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Pork barrel: Insidious tool of oligarchy

By Jude Josue Sabio

SINCE 1987, our Constitution has recognized the existence of “political dynasties,” and the political necessity for its extinction by law. But more than 30 years thereafter, our legislature never passed that law, allowing its own “political dynasties” to flourish.

These “political dynasties” represent the oligarchy that has been well-entrenched and dominant in our political life. Not only do they dominate the levers of power at the local level, they also, and more so, extend their political tentacles in their absolute control of the national government.

In November 2014, this oligarchy suffered a devastating blow when our Supreme Court declared as illegal, or more precisely unconstitutional, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), more popularly known as “pork barrel.”

The illegality of the PDAF stems from the post-enactment power granted by our lawmakers to themselves in identifying and implementing projects under PDAF. According to the Supreme Court, that post-enactment power is unconstitutional because our legislature is vested only with the power to make laws while the power to identify and implement projects is a power vested only in the executive department.

To my mind, the pork barrel is no more than a business transaction created by this insidious oligarchy by law or through the annual National Appropriations Act. By this law enacted under its power over the purse, this oligarchy in Congress secured absolute control over the PDAF.

This unconstitutional power would enable this oligarchy to unduly exploit this business transaction because only lawmakers have the absolute power to release and expend the funds and choose the contractors for project implementation under the pork barrel.

That the pork barrel is, by itself, a business transaction in the guise of a budgetary law is incontrovertibly proven by the infamous Napoles scheme. Under the modus operandi, Napoles gave kickbacks to our lawmakers in exchange for their consent over their pork barrel, as if the pork barrel is a business transaction out of which our lawmakers make money.

This oligarchy has been abusively using its power of the purse to install this transaction called the pork barrel. It is not long ago that our government ended up with no budget for some time due to wranglings by our oligarchic lawmakers, especially in the House of Representatives, over their insidious intention to have their pork barrel.

The oligarchy has not only refused to abolish its “political dynasties” all over the country but has also clung to the pork barrel as a business transaction to perpetuate itself in its stranglehold of government. As found by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, there has always been and still is pork barrel in the national budget, which presently stands at P20 billion.

In antiquity, lawmakers were immune from suit for passing a law just like the illegal and infamous pork barrel. But those of them who misled the assembly in passing such a law were punished. The same should also be done against the lawmakers who misled the legislature in passing the pork barrel.

In a radical sense, I humbly submit that all our lawmakers in Congress should be criminally indicted for graft and corrupt practice in installing the pork barrel. Otherwise, these same lawmakers who continually represent “political dynasties” will be even more emboldened with impunity as what has been happening even recently.

To abolish the “political dynasties,” the pork barrel, which is the lifeblood of these dynasties like the vampires of legend, must be dismantled altogether. To facilitate the extinction of “political dynasties,” this oligarchy must be completely deprived of the financial tool provided by the pork barrel.

This oligarchy must be sapped of any financial blood to trump its insatiable appetite for grease money. These “political dynasties” must be reduced to the unattractive barest minimum of salary which could force them to find grease somewhere else, and to leave public service to people who are servant leaders.

This same cycle of pork barrel extant in our budget will recur year in and year out unless this oligarchy is exterminated from the face of the earth. Given that the law is powerless to abolish the oligarchs who control our lawmaking body, then a more radical, extreme, if not revolutionary upheaval, must take place, just like what the English, French, and Russians did in their revolutions in executing their monarchs.

(Jude Josue Sabio is a lawyer from Misamis Oriental.)

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About Jude Josue Sabio

Jude Josue Sabio

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