BBC criticizes transfer of ‘pork’ as line-items in 2014 budget

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Rallyists raised their clenched hands in disgust during an anti-pork rally at Ayala district, October 4.

MANILA, Oct. 6, 2013—Following the “abolition” of the pork barrel as lump-sum allocation in the 2014 national budget, a coalition of Catholic bishops and businessmen expressed disappointment over its transfer as “line-items” in the budget of different government departments. 

The Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference (BBC) for Human Development denounced the new scheme adopted in using the pork barrel funds, noting that lawmakers will still be able to access the funds through suggesting infrastructure projects to be implemented by different government departments. 

“The procedure to be followed in the disposition of the funds however is substantially similar to PDAF—the congressmen ‘recommend’ the projects for the line-items and, consistent with the president’s implementing power, he would still determine if the projects ‘qualify’ and ‘whether they are in line with other projects planned for the locality’ before the funds are disbursed,” the group said in a statement. 

The group said that lawmakers must concentrate with their primary function to legislate because dabbling in the budget process by suggesting line-items for their districts only serves to “undermine the participatory system of planning and development in the context of local autonomy.” 

In effect, the BBC said that the “line-item gambit is effectively pork barrel in another name.” 

Echoing the cry of other groups who denounce the pork barrel as an abuse of the congressional power of the purse, the BBC said the pork barrel is an “institutionalized corruption that uses the people’s money in order to serve not their interests but the personal interests of individuals.” 

The group said that for the president, the pork barrel is a means to influence the legislature by means of releasing or withholding the funds, while as for the legislators, it is meant to strengthen dynastic politics by assuring the victory of their family members in elections. 

Citing the Human Development Report 2012-2013, the group said the pork barrel is an “institutionalized dissipation of scarce government resources”, noting that “when the same amounts are given to districts regardless of size and the development and integration needs of areas, there is still the problem of inefficiency and waste even when no corruption is involved.” 

The Local Government Code passed in 1991 should have replaced the pork barrel system as it prescribed a bottom-up system of development planning and project identification from the barangay council to the provincial council where the congressman is required by law to be represented, the group said. 

The BBC echoed calls for the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to resolve the rampant corruption hounding the Philippine society. 

“The call for the abolition of the pork barrel underlines the necessity of passing the Freedom of Information Bill, because full and correct information is the lifeblood of citizen power to effect change,” the group said. (Jennifer Orillaza)

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