For decades, the Philippine Congress has been alloted Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), more commonly known as "pork barrel", geared towards the development of legislative districts and for the financing of priority projects. In recent times, misuse of these funds by both Houses of Congress supposedly through the assistance of bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) surfaced all over the news.
These issues triggered a large citizens' gathering in Luneta Park and other areas across the country last National Heroes' Day 2013. The #MillionPeopleMarch, a social media-inspired event, invited Filipinos all over the country to gather and demand transparency and accountability in the government, as well as the total abolition of pork barrel.
We believe that corruption is related to a web of problems. The solutions do not end with just the abolition of the pork barrel, but should also include the management of the circumstances which put it into being.
Transparent and proper allocation of all government funds. These include discretionary funds such as those of the government agencies as well as the President's Special Purpose Funds (SPF). Thus, we call on the transparent utilization of all taxpayers' money. The passage of a legislation, such as the People's Freedom of Information Bill, will show that the government is sincere in achieving transparency.
Genuine and inclusive countrywide development. We believe that the pork barrel, originally geared toards the development of rural areas of the country, have not achieved its goal in its decades of existence. We believe that the local government units should have greater autonomy on the use of government funds for inclusive development.
Bottom-up budgeting and policy decision-making. We believe that the annual budget should be based on the recommendation of the lowest level of government towards the central government rather than being determined from the Office of the President going down. We believe that such approach would ensure that the funds will be allocated where it is direly needed and would reduce the potential for corruption.
We, the Asian Medical Students' Association-Philippines, call for the abolition of pork barrel and rechanneling of these funds to health and other basic social services.
We emphasize that pork barrel, in this statement pertains to both the congressional PDAF, which amounts to more than PhP 25 B and presidential SPF, which amounts to around PhP 450 B in the proposed 2014 budget. These figures roughly correspond to PhP 431 B total heallth expenditure of the country in 2011 where, unfortunately, private sources still account to around 63%. As future health professionals, we believe that these funds are better utilized by the government to finance health expenditure in order to achieve achieve universal health care. Apart from health expenditure, the funds can be used to finance other basic services such as education in the country.
We call on the people to remain participative and critical as the investigation of the pork barrel scam continues. We believe that vigilance of the people on the issues presented is of utmost importance in promoting good governance.
We call on the Aquino administration to listen to the people. We challenge our government to stay true to their promises of change by weeding out corruption. We call on our government to uphold transparency and accountability. We call on the current administration to be impartial in the investigations which will be conducted and not to protect its allies. We hope all convicts will be treated fairly without bias to position or relation to the administration.
Lastly, as we have presented and disclosed the circumstances and problems revolving around the pork barrel, we reiterate our calls.
Abolish pork barrel!
Rechannel these funds to health and basic social services!
Uphold transparency and accountability!
Doronila, Amando. (2013, August 22). Special purpose funds 'bigger monster' for misuse. Inquirer Opinion. Retrieved from: http://opinion.inquirer.net/59377/special-purpose-funds-bigger-monster-for-misuse
Health expenditures up 13% to P431B (2013, June 10). Malaya Business Insight. Retrieved from: http://www.malaya.com.ph/index.php/special-features/infotech-telecoms/160-news-flash/33096-health-expenditures-up-13-to-p431b