“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5)
A statement of CBCP-NASSA against the pork barrel
Jesus has come to bring light to the world. As Christians our commitment to Jesus is manifested in our commitment to the light of truth.
During these past weeks, there is a growing clamour among the Filipinos to let the light of truth shine on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or popularly and aptly known as PORK BARREL. The National Secretariat of Social Action of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP-NASSA) adds our voice to this clamour. Let the government make a no-nonsense investigation of the Pork Barrel Scam. As of now, it is very suspicious that both the Lower and Upper Houses of Congress have shown no eagerness to investigate this scam when their own members are alleged to be involved in it. It is strange that those who are not named in the COA report on alleged misuse of funds do not make any move to have this investigated to clear the image of the institutions to which they belong. Is this stonewalling attitude an indication that there is really something fishy about the pork barrel? The lame excuse made that investigating the scam will take away time for law-making does not hold. Any law that this congress will make would be held suspect until its integrity is established.
The President of the Republic is doing a great disservice to the country by not acting decisively on this issue. A closer look at the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the scam does not only allege the congressmen/women of the opposition, nor only the former administration to be involved, but even his own allies and his own administration. The present President has to clear his own rank. Thus the investigation should cover not only the Napoles family and the NGOs used but also the members of congress and government departments involved. We further demand that the investigation should lead to prosecution and conviction. This is a big crime against the people, especially against the poor, whose hard-earned money is being plundered and squandered.
Our call, however, is not just for the rigorous investigation of this scam but for the abolition of the pork barrel system. The PDAF is not mandated by law; it is simply at the discretion of the President. If he is really against corruption, as he claims to be, then he should do away with structures that bring corruption. Stricter compliance and checks and balances is one thing, but it cannot replace the fact that this system, when not abolished, still exists. It weakens governance in our country:
- The pork barrel blurs the independence of the legislative and executive branches from each other. Through it, the President unduly influences both the Congress and the Senate as the former and present administrations demonstrate. Inversely, because of it, the congressmen/women and the senators do not keep vigilant watch at the performance of the President in executing the laws of the land. There are too many laws that are not being implemented.
- The pork barrel is a main reason why many unqualified people spend disproportionate amounts of money to run as lawmakers when in fact they are not prepared and do very little making laws.
- The pork barrel is a reason for the propagation of political dynasties, which makes a mockery of our democracy.
- The pork barrel promotes the culture of political patronage among the people. The people will not be running to the lawmakers for favours if they do not have anything to give, since their function is to make laws and not to distribute largesse.
- Is the pork barrel issue perhaps a reason why the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill is not being passed? Why are our elected government officials afraid that the people may know their public transactions which they claim to be done on behalf of the people?
We acknowledge the President’s recent statement on abolition of the PDAF but there is no clear time frame mentioned when the abolition should take place. Further, he seems to believe that the “reforms” enumerated could still fix the situation of misuse. While the Pork Barrel still exists, the issues mentioned above would still remain. PDAF should be scrapped, and it should be done now, not in 2014! If it is acknowledged to be defective, why still continue it?
Let the light of truth shine. If our elected officials will not do so, they will not succeed. The people cannot live long in darkness. They will demand to know the truth and we support this demand! The light will come and darkness will not overcome it.
“For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” (John 3:20-21)
+ BRODERICK S. PABILLO, DD
24 August 2013