As I pointed out in a recent commentary in PDI, the pork barrel system, as practiced in the Philippines (Priority Assistance Development Program), is unique in the world. In the United States, where it supposedly originated, the “pork barrel” is obtained by a member of Congress with the consent of all the members of the Senate or House of Representatives as part of the federal or state budget.
Let’s say a US congressman or senator wants an allocation for a military base in his district or state, he lobbies with the entire chamber to include the allocation in the budget. The money is appropriated in the budget solely for the project stated therein. The project is implemented by the government agency identified in the budget.
In the Philippines, the pork barrel or PDAP is automatically allocated for the congressman or senator in a fixed sum in the national budget without determining the project to be funded. It is the congressman or senator who would himself identify the project. Thus there is a built-in incentive for collusion, since it is the individual solon who will identify the project and the implementor, giving him the power to receive a “cut” from the allocation.
Marcos initiated the system as a bribe to the legislators because the budget department, upon instruction of the President, may or may not release the allocation, depending on whether or not the particular legislator obeys the President’s whim.
Thus the legislators are converted into paid agents of the President, weakening the independence of the Congress as a second branch of government. It is a tragedy that President Cory Aquino and all subsequent Presidents continued this system which undermines our form of government which is composed of three co-equal branches – the Congress, the Presidency and the Judiciary. Perhaps they did so because it strengthens the Presidency at the expense of the Congress and eventually of the Judiciary.