On latest PNoy Speech on Pork Barrel: Nothing Consequential

From Prof BobbyTuazon, CenPEG Policy Studies Director:

My take on PNoy’s speech last night (October 30, 2013):

There was nothing in the speech that can be said as consequential or eloquent given that the President asked primetime airing from TV networks for an “important” announcement. He was clearly on a defensive mode and gave the impression that the delivery was designed primarily to arrest his declining popularity ratings.

Latest surveys show most Filipinos want all forms of pork barrel – including presidential – scrapped forever so why is the President not heeding the people whom he calls his “boss”? He accused his “detractors” of muddling the pork issue and misleading the public but he dismally failed to back his allegation by forgetting to mention names so as to make his assertion credible.

The popular stand against pork barrels is transcendental, i.e., it is beyond Mr. Aquino’s term and never did the people refer only to the pork barrel of the incumbent president. In short, the public outrage was against the SYSTEM of pork barrel that has been a major source of corruption and plunder for several years – wasting away billions of pesos intended for the poor. The people are clearly asking for reform.

If the President is really for reform, then let him begin by letting go of the pork barrel system. It would be easy to transfer all lump sum allocations under the guise of PDAF and presidential special fund to where these should go – poverty alleviation and social services especially health, housing, and education. The question is, should he side with the politicians or should he side with the people? Should he seize a rare historic opportunity?

To ensure that these lump sum, unaccountable allocations are spent for programs and services for the people is by reforming policy making at the highest level in terms of introducing participative budget planning. Participative budget planning would ensure people’s representatives’ direct participation in governance – something that the Constitution already enshrines – allowing the public machinery of planning, monitoring, and auditing to work. The country has many citizens watchdogs on budget and against corruption so it should be no problem tapping this network for the objective. Participative budget planning is already done in Canada and other countries and it works.

It’s not really too late for the President to begin – per his election campaign – building the blocks of policy reform now. And the first step is the repudiation of a major source of corruption.

Director for Policy Studies
Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG)
Co-Convener, AES Watch