12:53 am | Saturday, October 5th, 2013
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I am afraid that in his letter titled “Response to David challenge,” (Opinion, 9/23/13), former senator Vicente Paterno missed the point. He said that his pork barrel allocations from 1987 to 1992 were given to “real flesh and blood recipients,” as reported by him in his Senate newsletter to his constituents. His handling of the more than P33 million in Countrywide Development Fund [the official name of the congressional pork barrel in those years] should therefore be declared aboveboard.
Whether or not the pork barrel funds were used honestly is not the real issue, although dishonesty in the use of public money is a serious criminal offense, and the public is right in insisting that those guilty of the offense should be punished according to law. The underlying issue is that the pork barrel system, which allows legislators to spend public funds, is a distortion of the fundamental principles of democratic government. It is a wrecking ball swung at the very foundations of our government’s democratic structure.
Under our republican system, the three branches of government are not only coequal and independent of each other, they also have separate powers. Congress has the power to legislate and to raise revenues for government (the power of the purse); the executive has the power to enforce the laws and spend the revenues in accordance with a budget approved by Congress; and the judiciary has the power to determine the constitutionality or unconstitutionality of the laws passed by Congress and the official acts of government.
Giving the legislators the power to spend revenues is a distortion of this system of checks and balances upon which hangs the ability and effectiveness of government in promoting the public welfare, maintaining peace and dispensing justice. This distortion is the root cause of the frailty and corruptibility of our government.
President Aquino, who has the initial responsibility of proposing a budget, should have refrained from tempting legislators with huge pork barrel sums to spend on their own discretion or to slip into their wallets. The legislators, like Paterno, should have refrained from accepting this virtual bribe that made them, like beggars, beholden and subservient to the President.
The pork barrel is an insufferable conspiracy against the people. Because of the enormous sums involved over the past 40 years, it has robbed the people of their happiness and their future. It is high time that this criminal conspiracy against the Constitution and our people was dismantled.
—MANUEL F. ALMARIO, spokesman, Movement for Truth in History, Rizal’s Moth, email@example.com