What is the pork barrel?
In the Philippines, it is the budgetary allocation given members of the Congress and the Senate. In 2006, the amount was P70 million for each member of Congress, and P200 million for each member of the Senate.
The term “pork barrel politics” usually refers to spending what is intended to benefit a politician’s constituents, in return for their political support. Recently, however, the most widely known reference to the term would have to be the 2013 Philippine Pork Barrel Scam.
Being the future of the country, the youth is our nation’s prime asset. It is the country’s duty to support and care for its children. In turn, the youth has an obligation to be involved in the affairs of our nation, and not to stand by idly when scandals arise.
With the revelation of the recent pork barrel scam—whose roots go deep into the cracks and crevices of the government—the call on the youth movement is even greater.
It has been repeatedly said that corruption in the Philippines is not only deeply rooted, but also is institutionalized. It has become the norm, a way of life. And, to put it bluntly, the wrong seems to have become the right—because everyone else does it.
What’s even more scandalous is that those accused of stealing flaunt their excessive lifestyles with neither shame nor guilt. If this has become the norm, how do you put a stop to it? The problem is so complex that we should start examining our own values as a people.
Government officials and their cohorts seem to have forgotten even the most fundamental of human values. Maybe they should go back to the basics—all the wealth accumulated in one’s life cannot really be taken to the grave or to the next life. If you truly love your family, would you want them to pay for your sins in the form of karmic justice?
Maybe lessening the pork barrel amount would minimize corruption. The creation of a combined public and private audit would minimize political dishonesty. Perhaps the government can create a “log-in” system where anyone can access information on publicly funded projects, budgets, expenditures. (All these are available online, under the General Appropriations Act, Department of Budget and Management.) If we strip the issue down to its bare essentials, it boils down to accountability. It’s like us kids—when our parents give us an allowance, we are obligated to report expenditures honestly.
Before we can move forward, however, we appeal to President Aquino to make a strong stand, so that those guilty are held accountable and the sums stolen are rightfully returned. If even half the stolen amount was returned, the money could still go to the right projects.
It is only after these past wrongs have been righted that we may have a chance to work on other major issues, like the education of the masses (to vote wisely) and the provision of proper health care for the people.
Naming and shaming no longer work for calloused thieves. The wrong must be made right. No man is above the law.
May truth and justice prevail in this time of deceit and disillusionment—for the sake of this generation, and of other generations to come.
To better understand the effect of the pork barrel scam, and to better grasp the extent it has rocked the youth, I’ve asked kids my age this question:
What do you think of the pork barrel scam, and how can the public stop government officials from abusing this power?”
What they said:
“Many of the young people I know are indifferent. Were it not for the media’s sensational coverage of the Janet Napoles case, the pork barrel scam and abuse of privilege would have stayed an obscure issue.
Clearly a lot more needs to be done. The true victims here are the organizations in need which should have been the beneficiaries of the pork, and the Filipino people whose taxes funded the pork.
I believe that vital to any solution are neutrality and accountability. The pork barrel budget should be reallocated to a neutral third-party organization that will disburse funds directly to the selected beneficiaries. The beneficiaries should be held accountable for the funds they receive. Both parties—the funding organization and the beneficiary—should be subject to periodic audits by an independent body selected by the taxpayers. It may sound simple and easier said than done, but it just might work.”
—Abigail Theresa F. Cancio, 16, high-school senior, St. Paul College Pasig
“Pork barrel is a government fund supposed to be used to help the people, but what happened is that many unscrupulous people, especially the corrupt, have used it for their own good, especially some of our government officials. We can stop them by putting them in jail if guilty.”
—Paola Lianne De Leon, 18, out-of-school youth, Caloocan
“I think the pork barrel scandal is an injustice, especially against people in need, those who are victims of calamities such as wars and typhoons. The money stolen could have been used to help them. It could’ve been more useful to the people of the community than to the senators who are collecting them.
The money itself belongs to the people who are paying taxes. It’s supposed to be used to develop the country. To prevent things like this from happening again, the government should physically show the masses where their taxes go. The tax payers should be able to acknowledge the changes brought to them and their country.”
—Karl Escovidal, 16, freshman, University of the Philippines Manila
“I think it is really devastating that despite the government’s anti-corruption statements, the Philippine government is in the middle of another scandal. It’s really disappointing that people are scamming the government and the tax payers for their own personal gain, but it is also upsetting that authority figures within the government are allowing these things to happen.
Janet Napoles and the government officials who have been abusing the system couldn’t have done it overnight, nor could they be the only ones, so why is this corruption not being reined in and stopped?
“I think the only way to prevent or minimize corruption is to make every government transaction completely transparent to the public.”
—Tamara Gibb, 17, high-school senior, British School Manila, Taguig
“The pork barrel scandal is what government corruption is all about. While pork barrel, as well as other rules and laws, were imposed with good intentions, it was easily manipulated and has become a big scandal that had people protesting in the Million People March and on Edsa. The scandal should be enough to help the government understand the flaw, as well as question the integrity of those who were put in charge and abused their authority and responsibility to the people.
While people can march for the abolition of pork barrel, we also need to get to the heart of the problem to stop government officials from abusing their power—by electing those we know and trust to do what they’re meant to do as a representative of and for the people, and not take advantage of that power for their own personal profit and gain.”
—Maia L. Paterno, 16, high-school junior, International School Manila, Taguig
“It saddens me to think how deeply rooted corruption is in our country. And it further saddens me that the only time we realize the extent of the damage done is when there is a whistleblower.
“This scandal serves as a wake-up call for the youth. We need to be more involved, and know the issues of our country. By doing so, we can be more vigilant and, in our little way, effect positive change as a unit. Sad to say, the abuse of power by officials has been a way of life in the government, so that it seems difficult to put a stop to this. The reach is far and wide and is deeply rooted.
“I believe putting a stop to the abuse needs to start with me—my commitment to be more involved by making an effort to know what is happening in the country, to help put a stop (or not contributing) to small corrupt acts such as bribing public officials to expedite permits, or a policeman so that he/she doesn’t issue you a traffic ticket, etc. If we as citizens do the right thing, we will be able to break the chain in this epidemic.”
—Jose Antonio P. Felipe, 15, high-school sophomore, De La Salle Santiago Zobel School, Alabang
“Spending government funds is not the role of the senators and representatives. Aren’t they supposed to create laws? Stop giving them the temptation and the opportunity to get what is not due them. The pork barrel should be scrapped immediately. Let the department heads of our government do the allocation and spending of funds for the common good of our countrymen. Lastly, a request to our cabinet secretaries: Don’t follow in the footsteps of some of the unscrupulous lawmakers.”
—Katrina Estanislao, 15, high-school sophomore, St. Paul College, Pasig
“I think the pork barrel scandal just reveals to all of us that too much power, indeed, does make people corrupt. This leads to the abuse of the power that the people gave to the government officials.
“I guess the public can stop these officials from abusing their power by voting wisely. Stop voting for the name (political dynasties), and actually vote for the projects and laws the candidate aims to implement. If the abuse has not stopped by then, the public could also unite as one people and rally against the corruption of the Philippine government, and hopefully the Philippines will see a better tomorrow.”
—Gabe Madrid, 16, high-school junior, Philippine Science High School, Quezon City