What do you think of the pork barrel scam, and how can the public stop government officials from abusing this power?
“In concept, there is nothing wrong with having the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The government needs a method by which to get projects done, and the congressmen and senators should be the ones initiating, developing and executing these projects for their constituents.
“The problem I see is the way the projects are implemented, and the lack of a check-and-balance system in making sure that these projects are carried out as they were supposed to be. It is not enough to make sure that companies are set up to execute proposed projects, but we must make sure that all projects are carried out to the letter, based on the proposed approved budget.
“For example, if a congressman says he will build a two-story school with certain facilities and of certain standards, then the audit team should make sure that the project is not turned into a one-story building with no toilet or running water.
“If there were a strong audit team, then hopefully there would be no or less abuse by those in power. The question is, really, how do we stop the government officials from abusing the system?
“The only way I see to address this is to have a better system of audit and transparency. Maybe this involves getting other sectors involved in the audit process—from the government to the private sector, and even the media, as the watchdogs and guardians of the people.”—Alexa Sy, 13, Grade 8, British School Manila, Taguig
“The lies and treachery within our country’s seat of power threaten not only our nation’s economic growth, but the advancement of society’s basic needs, such as education and healthcare. The public is deprived of such needs when the funds supposedly allocated to make them available to all law-abiding and tax-paying citizens are channeled into the selfish and greedy spending of corrupt government officials.
“I believe the pork barrel system should be abolished to be able to re-channel the country’s budget into services and opportunities that will benefit the Philippines and its people. The pork barrel system seems to be the seed of corruption within the government, and every government official who has stolen or was involved in taking even a single cent of taxpayer’s money should be brought to justice. In the words of Al Gore, political will is a renewable resource. Such corruption, though, can be avoided in the first place if the voting public is educated in choosing honest and trustworthy government officials.”—Javier Torres, 17, Freshman, University of the Philippines, Manila
“To avoid abuse, the people should have a direct say in how the pork barrel should be allocated, through a periodic public consultation or approval process. There should also be full disclosure through an annual report on the use of funds, in the same way that listed companies report to their shareholders.”—Pamela Miñoza, 18, Southville International School
“I believe that the pork barrel scandal was addressed quite late. The issue wouldn’t have gotten this far and funds would not have been ‘stolen’ if the issue was acknowledged and acted upon earlier. The people, especially us UP students, should think critically when faced with problems like this. Also, participating in events such as the Million People March is a good way to make a stand against government officials who abuse their power.”—Elise Angela Espinosa, 17, Freshman, University of the Philippines, Manila
“The pork barrel scam is one of the most controversial scams in the Philippines, which involves the misallocation of funds. Most of the youth nowadays say that the pork barrel should be abolished, but honestly, I think it shouldn’t. There is nothing wrong with the pork barrel; the only problem are the ones who handle the funds.
“Recently, there was a proposed bill called Freedom of Information (FOI), which will allow the people to view government records. I think this is one of the best solutions, because we get to see where our money is going, and this should prevent corrupt officials from repeating this.”
—Luivi Panlilio, 15, Sophomore, Ateneo de Manila University
“Pork barrel has been greatly scrutinized for being an easy means for corruption to occur. Recently, NGO scams have opened the eyes of the public to a problem that has been ongoing since the time of Spanish colonization or even before that, which is known as corruption. The pork barrel may be a stubborn cause of anxiety for our citizens, as it remains established in our government, but it is not as evil as what the media projects it to be.
“The pork barrel, on paper, can easily be seen as a brilliant way to allocate money, but execution is the problem. The pork barrel, in all honesty, is an excellent tool to answer quickly the needs of the people. Each politician can easily fund a certain project that may be beneficial to his/her own barangay or city. It’s basically a stash of money given to politicians, if ever they needed to fund a certain project, hence the name pork barrel (preserved meat for future consumption).
“Everyone has been baffled by the huge amounts of money each politician has, yet no improvement has been happening within society. Furthermore, pork barrel only comprises a little over one percent of the national budget, so how large is our actual budget?
“Everything in society is taxed. A simple sari-sari store is already a taxpayer, what more if we add the taxes paid by large public and private companies?
“The big question is, where does all the money go? Ask someone on the street, and the typical answer would be, in the politician’s pocket. To be honest, it is true. Each politician has his/her own brilliant way of creating a procedure that will lead the money into his/her pocket. A great example would be the NGOs that recently hogged the news, as huge amounts of money were brought into NGOs just so it could secretly be deposited into a congressman’s bank account.
“Another great example would be the flagpole project in Luneta. I mean, seriously, P7.8 million for an extension of the flagpole? It is every civilian’s right to fight against the atrocities being done by our government. Moreover, placing their names on a project they have created is pointless, as it is their duty to actually create those facilities, and not use them as a means to promote themselves.
“The abolition of the pork barrel cannot really solve our problems. Pork barrel in itself is actually something beneficial. It is the people behind it that need change.
“Corruption cannot be stopped, as it has been ongoing for generations, but we can lessen it. The responsibility for this change lies with us citizens. We should forget popularity and actually look at the background of the politician before voting him/her into office. He/she should be capable of fulfilling all the commitments made during his/her speech.
“There is still a lack of fear in our politicians of being accused of corruption, as the law is quite lenient. A graver sanction may instill fear in our politicians and persuade them to do what is right. We can all be disciplined if we are afraid of the consequences. One must always realize that once he/she takes an oath to serve the public, he/she is already signing an oath that the needs of the people will always be greater than his/her own.”—Ryan Tan, 16, Junior, Xavier School
“I believe that the pork barrel is a good medium for the allocation of funds. However, the problem arises when the local government does not inform the citizens where the funds go. One solution for this national issue would be the Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) currently being pushed by the senate. This would allow the people to know where their money goes, and it allows them to take on a more participative role in the affairs and finances of the country.”
—Mark Go, 15, Junior, Xavier School
“I think the people should keep in mind that the pork barrel isn’t automatically a negative thing. The pork barrel isn’t entirely the reason for the loss of billions of pesos. It is due to the lack of strict policies and regular investigations that several government officials are able to pocket large amounts of money. It shouldn’t be abolished immediately, because I believe that it can still be ‘patched up’ in order to better serve the people. I think that the people can prevent government officials from abusing the pork barrel by supporting the Freedom of Information Bill and opting for better policies and a stricter watch over the funds and the officials.”—Caitlin Heyley Go Cue, 15, Junior, Immaculate Conception Academy