? Yeah! Whistleblowing. In the PHilippines all scandals are because of WHISTLEBLOWING. Why do they whistleblow? Because one of them got shortchanged.

      WHISTLEBLOWING is the result of eng-get, jealousy, undivided loot, shortchanged NOTHING ABOUT PATRIOTISM, NATIONALISM, MORALITY and DAAN MATUWID !!! It always boil down to eng-get !!!!

      We need plenty of Benigno Aquinos down the road to right the Filipinos that Christianity had not for the past 500 years.

      • manuel buencamino says:

        No sir. The COA audit for 2007-2009 was started in 2010, long before the whistleblower blew his whistle. There were also previous COA audits, 2008 and earlier, where anomalies in PDAF were noted. Somehow our watchdogs, media and the do-good civi society groups, missed those audits Furthermore, Napoles was subpoenaed during the Magsaysay probe on the joc-joc bolante fertilizer scam. She managed to slip the subpoena because GMA issued the no-testimony executive order and the senate probe was closed down. Our watchdogs went back to sleep when the probe shut down. Damn it, we have to stay up nights to make sure our watchdogs are not asleep.

    • Mariano Renato Pacifico says:

      I am not quiet getting it. Fatty Porks are given to Senator and given to NGO. Why in newspaper reporting appears the money was sent to NGO not thru Senator. And the “honorable” senators are and their minions are not monitoring it for the past 5 years? Que Horror !!!!!

      So, the papers are covering up the senators and congressmen. Because all I hear are NGOs. Not where it came from, who funneled it to NGO, etcetera. Oh, puhleeez, this need not need investigative journalism. This is flat out straight journalism by asking around.

  12. cha says:

    He’s done it again. He once again shows how to lead. Well done, Mr. President.

    Goodbye and good riddance to the stinky pork barrel. Hello jailtime for Napoles and her friends from Congress and everywhere else.

    http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/323265/news/nation/president-aquino-time-to-abolish-pdaf

    http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/323270/news/nation/full-statement-of-president-aquino-on-abolition-of-pdaf

  13. ricelander says:

    I think money is like water, it seeks its own level. PDAF, pork barrel whatever you call them, they are like irrigation systems that seek to direct scarce resource where they are needed while respecting the power terrain. If money is plenty no problem. Money scarce, plenty problem. There is not a river but a tiny creek, at summer a narrow flow that end in droplets, You need the bulldoze a mountain to get the some water downstream…

    You need not bulldoze a mountain if you can build an Amazon river….

  14. edgar lores says:

    1. Hmm, the revolution is not upon us. PNoy has partly dissipated the anger.

    2. The rally should still focus on the pork barrel, but not on its “abolition”. The anger should focus on demanding the heads of all solons and their accomplices. The passage of the FOI should not be targeted as it will scatter the focus and strength of the anger.
    2.1. With justice so slow, if not absent, heads may not roll within a heartbeat. But shaming Enrile, Revilla, Estrada, Honasan and Angara – and demanding their resignation – will thwart to some degree future illicit attempts at pork barrelling and will, moreover, thwart the political ambitions of Revilla and Estrada.
    2.2. The demand for justice must be unwavering. There are so many solons, organizations, and underlings involved. As thorough a cleansing must be performed to teach a lesson. No lesson, no gain.

    3. Is the less than total abolition of the PDAF necessary? As I said, nature abhors a vacuum.
    3.1. Pork cannot be totally done away with, it can only be reduced. There is no government on earth that does not have pork in all its disguises.
    3.2. The incentive to public office will never be completely selfless, a sheer altruism to serve the people. True, there are other incentives like prestige, honor and respect, but with that comes a sense of entitlement for perks, fringe benefits, cars, chauffeurs, free first-class air tickets, expensive dinners, and the open thighs of nubile lasses (or the muscular thighs of he men). Ah, the aphrodisiac of power.

    4. Therefore, to a certain extent if not to a great extent, public office must have its own licit rewards and guarantee a modicum of financial ease.
    4.1. This licit rewards may consist of an attractive basic salary, allowances, sundry perks such as travel abroad for legislative study, and a comprehensive retirement scheme based on the length of service.
    4.2. The licit rewards should also include reimbursement of election expenses to a predefined ceiling for each type of office. This is why the rechanneling of part of the PDAF to fund election campaigns is important.
    4.3. The funding should be allocated to political parties and not to individual candidates. This will incent parties to differentiate themselves through platforms. This will attract idealists into government service. Celebrities, like Sotto and Revilla, will no longer seek office as the payoff will be less than fronting the cameras, with the added bonus that they do not have to think.

    5. Viva la evolucion!

  15. Rein Luna says:

    Noy2 must have a reason why he wouldn’t say something about the FOI Bill. the way he does things, he’d only bring it to light when he’s done “studying” the bill, once he’s ready. FOI is corruption’s bane – it’s harder to find a reason not to use it. Like you Joe, it’s a mystery to me. It’s one of his few flaws, and a gaping one at that. He should make the FOI the ace up his sleeve, and what better time to lay it down for everyone to see.

  16. The Mouse says:

    The pork barrel system baffles me. Why have pork to congressmen when there are government agencies/bureaus like DepEd, DPWH, DSWD, DOH that can do the job? Politicians say that pork barrel is for improving schools…. what is the DepEd for? Some say it is for improving roads, but isn’t that a DSWD job?

    • Joe America says:

      I’m researching that now. It seems to me the whole enterprise of legislative and executive distributions for specific projects or offices (e.g., the P 200 million for VP Binay) is entirely political and falls outside the realm of proper PROJECT authority. In other words, it is a scurrilous business.

  17. Hi Joe!

    I’d really like to comment on FOI, which you mentioned in this article.

    The President thinks things through. He is deliberate when needed, takes his time when he isn’t sure. I don’t know the President’s mind, and I don’t speak for him. So this is the realm of speculation on my part. Speculation based on the things I’ve learned in the last year engaging different branches of government, and learning about the complex problems we have.

    To start off: it is in my humble opinion that there is reluctance to enact FOI for the very reason you mentioned in the article.

    The President is for FOI, I think. Conceptually. My basis for saying this is he let his people study it, and craft their own version of it. The government is also a party to Open Government. They’ve publicly made this commitment on GovPH, and other sites like perangbayan, the dbm site, and the COA site. Also more and more the government is opening up. SC has their site for big issues like RH, and so on. So this is my guess.

    So if he _is_ for FOI, why didn’t it pass? There were rumors in the last congress that it would get passed. There were rumors that the President himself is not for it, hence the reluctance.

    In my time interacting with the government i learned that not every organ is in the 21st century. Records are on paper silos. Others may have gone digital, but the data again is in silos, unfit for what we’ve come to appreciate today with the internet: readily mined and searchable. You can read in between the lines from COA Chair Tan when she talked about why it took so long to get the audit out. Documents were missing. Records were not kept, or they were deliberately misled. So the data for FOI to be effective is in silos.

    Second, there is great hesitancy in the bureaucracy itself. We can gleam this from Tan’s interviews on how hard it was to get people to give them data. And she passed the buck to DBM on why COA’s report said one congressman received 3B. Someone goofed, and she said it was DBM. You can imagine that at this level you would assume that the executive dept would be more than willing to talk to COA, whose chair is an ally of the President.

    Third, in Congress there is also this great hesitancy in enacting something like this. Fear of being cyberbullied. Fear of repercussions of opening up. What if the people are going to go up and arms and hurt us? You’ve seen Senator Sotto’s reaction. You’ve seen Nancy Binay’s reaction on day one from being Cyberbullied. So in that sphere, many minds will need to be reformatted. Just as you need to change the culture at the Executive.

    Fourth, going back to the first “reason” (for lack of better term), modernizing the bureaucracy will take monies, and there is great reluctance to spend monies in this way. We can see this from virtual veto that the Department of Information and Communications Technology got. Trying to digitize all the information will take monies.

    Fifth, there is a reluctance because how much information can you process? They are worried these agencies will get boggled with requests— frivolous or not.

    Sixth, what should be FOI available? What are the mechanics? Which information should be made available? I don’t think they have a firm idea, yet.

    Seventh, the louder the clamor, the more the Palace will push for the idea. I don’t think they are willing to spend political currency on FOI when the public, seemingly doesn’t want it. No loud clamor. No Million People March.

    Please understand that this is ALL speculation on my part.

    • Joe America says:

      Cocoy, thanks for the most elaborate speculation! You make more sense than anything I’ve read on FOI. Certainly, I did not take into consideration the practical matter of how do you provide information when the files are still paper. That also explains why so many government web sites present scanned documents of their paper reports as their transparency effort. Fear and denial of accountability make sense, too, culturally, where a lot rides on “face”. Clearly there is a river of reluctance that has to be swum . . . upstream.

      I very much appreciate your insights. I shall persist in my small bit of clamor here! 🙂

      • edgar lores says:

        I have put on my system cap, and have concluded that the FOI is a mirage solution to corruption.

        1. We have become so used to googling things that we think FOI will be a piece of cake.
        2. One assumption is that most data will be digitized and available online. Not so.
        3. Another assumption is that even if most data is digitized it will be centralized. Not so.
        4. And this is not even considering the volume of requests and the lack of personnel to process the requests.
        5. Just consider one potential query: What were the PDAF allocations of Senator x for the period y, and how would you prove that one allocation, never mind all, was illicit?
        5.1. If you consider just one project, a simple one, say a road project, the number of variables and circumstances are enormous. For example, you would have to know the standard cost of one kilometer of road, the variables of the site, the cost of labor, materials and equipment, the documentation of all of these, and you would have to do an actual visual inspection. What if Typhoon Cover-up damaged most of the road?
        6. FOI will work on simple request like a copy of one receipt – providing the file has not been “misplaced”.

        • Joe America says:

          To some extent I believe you are correct, and you echo the realities that Cocoy points out. For example, I was able to find out that the Representative for Biliran Island received P85 million in PDAF funds this year. To understand how they are spent requires a data source that I doubt is available on line, and it would be troublesome for his staff to look up the information on paper.

          But I do believe the principle is correct, that the FOI law should be written to phase in over time, that there should be limits as to what is available and timeframes for gov’t offices to respond to certain “priority” requests (requests from the press, legal cases, whatever). Furthermore, I think the demand for information would force many units to automate and thus make it somewhat more difficult to use the corruption strewn manual and paper process that exists now.

          So approve the principle, write a law that is practical, phase in the availability of information, and let’s open up, and discipline the process of record keeping.

          But you are right, it is not likely to be an automatic breath of fresh information.

  18. Tristanism says:

    Just a question, a late one I know: IF the pork barrel is scrapped, would it mean that the “lobbyists” like the INC (Iglesia ni Cristo) and others would become more powerful? After all, without the executive’s carrot, what other devices can make the lawmakers toe the line? Party loyalty? Conscience? Morality?

    • Tristanism says:

      I was hesitant to add the Catholic church as a lobbyist because I think they exert little influence over the politicians, but I think I might be wrong. They can be pretty influential. We saw them during the RH deliberation, and now they’re at the SC.

      • edgar lores says:

        Tristanism,

        Fantastic question. I hope the answer is not party loyalty because we see the effects of that in the GOP Party in America. I hope the answer is not the lobbyists, religious or otherwise, because then we would be captive to their narrow interests.

        I hope the answer is that politicians are motivated by true service to the public, and the “carrot” is their happiness in seeing the subsequent happiness of the people — from seeing that their officials are true servants dedicated to the their needs and aspirations.

    • Joe America says:

      That’s an excellent question, and I think it would indeed break the back of perhaps the most substantial control lever the President has. In the U.S., it is mainly party loyalty, and party platform is shaped by lobby interests (NRA, for example). Maybe it would be good, though. The ARGUMENT about laws would be the focus rather than toeing a line. I’ve got to reflect more on this.

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