Monthly Archives: September 2013





Pork’s dictatorial root

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:21 pm | Friday, September 13th, 2013

 21 142 109

As we observe the 41st anniversary of the proclamation of martial law on Sept. 21, it is instructive to know that the detestable pork barrel had its origin in Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship.


The pork barrel undermined the system of checks and balances of our democracy. It established the supremacy of the presidency over the legislature, which, along with the judiciary, is constitutionally designed to be coequal and independent. It thus served Marcos’ one-man rule superbly.


John Adams, political philosopher and second president of the United States, once said: “The Constitution was devised with an ingenious and intricate system of checks and balances to guard the people’s liberty against combinations of government. It structured the Executive, the Legislative and Judiciary separate and wholly independent … with safeguards to prevent usurpations of power. Only by balancing each against the other two could freedom be preserved.”


The pork barrel is a virtual bribe to members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, to render them subservient to the president. Members of the House are each guaranteed a lump sum (the pork) from the national budget (the barrel), which they can spend in their own discretion by either directing it to a public purpose or diverting it to their private pockets.


Simply by withholding pork barrel sums to recalcitrant legislators, the president can whip them into line. Consequently, after every congressional election, the majority of elected members, regardless of party standing during the election, become instant turncoats by enlisting as members of the administration party to assure themselves of their lump of pork.


In other democratic societies, including the United States, there is no lump sum that is regularly allocated to each member of Congress. What pass there for congressional pork are “earmarks” of specific appropriations for projects in a particular congressional district or federal state.


Implementation is by the government agency identified in the budget. Assignment of the project to a nongovernment organization is not generally allowed pursuant to the democratic principle that public funds can only be disbursed by public agencies.


The first budget law of the Philippines was passed on Dec. 17, 1937, as Commonwealth Act No. 246. It took effect on Jan. 1, 1938. It provided for a line-item budget as the framework of the government’s budgeting system.


Thus, every projected government expense was listed in the budget, including sums for small bridges and schools, salaries of department heads and every clerk or janitor, and provisions for supplies of every government office or agency.  This ensured public transparency. The public agency tasked with implementing the project had to follow strict auditing rules.


The budgetary system underwent a profound revision during Marcos’ dictatorship. Pursuant to his power to enact laws by decree, Marcos issued Presidential Decree No. 1177 titled “Revising the Budget Process in Order to Institutionalize the Budgetary Innovations of the New Society.” The decree also known as the “Budget Reform Act of 1977” revoked the budgetary system that had served our country for the previous 40 years.


Section 30 of PD 1177 provides: “The General Appropriation Act (GAA) shall be presented in the form of budgetary programs and projects for each agency of government, with the corresponding appropriations for each program and project … The [GAA] shall not contain any itemization of personal services ….” 


Thus, the itemization of government expenditures in the budget, which was the practice since Commonwealth days, was replaced with lump-sum appropriations. A citizen scrutinizing the budget to find out where his tax money goes would be negotiating a blind alley.


Under the post audit system, only the Commission on Audit would know how the pork money is spent, but only after it is all gone and almost impossible to recover. Such was the P10-billion pork barrel fund siphoned to fake NGOs under the apparent direction of Janet Lim-Napoles.

Some of the lump-sum items are not only appropriated to legislators but also are allocated to the Office of the President. These are the billions of pesos in special purpose funds and in unprogrammed funds, all under the presidential discretion. Former national treasurer Leonor Briones has said that almost half of the 2013 budget is in lump sum.


But the lump sum is not the only loophole introduced by Marcos to sabotage Congress’ power of the purse. Section 31 of PD 1177 also placed outside of the reach of Congress the power of the state to borrow money, a means of raising revenues. It provided for the automatic appropriation of the payment of the public debt, guaranteeing debt obligations, private or public. PD 1967 gave the president the power to incur public loans, foreign and domestic. All these PDs have not been approved by people’s representatives, but only by one unelected man.


In the United States, service of the public debt has to be appropriated by Congress yearly. According to the national treasury, our public debt has grown to P5.3 trillion as of April 2013, comprising more than 40 percent of Gross Domestic Product and about two and a half times the sum of our national budget of more than P2.003 trillion for 2013.


Sadly and curiously, the provisions of Marcos’ PD 1177 were carried over in the Administrative Code of 1987, which was signed into law by President Corazon Aquino under Executive Order 292, based on her own transient dictatorial powers.


It is not only Congress that has been weakened as a dire legacy of martial law. The Supreme Court was emasculated when the president was given the sole power to appoint its members without congressional consent but only with the assent of the Judicial and Bar Council, numerically dominated by appointees of the president, in the 1987 Constitution.  Under Marcos, all judges and justices were appointed by the president without the approval of Congress.


Thus, the checks and balances among the three branches of our government have been effectively undermined by unduly bolstering the power of the presidency above that of the two other branches. John Adams’ warning was ignored.

It is natural in a dictatorship to concentrate political power in the hands of the dictator. But it is fraudulent and nationally damaging for presidents and elected representatives of the people in a democracy to do the same.

It is time to bury the decrees of a dead dictator.


(Manuel F. Almario ( is a veteran journalist and spokesman of the Movement for Truth in History, Rizal’s Moth.)


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Politics as Business

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:55 am | Monday, February 11th, 2013

 0 5 3

One of the biggest drawbacks to our economic development is the way our Congress allocates and distributes the “pork barrel,” now known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).


Contrary to the general perception, our pork barrel system is unique in the world. It amounts to an “entitlement” to all members of Congress for them to determine individually how the national funds are to be spent in their particular districts or constituencies.


The pork barrel is widely supposed to have originated in the US Congress. But the way it is practiced there is different from ours. In the US Congress, what passes for the pork barrel is called the “earmark.” It is an item for public works or special projects in the budget which is approved by the entire Congress. Both the House and the Senate have to approve the “earmark.” It eventually goes to the president for his approval as a part of the National Appropriations Act. Most other parliaments in the world do the same.


Thus, if a US representative or senator wishes the government to fund a special project in his district or state from the federal budget, he lobbies the entire House or the entire Senate for the inclusion of the project in the federal budget. He must convince his colleagues that such a project is good for the country and not just for his locality. After all, the money comes from the national revenue contributed by all taxpayers, and not just by the representative’s or senator’s constituencies.


Under the PDAF, each senator is allocated a definite sum of P200 million and each representative P70 million. While it is true that formally their participation is only to determine the project on which the funds shall be spent, and the implementation and spending shall be done by the Department of Public Works and Highways or a government agency, in practice the individual representative or senator designates the contractor for the project. Here is the opportunity for kickback.

But because of the relatively small sums involved for each district or for each senator, the PDAF is usually spent for minor or insignificant projects like barangay halls, waiting sheds, basketball courts, sports gymnasiums, scholarships for a few, dirt roads and small bridges “leading to nowhere.” Such projects are usually uneconomical and unproductive. So we often see unused waiting sheds, unkempt barangay halls sometimes used for drinking parties, easily eroded roads, broken bridges, and gyms with no equipment.


In totality, the PDAF represents a huge part of the national budget. If concentrated on big infrastructure projects like hydroelectric dams, farm-to-market roads, highways, railways, airports, seaports, power plants, educational facilities and well-equipped modern hospitals, it can contribute more substantially to regional and national development, and create employment on a large scale. What happens, however, is that the national funds are dissipated in small projects, resulting in a massive waste of government money.


This egregious practice is further compounded by the Internal Revenue Allocation (or IRA) to provinces, cities and municipalities. The IRA is their share from national funds allocated according to size of population and territory of provinces, cities and municipalities. It also includes their share from excise, mineral and other taxes collected by the national government in their localities. It is estimated that local governments base about 90 percent of their budget on the IRA.


Amounting to billions of pesos, the IRA is the pork barrel of the local officials. How it is spent is largely left to the discretion of the governors and city and municipal mayors, with the approval of their different boards. That is how the Ampatuans in Maguindanao became so rich after many terms in power, especially as they were able to intimidate their provincial boards and councils, as well as representatives of the Commission on Audit, to see nothing while they pocketed the funds.


The pork barrel, national and local, has attracted local and national economic oligarchs to public positions. Whereas before, the wealthy disdained the idea of running for Congress or for local positions, considering it a waste of their time which would be better used to making money, as they can pull the strings through political contributions, now they themselves enter politics, because politics is now business. There is now a proliferation of business oligarchs in the House of Representatives.

The PDAF is Filipino-style pork barrel in its most naked guise. Each member of Congress, including the President, can dip his/her fingers in the national revenue trough to fill his/her own pockets and those of his/her cronies and political supporters.


This was not the case before, as what was practiced was similar to the US “earmark”—until in 1990, under Cory Aquino’s administration, the Eighth Congress adopted the present practice by instituting the Countryside Development Fund.


Manuel F. Almario is the spokesperson of the Movement for Truth in History. E-mail:


Mr. Almario


Thank you for this educative piece published today on PDI! It’s such an edifying piece though, at the same, I feel indignant after reading it.


God bless you for your altruistic passion, we’ll pray for you and your family. May your kind multiply.


Pls count me in for anything I can help in your advocay!


Allen C. Pecina


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September 29, 2013 · 2:03 am



Marcos still rules

By Manuel Almario
Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:43 pm | Friday, September 20th, 2013

 14 313 269

Forty-one years after he imposed a dictatorship on Sept. 21, 1972, 27 years after he fled on Feb. 25, 1986, and 24 years after he died in exile in Hawaii on Sept. 28, 1989, Ferdinand E. Marcos still rules.


He rules through the thousands of presidential decrees, executive orders and proclamations that he issued during his 14-year dictatorship. Many of these decrees and executive orders, designed to fortify his strongman rule, are still law.


“The evil that men do lives after them …” the immortal Shakespeare wrote in his play “Julius Caesar.” And so it seems with Marcos.


His dark legacies stain our present and dim our future.  These include, among others, the Muslim rebellion, the resurrected communist insurgency, the Filipino diaspora, the pervasive corruption, the persistent economic decline, political instability, human rights violations, and deepening poverty among the masses.


Of course, it is unfair and wrong to blame all our present troubles on Marcos. After all, more than two decades have passed since he was forced into exile by “people power,” and five presidents have since assumed the helm of our government. But the failure of postdictatorship administrations to rescue our people from the authoritarian quagmire is unacceptable.


To take just one example, Marcos’ Presidential Decree No. 1177, also known as the Budget Reform Act of 1977, is the primary source of the biggest scam in our history involving public funds—the P10-billion pork barrel swindle allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.


PD 1177 gave the president the power to manipulate lump-sum appropriations and allocate these as bribes in the form of pork barrel to individual members of Congress, to render them subservient to his demands. As we wrote in a previous commentary (“Pork’s dictatorial root,” Inquirer, 9/14/13), PD 1177 wrecked the system of checks and balances that upholds the structure of democratic government.


The Marcos PD was incorporated by President Corazon Aquino in the 375-page Administrative Code of 1987, which she herself signed into law as Executive Order No. 292 pursuant to her dictatorial powers under a “revolutionary government.”


The barangay, as a potent political unit, is also a creation of Marcos.  Before 1973, barangays were mere territorial subdivisions of cities and municipalities with limited powers under the Revised Barrio Charter. But the 1973 Constitution, passed under martial law, converted them into full-fledged municipal corporations with political, police and taxing powers.



Marcos issued PD No. 86, creating citizens assemblies or barangays, on Dec. 31, 1972, “to broaden the base of citizen participation in the democratic process.” His actual purpose then was to use the barangays to illegally ratify the 1973 Constitution that gave him dictatorial powers.


On Jan. 17, 1973, Marcos announced that the new Constitution had been ratified in a plebiscite by 14,976,561 members of citizens assemblies as against only 743,869, who voted against. He must have plucked the figures out of thin air as there was no balloting but only a show of hands in scattered and selected gatherings.


Despite its unsavory origin, the barangay as a basic unit of government is now recognized in the 1987 Constitution. It is incorporated in the Local Government Code, feeding on the national budget. Together with most municipalities, cities and provinces, they depend on the national government for their finances in the form of the Internal Revenue Allotment or IRA. This constitutes their own pork barrel.


Millions of pesos in IRA funds are known to end up in the pockets of governors, mayors, municipal councilors and barangay officials, just like the congressional pork barrel. This is how the Ampatuan clan of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao amassed its billions.


According to an estimate, barangays are entitled this year to a total IRA of P60.5 billion, of which P6.05 billion will go to the barangay youth councils. As there are 42,000 barangays, the youth councils are entitled to P143,000 each. Some barangays in urban areas like Makati City are so rich that they spend their money on fiestas for their drivers and maids, while others are so poor they can’t even afford waiting sheds.


While the barangay officers are supposedly nonpartisan, they actually are just political ward leaders and paid retainers of the national and higher politicians. They augment the demand on the politicians for financial handouts, especially during elections, exerting additional pressure for graft. While the regular barangays may perform some useful grassroots services, the Sangguniang Kabataan (formerly known as Kabataang Barangay) is a different matter.


The SK exposes the youth to corruption in their tender age. It strengthens the political dynasties that have the money and the power to introduce their sons and daughters early to dirty politics. It diverts them from formal education. Hence, the move in Congress to postpone the SK elections, preliminary to its eventual abolition, is correct. Send the youth back to the campuses.


Since the end of the Moro-US wars in 1913, there had been relative peace in Mindanao between the Muslim and Christian communities. The intensification of armed clashes between the Christian Ilaga and Muslim Barracudas after Marcos came to power in 1965, and the Jabidah massacre of Muslim recruits in 1968, provoked the outbreak of the Muslim rebellion led by the Moro National Liberation Front after martial law was declared. Marcos had recruited the Muslim trainees for a secret intrusion into Malaysia to reclaim Sabah.


The communist rebellion was revived by the New People’s Army founded by Jose Ma. Sison in 1969, after Marcos’ administration aggravated economic and human rights problems, and neglected the agrarian reform program. The NPA grew in numbers during the dictatorship, alarming the US government, which significantly helped people power get rid of Marcos. Despite a temporary decline after Marcos’ fall, the NPA has now spread its armed units throughout the country.


Marcos’ neoliberal economic and tax policies worsened economic conditions, leading to the deployment of Filipino workers abroad as government policy. We are now the only nation in the world that exports its people for hard cash. Marcos’ trickle-down policy, like that of Reagan and Thatcher, did not benefit the poor but only the rich. These policies are still being followed today because of the failure to vigorously brush away the sticky spider web of authoritarianism and corruption.


(Manuel F. Almario ( is a veteran journalist and spokesman of the Movement for Truth in History (Rizal’s Moth). He was among the journalists incarcerated by the Marcos dictatorsihip.)

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September 26, 2013 · 2:30 am

A celebration of failure



10:24 pm | Thursday, June 20th, 2013

 73 609 421

The renaming by the University of the Philippines of its College of Business Administration as the Cesar E.A. Virata School of Business is a celebration of failure. It gives the wrong lesson to our people and especially to our youth.

Virata served as finance minister of the Marcos regime, in full charge of the economy in 1972-1986—a 16-year period of unmitigated economic and political decline for the Philippines. This period covered the entire 14-year dictatorship that was indelibly marked by crony corruption and human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, tortures and disappearances.

As “prime minister” in 1981-1986, Virata was just a figurehead with no real power because governmental power was concentrated for all practical and legal purposes in the hands of President Ferdinand Marcos. Under the 1973 Constitution instituting a semi-parliamentary government, Marcos was both president and prime minister, authorized to issue decrees with the “force of law.” The interim national assembly was a mere rubber stamp.

In 1981 Marcos had himself “reelected” in a presidential election that was boycotted by the real opposition. He then appointed Virata as the prime minister, but kept the power to make laws to himself. Virata was “head of government” only in name and not even in ceremony, for Marcos kept even that for himself, knowing that the trappings of power are as important as its exercise.  That Virata lent his name to such a farce is by itself questionable as to motivation.

Virata was simultaneously the finance minister; thus, he had virtual complete control over the management and direction of the national economy. Marcos kept a tight rein on the military and the political bureaucracy as the main props of power, but practically left economic management to the technocrats led by Virata, a former dean of the UP School of Business.

This was a smart move. Marcos knew that the economy was the main interest of his foreign backers (the United States, International Monetary Fund, World Bank), and that so long as they had full sway over the economic program and the distribution of profits and resources, they would back him politically and financially.

Virata recruited the “technocrats” from the academe, especially UP, most of them grantees of economics and government scholarships from US learning institutions. They were as a rule pliant agents of the America-led international financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank, of which Virata was a member of the board of governors. So how did they perform?

“The technocrats who formulated the Philippine development strategy under … Marcos did not challenge the country’s [unequal] economic and political order. On the contrary, that order provided the fulcrum for their pursuit of development ‘from above,’” said James K. Boyce, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, in his book “The Political Economy of Growth and Impoverishment in the Marcos Era.”

What was the result of this development strategy formulated by the technocrats whose high priest was Virata? Boyce declared: “Grafted to the rootstock of the unjust social order, the technocratic development of strategy in the Philippines bore the bitter fruit of impoverishment.”

Since the aim of all economic development is to substantially reduce, if not eliminate, poverty, then the economic strategy or program adopted by Virata and his technocrats can only be considered a dismal and utter failure.

In an effort to cover up UP’s direct violation of the law in naming a building after a living person, UP vice president for public affairs Prospero de Vera deceptively told the Inquirer (6/13/13) that it was an “educational component” or program, and not the college, that was named after Virata.  But this economic program is an absolute failure insofar as our people, its supposed intended beneficiaries, are concerned.

The Boyce study was commissioned by the Development Centre of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as a component of its Research Program on Economic Choices before the Developing Countries. Dr. Keith Griffin, editor of the research program series, writes in the foreword to Boyce’s book:

“The development policies pursued in the Philippines resulted in the impoverishment of the already poor, the plunder of the economy’s natural resources, massive foreign indebtedness by the state to finance private capital flight and an enormous enrichment of a tiny minority.” (“External debt rose from $360 million in 1962 to $28.3 billion in 1986, making the Philippines one of the most heavily indebted countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America,” said Boyce.)

The illustrious UP economists and officials may disagree with these findings of the OECD study, but it cannot be denied that the vast majority of the Filipino people, in ousting Marcos, Virata and their technocrats from power in 1986, agreed with those findings and conclusions. They voted against the regime with their mouths, feet and fists.

As finance minister and figurehead prime minister, Virata almost yearly received commendations as “Best Finance Minister” of Asia and the world from the IMF, World Bank, ADB and Western financial publications. Yet the outcome proved them wrong.

The Inquirer in an editorial (6/15/13) correctly branded as “historical revisionism” the UP decision to honor Virata, because it went against the expressed judgment of our people, and blatantly ignored the courage and sacrifices of UP students and faculty who had opposed the dictatorship at the risk of life and career.

It also gave the wrong lesson to our people and our youth—that long service in a high government position is merit enough to be honored, no matter if that service is rank with incompetence and loyal support of a corrupt and brutal authoritarianism. This is unworthy of the highest institution of learning supported by the people’s money and which had stood for decades as the nation’s repository of wisdom, idealism and patriotism.

Manuel F. Almario ( is a veteran journalist, semi-retired. He is spokesperson of the Movement for Truth in History (Rizal’s Moth).

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September 26, 2013 · 2:07 am

How NPC CODE OF ETHICS was formulated

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A short history of the Journalist’s Code of Ethics
Posted on November 13, 2010 by Daryl

THEY hallowed it at the National Press Club of the Philippines in 1988.

Now adhered to by many media organizations (including journalism schools), the Journalist’s Code of Ethics is fruit of the NPC’s decades-long pining for a written set of standards in Philippine journalism.

According to NPC founding member Manuel Almario, “[in 1987] many [members of the NPC] were already losing sight of the real purpose of the club, which is to advance the [journalism] profession for the benefit of the people.” In a few month’s time, the NPC’s ethics committee was already drafting the Code.
Almario led the group, which first reviewed codes of ethics of foreign media organizations. With him in the committee were then Dean of the UP Institute of Mass Communication Georgina Encanto, PCIJ‘s Ma. Lourdes Mangahas, veteran journalist and academician Renato Constantino, and lawyer-journalist Atty. Luis Mauricio (former editor of the hard-hitting pre-martial law Weekly Graphic).

After being subjected to rounds of scrutiny and consultation, the Journalist’s Code of Ethics was finally ratified during the April 30, 1988 annual convention of the NPC. The Philippine Press Institute also approved the Code. (Almario was chairman of the Code of Ethics of the NPC, and floor leader at the annual convention. – MFA)
Indeed, the ratification of the Code marked a “great milestone in 20th century Philippine journalism.” Twelve years thence, Filipinos are still in want of constant adherence to it among their media friends.

Zamora, J.D.N. (2008). “Clubbed to Death? A Historical Study of the National Press Club of the Philippines from 1986 to 2007.” Unpublished thesis, University of the Philippines – Diliman.

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Pope Francis real concern

Pope Francis is only trying to halt the decline of the Catholic Church. He is intelligent enough to discern that the Catholic Church is losing adherents because of its obsolete ideas. Abortion, divorce, gay sexuality, and even the use of benign drugs, just like alcoholism, are now being accepted by the public as belonging to individual or human rights and freedom of choice. Francis’s concern is mostly the survival of the Church, so it could maintain the lavish and comfortable lifestyles of the church patriarchs, priests and the conservative ruling elites in Catholic countries like the Philippines. If he is really sincere, he should give up the riches of the Vatican and the church, and give these riches to the poor who continue proliferating in numbers. In that way he would be doing what Christ preached about the rich entering heaven only if they had given all they have to the poor.

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