Monday, September 3, 2007

Guarding the Pork Barrel!

The Coalition of Development NGO's (CODE-NGO)and the Coalition for Bicol Development (CBD) hosted last August 30, 9am at the Regent Hotel of Naga City the presentation of their findings and recommendations in the project "PDAF Watch".

There was dismal response among majority of the legislators when requested to provide data on how their PDAF was spent. As expected, the widely perceived and publicly-acknowledged problems of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), popularly called "pork barrel", was validated. The three areas covered by the project: roads, IT/computers, and LGU priorities all revealed serious problems. For instance, some roads did not even last for a year before cracks and potholes emerged! Worse, there are even instances wherein roads are supposedly missing!

To my mind, the most important lesson learned from the study is that the technology for monitoring and safeguarding the PDAF must be improved, if it expects to make a more widespread and stronger impact. At the same time, policy instruments that will compel legislators receiving PDAF to be more transparent and accountable should be pushed in Congress.

And the PDAF Watch also run straight into the middle of a long and persistent debate on whether it should be abolished completely or retained, with some modifications.

As if these issues are not enough, PDAF must also be recognized for what it is: a political instrument of the executive branch to exact loyalty and obedience from the legislators. Thus, instead of the popular perception of PDAF as money that can be thrown around by the congressman or senator, it must be viewed also as the money that is essentially doled-out by Malacanang to its allies and supporters. More importantly, it is also the same money that is deprived of the opposition congresspersons, opposition senators, and their constitutents.

A bigger struggle therefore would be how to cut off this fund from the political interests and partisan bickering of politicians!After all, PDAF is widely hailed by many as a mechanism for equitable distribution of government funds. We might as well make it 'true to form'!

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