Special report: The beef with "pork" Part 2

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau 

September 13, 2013

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. -Philippine authorities estimate that Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the $228 million pork barrel scam, and her family own at least 28 houses, 30 vehicles and more than 400 accounts with 17 different banks.

But is their wealth disgustingly dirty — because of corruption?

At least 32 senators and congressmen have reportedly received kickbacks from Napoles, who allegedly set up bogus organization that received pork barrels.

So how did the pork barrel, intended to benefit the constituents of politicians, end up scandal-ridden in the Philippines?

Well, its origin certainly has to do with power. The term pork barrel originated during the colonial period in America, when landowners would store salted pork in barrels.

“These landowners would dish out some of these prized pork to their slaves. It was a perk. It was special meat or special jerky. It wasn’t for everybody,” said Jay Gonzalez, political science professor at the University of San Francisco.

Through the years, the term “pork barrel” became slang for funds given by politicians for certain projects that benefit a group of people. Gonzales said congressmen and senators would dish out these benefits, monies and allocation to localities where they come from and where they want to sway votes in the next election.

The practice of pork barrel was passed on to Filipinos, when the Philippines was under American rule in the early 1900s.

Ted Laguatan, legal counsel for the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance said that when the Americans brought the pork barrel to the Philippines, it was a good system. “Americans ran a tight ship. It wasn’t a corrupt system,” he pointed out.

But Laguatan said that soon changed and the Philippine government was at its dirtiest during the Marcos dictatorship.

“He took the whole barrel, the whole pork. He had complete control over it. He put it in his pocket, a lot of it, and a lot to his cronies’ pockets. The kind of massive corruption he instituted was followed by other politicians after him,” said Laguatan.

So if America also has pork barrel politicians, why are only politicians in the Philippine embroiled in massive corruption scandals?

These experts said that in America, there’s simply a more thorough checks and balances system.

If Philippine politicians automatically get pork barrel funds every year, U.S. lawmakers have to ask for money, every time they need it for a project.

U.S. lawmakers need to justify their requests for funding before the Appropriations Committee, both Houses and President Barack Obama for approval.

“The Appropriations Committee is the one that hears these appeals from congressmen and senators for these special projects in their district. They don’t have a set allotment in other words. There are checks and balances during the hearings. There’s a special hearing that will check it and the budget has to be approved by two Houses,” said Gonzalez.

They said this checks and balances system ensures that funding for projects in America truly go to the people and President Benigno Aquino III wants the same for the Philippines.

“What the Philippines is proposing right now is similar to what President Obama has, which is to be able to veto those line items, those earmarks. They’re additional lines in the budget so the president is able to veto those lines,” pointed out Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said this will only work if President Aquino does his due diligence, before approving any funding.

“He has to prove in his last three years that he really means it and that he really is doing something serious to weed out ghost projects and those corrupt practices,” said Gonzalez.

“Changing the country’s situation really involves going after these big thieves and persecuting them. It starts with that as far as the pork barrel. Later on, they have to devise a system where these good and services are properly delivered to the people,” added Laguatan. 

For more information, you may contact Henni Espinosa at henni_espinosa@abs-cbn.com.

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  • jorge buesa
    15 September 2013 at 10:30 am - Reply

    After reading above The Beef with Pork Part 2 ? My God Marcos is alive, look at them in the philippines government, Money is so in important to them, They are the Dirtiest of Law-Makers, THey don’t care about the poor people ? Get Rid of them all !