Davao Today

DAVAO CITY – A University of the Philippines professor has offered a formula “for a more systematic” abolition of the pork barrel system:  abolish political dynasties.

“The abolition of (the pork barrel system) is as probable as the abolition of political dynasties,” said Prof. Roland Simbulan of the UP Development Studies and Political Economy.

Simbulan told the September 5 forum on Anatomy of Philippine Politics that the pork barrel fund is the “umbilical cord that allows political dynasties to thrive.” The forum was organized by the nongovernment group, Pagbabago Southern Mindanao.

“Because of the lopsided economic structure of inequality which allows the rich to monopolize wealth and power, the landed, wealthy families try to protect their interests by occupying public office,” he said.

Even though the 1987 Philippine Constitution already prohibits the existence of political dynasties, Simbulan said that no enabling law to make it work had ever reached “first base” because those in power come from a “small upper strata mostly from economic and social elites.”

As of 2010, there were already 178 dominant political dynasties in national politics,  100 or 56% of them belonging to the old elite, and 78 or 44% are the new elites that emerged after Edsa 1 in 1986 and the 1987 post-Marcos elections, according to Simbulan.

In the House of Representatives, Simbulan said the dominance by political families, increased from 64% to 68% (or 115 families) after the May 2010 elections.

Dominance is higher in the Senate, with 80% of the 23 members elected in 2010, including the new elites represented by the Cayetano siblings, Pia and Peter Alan.

Simbulan said the elite include those of the Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao, the Arroyos and the Marcoses, their names made infamous by widespread accusation of violence and corruption that wracked their administrations.

“It’s like the game Trip to Jerusalem which we are not included,” he said.

Simbulan traced the dynasties to their roots in the pre-Spanish colonial maharlika class. And during US colonial period in the first quarter of the 21st century, these propertied and pampered dynasties were given privilege rights and opportunities by being the only ones allowed to vote and run for political office.

Since then, those who were able to acquire, or bestowed political power were only the “rich and landed” Filipinos, Simbulan said.

Thus, he said, “there is an absence of any real political competition.”

The effect is both “horizontal and vertical” expansion of the dynasties. “This means that political kin are not only distributed in various positions in one are but also in different areas.”

The Center for People Empowerment in Governance, where Simbulan sits as board vice-chairman, cited the Ampatuan clan as an example of this horizontal expansion, where 73 clan members ran for office in the 2013 national and local elections.  Only 24 of the 73 won seats, the low winning streak largely blamed to the Ampatuan massacre of 38 journalists, 2 lawyers and a number of passersby.

Citing the national indignation over the control of public funds by these dynasties, Simbulan believed that if government would go as far as “officially” abolishing the PDAF, it would do so but by changing only the name.

The PDAF, for Priority Development Assistance Fund, is the official name of the pork barrel funds.

He said he would not be surprised if investigations would only show that the same political families “ang nagtayo ng mga bogus NGOs (created the bogus NGOs themselves).”

If not, he said, the lawmakers may resort to certifying questionable NGOs if only to ensure their lion share in the funds funneled to these NGOs. This was already shown in the recent report of the Commission on Audit, which revealed that legislators had certified NGOs, including the bogus NGOs of Janet Lim-Napoles, to implement their PDAF funds.

Napoles was the pinpointed mastermind in the manipulation of the PDAF funds of lawmakers, many of these personalities representing the known political families in the country.

The mishandling of the discretionary funds was also brought into the open with the COA disclosure of the PDAF that was “not properly released by the Department of Budget and Management and [was] not appropriately, efficiently and effectively utilized by the IAs [implementing agencies].”

Or, as the COA noted, that “funds were also released by the DBM even for projects outside the legislative districts of the sponsoring congressmen” or what is conveniently called as “swapping.”

Davao City’s 2nd district Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano was one of the lawmakers who was reported to have “swapped” project with her father-in-law, Isabela 1st District Rep. Rodolfo Albano Jr.

She defended her move as “legal” and “normal” and was subjected to approval by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Asked if there was hope for the people to be represented in the existing system, Simbulan said that political dynasties have actually been challenged in the past.

“We have seen several personalities like Grace Padaca of Isabela and partylists groups. It’s important that grass roots consciousness and organizing will continue,” Simbulan said.

The systematic corruption of the PDAF caused a nationwide uproar against the entire system.

Angry netizens – those following closely the social networking sites – rose to the occasion and joined the rest of the nation to fill the streets in a nationwide indignation called the August 26 #MillionPeopleMarch.

As the controversy continued to occupy public discourse, the nation is again poised to hold a wider Edsa Tayo prayer vigil on September 11.

The gathering, said Jose Palma, the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, “is supporting calls to abolish the pork barrel system in the legislative and executive departments.” (John Rizle Saligumba/

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