Let’s fix the problem of pork without hurting those who really need it

We have become too fixated on the corruption relating to pork barrel and we have lost sight of the fact that there are people who really need help. There are plenty of them. And many of them have been helped.

Unfortunately, we have this black-and-white approach of “Let’s abolish pork. Period.” So everybody pays for the sins of the few.

But the only question worth asking is, did the intended beneficiaries get what they were supposed to get?

If the answer is yes, then don’t take their assistance away. If the answer is no, then look at why they did not get it and find a way to ensure that they get it.

The fault lies with the senator or congressman. The legislator requested the allocation, identified the beneficiaries, picked the implementing agency and recommended to it the NGO (nongovernment organization) that will receive the funds.

Puno at dulo ang importante. All that matters is for the beneficiaries to get what they need. In full.

It is not the existence of pork that is wrong, what is wrong is the way that some have used it.

The problem is the pigs—not the pork barrel. What is there to complain about if assistance goes to those who really need it?

The Million-People March on the 26th asks (1) for the abolition of pork barrel; (2) for the investigation and prosecution of those involved in the scam.

I agree with the second reason. As to the first, let’s give it more serious thought—for the sake of those who have been helped and continue to be helped by small-scale infra-projects like irrigation systems, safe drinking water, waiting sheds, small bridges so that school children don’t have to balance themselves on makeshift bridges crossing streams on their way to school, rural clinics, etc.; and those who have been helped and continue to be helped by soft pork like medical assistance, vaccination programs, feeding programs, livelihood training programs, farm implements, scholarships, help to bury their dead etc.

It is the micro-level assistance provided by good pork that makes me hesitate to add my voice to the clamor for the outright abolition of all types of pork. Many of those who call for the abolition of pork are a step removed from the lives of the intended beneficiaries of pork.

They can take the long macro-view.

Don’t get me wrong. I too believe that looking at the big picture is good. However, while we think big and long, let’s also not forget that millions of our people simply have to make it through the day.

Let’s make sure that those who live day-to-day, hand-to-mouth, can live long enough to benefit from the long-term all-encompassing solutions that we are cooking up for them.

There is a simple way to make pork work. Hold the legislators accountable. First and last. No finger-pointing to implementing agencies or NGOs. If something goes wrong along the way then it is the legislator’s fault. He has to fix it himself.

There is no excuse in the world that will justify why a legislator’s pork goes to other than his intended beneficiaries. The only way pork can be lost is if the legislator steals it or does not keep a watchful eye over it. If he does not have the resources to monitor his projects then he should not embark on them. He will just be throwing away money that can be spent on those who need it. He should just give his pork projects to some other legislator who can make it happen.

The important thing is for pork to get to intended beneficiaries. In full. It does not really matter how it gets to beneficiaries as long as it gets to them. Beneficiaries don’t really give a shit how it gets to them as long as they get it, right?

Let’s call for full transparency on the part of the legislators. Every allocation, every project, every distribution, must be reported in detail, progress and completion reports, all readily available to the public as they happen. That way responsibility is clear and accountability can be exacted.

Let’s fix the problem without hurting those who need it most.

Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (ww.aer.ph).

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