On the PDAF: Remembering that It may still come back

Let us make it clear, ladies and gentlemen; we are not here to discuss whether the Priority Development Assistance Fund or the PDAF is legal or not, for the said item in question was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013 by a vote of 14-0 .

This is not about the Presidential Pork, Vice Presidential, Agencies Pork or Judicial Development Fund nor would this include the amalgamation of funds to congressmen coming from private sources because the motion demands a discussion of the system of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, which in essence is money given to legislative officers by the government.

This is a discussion of accountability, of efficiency, and of execution of public interest. We are not going to use emotions; we are going to use cold, hard logic to prove that the said policy must go and not just rule it out as a temporary measure.

To make it clear, we will define the Priority Development Assistance Fund as the money entrusted by the government/people to legislators to be allocated for projects wisely. Congress Enacts the PDAF as a LUMP SUM appropriation in the General Appropriations Act with a maximum ceiling of 70 million given to Congressmen; 200 million pesos are allotted to each senator of the Republic of the Philippines. It is given with the assumption that these congressmen would spend it “wisely”. To abolish it is to stop its implementation as a government policy in our government system.

We must abolish the said measure for the years to come; taking cue from the fact that the Congress just moved to scrap the PDAF for 2014, Congress itself has recognized the fact that it is necessary, more beneficial and practicable for us to scrap the PDAF.

Art. II Sec. 27 states that the State… shall take POSITIVE MEASURES against Graft and Corruption. Opening up a state to such potential abuses runs contrary to its espoused ideals, principles and goals; as well as affects its capacity to deliver its services to its citizens efficiently.

Why do I say this? Let us first know how the PDAF is distributed.

As stated, it is submitted to congress via the president’s annual national budget. From then, Congress enacts it; then congressmen avails of it through choosing from a menu of projects, then go to DBM for assessment and release of funds, then fill out the paperwork for the COA to assess.

What is not put in the flowchart is how Congressmen and Senators choose who to allocate their funds to; and given that they did, those recipients would do their jobs.

The problem lies in choosing the executors of the project; who would the congressman choose, given that it is under their discretion; and need not follow a given set of standards (if there is one)? 2.) Knowing the system of politics in our country being largely dominated by the padrino system that can override our justice system, as explained by Prof. Ron Mendoza in his article (give article), these NGO’s have an incentive to not do their jobs, because more often than not, COA or SEC has no mandate nor manpower to in

Too much discretion without the necessary checks and balances leads to adverse selection, where the congressman can choose to give the money to an agent which can use it for unintended purposes, as aforementioned; as well as the moral hazard problem (after the agent gets the money, doesn’t do its supposed job) because more often than not, the patron-client relationship makes it difficult for the justice system or the police to work because they are “taken care of” by the same agent, and to punish him would have a backlash to his benefits received.

Running this risk becomes problematic for us Filipinos; not only are we paying taxes in the belief of a better future through funding the government via its services; we also expect the government to make efficient use of it. It could have been used for other purposes such as to adopt a Doppler Radar that could’ve been used to predict the weather and save some more lives that have been lost in Ondoy, Habagat or Reming; it could have been used for local agency development such as improving the equipment of police, DSWD agency, DPWH, etc.

Worst of all, we have already fallen hard for the problems which turn into sunk costs for the Filipino People, opening it up for abuses as proven in the cases of the Napoles Scam, the COA reports, and the numerous white elephant projects that have been popping out over the years at the expense of the Filipino people. While it is remotely possible to be able to recover them, our justice system has an average of six years of trial time; meaning that we have to at least wait six years to hear the resolution of a case; and even more to start looking for the paper trail.

Second argument: The said policy serves as a hindrance for the maturity of our political institutions, particularly in the LGU’s.

*First point: The question of mutual exclusivity of benefits and qualities in a congressman or a senator is at best answered by disbursing the said funds to the Local Government Units of that said sector; or to the local branches of the executive departments of each area rather than one congressman alone.

**The Cost of increased transaction before delivery aside, it also becomes a problem due to a perverse incentive that the policy brings: a culture of dependency on our congressmen who are in effect distributors of cash in a particular area. (which in turn brings about a culture of dependency of not only the electorate, but also our agencies).

Pointing again to the lack of accountability perpetuated by the system, local offices, and even national offices have no incentive to improve their performance, as the Congressmen or Senator would just take care of them. This also destroys the reforms in the respective national agencies propagated due to good governance.

How do we expect our National Agencies to man up and do their job if they have a fallback position? Aside from Benjamin Diokno pointing out our need for strengthen political institution to deliver the services provided by our state, as long as these agencies have someone to depend to for supplementing their shortcomings, they would always have an incentive to underperform. It would be okay for them to stomach the fact that someone died because 117 was not reached in time; it would be alright to just sit there idly thinking that it is the congressmen and senators who would be blamed first and not them.

It is time we do something about it. We must excise the cancer in our society, and this is the cell that makes us ill.

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