BARRING historical beginnings in the US lexicon and in Philippine history, the contemporary “pork barrel” started way back in 1990 when it was called the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) intended, at least at the surface, to drive development in every part of the country by making sure that every representative of both houses of congress will have an assured fund allocation for his or her constituency. In 2000 it was renamed Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for one reason or the other, but substantially it remained pork barrel or, better, a milking cow, ignominious, as it has always been.
Truth is, it is indeed a priority. So serious a priority that a congressman would be willing to give up his principles—even his faith, presuming there is—just to make sure his pork barrel is released. But everybody knows that it was neither for development nor for assistance. There may have been honesty and sincerity few and far between but largely, or culturally now, the pork barrel has always been at the caprice of the legislator who in the first place run for the office precisely to make a shameless killing of 70 million pesos of annual allocations for lower house occupants and 200 million pesos for the few at the upper chamber. Except for a very rare or almost miraculous exception, never will you find in the whole country a PDAF project that has driven people’s development during the last 20 years or so. What one will find are layers of stinking scum after another, as is presently being exposed but hesitantly investigated.
Who got the largesse of the S.O.P. (for “Standard Operating Procedure” because thievery in public office has become standard, anyway) and who subdivided the crumbs, is a public knowledge. Which is why nobody buys the flowery justification of the honorable legislators that the pork barrel is a necessity to craft laws with the benefit of constituents in mind. In fact, it is baloney, or simply a lie. Deception is more appropriate.
The pork has destroyed the country’s political system that has now become lucrative. It is the driving force of election violence, vote buying, political dynasty and patronage, the mad rush at the recent voters’ registration and all the other irregularities related to elections. It is the single factor why bad people win during elections and not the good ones. This too, on the other hand, is the root cause why millions of Filipinos are leaving the country to find work despite the high personal and social cost; why millions are increasingly unemployed, poor and hungry; why millions of Filipinos has been denied of opportunity and dignity for years now; and why the country’s economy is ailing despite government reports to the contrary.
The pork barrel is only an entry point. There is a gargantuan heap of corruption that accompanies it, defying mere imagination and the culture of impunity. It is something that cries for justice.