5 reasons pork perpetuates corruption

With the Napoles pork scam hitting the headlines these past few weeks, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), popularly known as the pork barrel, is once again subjected to public scrutiny. What is it for and why is it prone to corruption?

Below are five reasons, which aim to shed light on the above questions, leading us to understand (and hopefully address) some fundamental flaws in our political system.

1. The pork barrel is the primary means for patronage, which in turn is the most effective strategy to win elections in the country. The pork is vulnerable to corruption since its main purpose is not to prioritize developmental assistance but to ensure that incumbents get re-elected (through patronage).

2. While legislators benefit heavily from the pork barrel, this system has arguably become more essential to the Executive than to the Legislature. With no developed political party system that facilitates the relationship between the Executive and the Legislature, the pork barrel has become the single most effective tool of the Executive in influencing or controlling the Legislature for purposes that vary from theoretically legitimate ones, such as the passage the Executive's legislative agenda, to politically self-serving ends such as avoidance of an impeachment or legislative inquiry.

This puts in serious jeopardy the checks-and-balance relationship between the Executive and the Legislative, ultimately compromising accountability processes.

3. The Executive maintains an effective control over the pork barrel through the power of release, which lends the legislature's power over the purse irrelevant. The power of release simply means the release of public funds for projects and services are authorized by the President through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). So regardless of what is stated in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) passed by Congress, fund allocation can only materialize with the approval of the President.

This power of release (though an effective tool) makes the Executive susceptible to politically partisan allocation of resources, which compromises the bureacracy's supposed efficient and rational allocation and management of resources.

4. The susceptibility of the presidency to partisanship in the allocation of the pork barrel makes the bureaucracy (which is under the President) weak and vulnerable to partisan pressures, mudslinging and attacks from vested interests when it comes to the allocation, implementation and monitoring of pork barrel projects. Supposedly, national government agencies are made to manage pork barrel projects to ensure its rational allocation. Yet, members of the House of Representatives continue to be the decisive force on where the pork barrel funds will go, for what, who will be the contractors and what report will come out as official.

By and large, the President's pork-barelling has hostaged the bureaucracy in the wheeling and dealing of partisan politics, making it weak and unable to withstand the pressures from vested interests.

5. It will be almost impossible to abolish the pork barrel because it has become one of the core institutions that facilitates a pervertedly effective relationship between the Executive and the Legislature. The mere fact that it has become an institution with no constitutional provision or legal framework mandating its existence, except for the yearly General Appropriations Act (GAA), the pork barrel clearly serves a relevant and pressing role in the functioning of our government.

And yet, this perverted institutionalization of the pork barrel makes it ultimately flawed and unaccountable, since it exists with no clear mandate from the people and no clear philosophy as to why and how it exists within the overall institutional design of our government system that is supposedly Presidential. This system presuposses checks-and-balance and the separation of powers among the three branches of government.

The pork barrel is by itself a scam fueling a patronage-based political culture and perverting the political system — leaving its accountability checks seriously compromised.

We do away with the pork barrel, we do away with an institution that has kept our political system from maturing into one that is truly accountable, developmental and just. - Rappler.com

Joy Aceron is Program Director at School of Government-Ateneo de Manila University directing Political Democracy and Reforms (PODER) and Government Watch (G-Watch). She lectures at the Ateneo Political Science Department. This article was first published in http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/36935-pork-barrel-perpetuates-corruption.