AIJC Forum on the Pork Barrel Issue
September 23, 2013
Function Room B, Megatrade Convention Center,
SM Megamall, Mandaluy...
their presence and urged them to stay until the end of the forum and have their voices
heard.
Legal Arguments on the Pork ...
11. Fourth, Atty. Sia said the pork barrel system is a superfluous, unnecessary mechanism
that violates provisions of the ...
17. Mr. Belgica further shared how the 1987 Constitution reestablished the principles of the
separation of powers and the ...
can help address problems that may arise such as possible power struggles between
congressmen and governors.
Open Forum
23...
be used for good and that the problem was in the people who were using it for other
purposes.
29. Mr. Belgica then made a ...
36. At the end of his presentation, Dr. Tapang was asked by a participant if the same
visualization can be made based on h...
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Documentation Report : AIJC Forum On The Pork Barrel Issue 23 September 2013

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Documentation Report : AIJC Forum On The Pork Barrel Issue 23 September 2013

  1. 1. AIJC Forum on the Pork Barrel Issue September 23, 2013 Function Room B, Megatrade Convention Center, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City DOCUMENTATION REPORT 1. The AIJC Forum on the Pork Barrel Issue was convened by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC) and Now Corporation (formerly Information Capital Technology Ventures, Inc.) on September 23, 2013 at Function Room B of the Megatrade Convention Center, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City. The 64 participants were from AIJC, Now Corporation (formerly ICTV), 24/7 Inc., Baptist Philippines, Barcelona Mangrove Research Farm and Resort, Biblemode Youth, Capitol Christian Leadership (CCL), Citizens Crime Watch, Community Disaster Preparedness, Convergys, Couples for Christ Foundation for Family and Life (CFC FFL)/PROLIFE, Kananga Residents and Settlers in Mega Manila Association (KARESMMA), Inc., the Kapatiran Party, Lighthouse Bible Baptist Church, Movement Against Dynasty (MAD), People’s Journal Tonight, Philippines PEN, the Philippine Press Institute, the Reform Philippines Movement, Salva Sia Law, Solidarity Movement Philippines, UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, United Methodist Church, Writers vs. Impunity, Yeshua Change Agents (YCA), Youth Against Pork (YAP) and the Youth Leaders’ Club (YLC). 2. The forum started at 10:50 a.m. AIJC Trustee Mr. Rodrigo Cornejo served as emcee and moderator. He led the Philippine National Anthem and called on Pastor and Dr. Grepor 'Butch' Belgica for the Opening Prayer. Welcome Remarks 3. This was followed by the Welcome Remarks delivered by Dr. William T. Torres, Vice Chairperson of AIJC. He shared that the event was the third of a series of forums conducted by AIJC which sought to engage various sectors in critical matters of national interest by providing a venue for the exchange of ideas and opinions. He then cited parts of the AIJC Manifesto on the controversy over the reported misuse of public funds, noting how the Institute enjoins the Philippine President to “exercise his political and moral ascendancy to act in the interest of the Filipino people” and calls for transparency and accountability in governance. He also cited AIJC’s call for participation and vigilance among stakeholder groups and individuals, so that they may fulfill their mission as watchdogs and perhaps even as whistleblowers. Dr. Torres thanked the participants for 1
  2. 2. their presence and urged them to stay until the end of the forum and have their voices heard. Legal Arguments on the Pork Barrel Issue 4. The legal arguments on the pork barrel issue were discussed by Atty. Christian G. Sia, Pasig City Councilor and Chairman of the Pasig City Committee on Public Relations, Information and Nongovernment Organizations. 5. According to Atty. Sia, the pork barrel system violates separation of powers by allowing Congress to intrude into the Executive domain of project implementation. He noted, however, that the Supreme Court disagrees, citing rulings on two cases in which the SC dismissed petitions that sought to declare pork barrel unconstitutional. 6. One was a 1994 case which challenged the constitutionality of the then-Countrywide Development Fund (CDF). According to Atty. Sia, the SC declared the pork barrel system constitutional as it does not transgress separation of powers; it merely allows Congress to identify—but not implement—projects. In the second case, filed in 2012 by Lawyers Against Monopoly and Poverty (LAMP), the SC also refused to declare pork barrel unconstitutional due to lack of substantiation. 7. Atty. Sia then presented the five legal grounds to assail the validity of the pork barrel system that shall be used to convince the Supreme Court to reverse its position. 8. First, he reiterated that the pork barrel violates separation of powers. He noted that the Commission on Audit (COA) report does not support the SC’s observation that the pork barrel system is designed to allow Congress to merely identify projects. According to COA, both congressmen and senators have issued endorsement letters, and funds were released directly to the NGOs they endorsed—without the proper bidding process. 9. Second, Atty. Sia noted that the pork barrel system renders the Executive and Legislative branches incapable of performing checks and balances. The system, according to the speaker, “dilutes” or even “sets aside” this function. He said that while Congress is supposed to approve the budget of the Executive branch, pork barrel allows lump sum funds to be allocated to unspecified projects which Congress therefore cannot monitor. 10. Third, he explained that the pork barrel system offends the accountability provisions of the Constitution as it has consistently demonstrated that it is impervious to practical control and accountability measures. Atty. Sia emphasized that the COA report suggests certain requirements were violated from 2007-2009, and reiterated that making endorsements instead of holding the required public bidding for projects was one such violation. 2
  3. 3. 11. Fourth, Atty. Sia said the pork barrel system is a superfluous, unnecessary mechanism that violates provisions of the Constitution on local autonomy and the Local Government Code. He noted that under the Local Government Code of 1991, local development councils were created, and their functions include the identification of programs and projects according to the needs of the districts. Thus, beginning with the implementation of the Local Government Code of 1991, Congress should not have been involved in identifying local projects for funding. 12. Finally, Atty. Sia said the pork barrel system enables the continued non-realization, if not outright violation, of various constitutional mandates, including the proscription against political dynasties. He noted how pork barrel funds have been used for patronage politics, and added that the “evils spawned” by the system are “not contained” in the national government but have also permeated the local levels of government. The Petition Filed at the Supreme Court 13. The second speaker, former Manila councilor and petitioner against pork barrel Mr. Greco B. Belgica, discussed the petition filed at the Supreme Court. While the presentation of Atty. Sia focused on the legal arguments cited in the same petition, Mr. Belgica provided biblical and historical contexts for the petition. 14. He first read a piece titled, “This is No Longer the Society Our Young Heroes Fought For,” the opening statement he prepared for the October 8 oral arguments at the Supreme Court. Here, he noted how the liberties the country’s heroes fought for and died for are no longer enjoyed by the present generation, as the “very government our heroes fought” has been reestablished, this time with “Filipino masters called politicians.” He noted that the government, which was created generations ago to protect such liberties, has itself violated the same liberties “through law and coercion.” He cited how politicians have used their power to redistribute wealth without the proper process of Congress scrutiny and line item budgeting, and how they have exploited poverty and controlled the people through “discretionary dole outs.” 15. Mr. Belgica further expounded on the points he raised in the opening statement as he proceeded with his presentation, which he started by citing two biblical principles: that money and resources should be in the hands of people, not government; and that there should be a limited civil government. 16. He noted how four generations ago, the country’s young heroes wrote the 1899 Malolos Constitution, which reflected their vision of a free nation. Referencing Title 5, Article 52, Mr. Belgica explained how the first Constitution reflected the young heroes’ envisioned form of government—one that protected the nation from centralized power and control of resources by defining the (separate) functions of the appropriator and the implementer. 3
  4. 4. 17. Mr. Belgica further shared how the 1987 Constitution reestablished the principles of the separation of powers and the Legislative, Executive and Judicial branches of government. He placed emphasis on the role of the Judiciary, referencing Article VIII Section 1: “The judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law. Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government.” 18. While the actual petition was 50 pages long, Mr. Belgica kept the rest of his presentation brief, giving a recap of the petition’s legal arguments that exhibit the unconstitutionality of the pork barrel system, followed by a short discussion on the Petitioner’s Prayer. He then urged the participants to join the petitioners and become an advocate. The Pork Barrel in the Context of Fiscal Policy 19. Amb. Jose V. Romero, PhD, political economist and AIJC Trustee, shared insights on the pork barrel issue in the context of fiscal policy. 20. According to Amb. Romero, pork was used to come up with “political equilibrium” and “improve government appropriations.” He briefly traced the history of the pork barrel system, noting how the late former President Ferdinand Marcos “hijacked pork for years” with “no Congress” to monitor it, and how the funds were used to apply “the constructive ideas of Imelda [Marcos].” He added that he and the NGOs supporting the late former President Corazon Aquino did not know how they would “govern,” and noted that she was “lucky to have [Jose de Venecia, Jr.]” who “used pork to create a multiparty coalition.” This, he said, was the origin of the pork barrel system. 21. Amb. Romero said the people should make sure that they replace the pork barrel system with “something better.” He suggested a “bottom-up approach” utilizing the regional, provincial and municipal development councils, whose members he deems to be “the best people to identify projects” on the local level. The process, he emphasized, must be transparent. He shared that in his experience as a regional development council consultant, he witnessed how such a system truly worked. He noted, however, that the local development councils cannot identify “big items”—these are under the purview of the Executive branch, specifically under the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). Thus, he said both top-down and bottom-up approaches—which are already in place in the current government—must be “reinforced.” 22. Finally, Amb. Romero said, “If we want a cure, we need to know the problem, the symptoms.” He then raised the need for a strategic plan that would provide a long-term development perspective. This can be used for “optimum distribution” of resources and 4
  5. 5. can help address problems that may arise such as possible power struggles between congressmen and governors. Open Forum 23. At 12:10 p.m., Mr. Cornejo introduced the AIJC staff and invited the first three speakers back to the stage for the Open Forum. 24. Former Boac, Marinduque Mayor Pedrito Nepomuceno agreed with Amb. Romero regarding the strengthening of local development councils. To illustrate “why PDAF is a failed system,” he cited a P17 million road interconnection project in his province in 2003 to be finished in 2004 that sought to shorten travel time. He said the government does not know where the money went, and until 2013, the roads have not yet been interconnected. He added that he believed in the Constitution and that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) would work in the right hands. He said investigators should find out how the PDAF turned into a failed system. Finally, he posed the question of what would happen to the money once the PDAF is declared unconstitutional. 25. Mr. Lito David of the Kapatiran Party directed his first question to Mr. Belgica and Atty. Sia. He said he wished he could share their optimism in convincing the Supreme Court to change its position on the constitutionality of the pork barrel system, considering that there is no law that governs PDAF. He requested for their forecast, asking if they believe the SC would actually declare the said system unconstitutional. 26. In response to Mr. David, Mr. Belgica reiterated that the five points he and Atty. Sia discussed support their claim that the PDAF is indeed unconstitutional. He also noted that past petitions that failed to convince the SC to declare pork barrel unconstitutional were not surrounded by the controversy that has now sparked national interest. Finally, he stated they are “very positive” about the petition because “15-0 or all justices” said they want to hear them out and said the PDAF/pork barrel allocation “has to be stopped” (according to the temporary restraining order issued by the SC). 27. On the other hand, Atty. Sia said he believes their goal is not impossible, considering that the SC is “very different from that of the previous regime.” He said there is hope if the present SC will “put its foot down” and put a stop to the “systematic plunder.” He maintained that he was “very hopeful that the petition will bear fruit for the Filipino nation.” 28. Subsequent questions raised during the Open Forum led to discussions on what could happen if the SC declares the PDAF unconstitutional. A participant asked what the next step would be if the PDAF is merely repackaged as something else. Some participants raised the argument (similar to that of former Mayor Nepomuceno) that the PDAF can 5
  6. 6. be used for good and that the problem was in the people who were using it for other purposes. 29. Mr. Belgica then made a firm statement to address these points. He emphasized that the aim was to transfer to the next generation “the idea of a limited government.” The objective, therefore, “is to educate the young to see if government is already exceeding its boundaries.” He said if the PDAF threatens to reemerge in a different form, the people should “do the same thing”—stop it from reemerging. He noted that while the people can only control what happens in their generation, they should continue to educate the young, equipping the next generation with information that will enable them to be vigilant and proactive in protecting their fellow citizens from any injustices. 30. Dr. Butch Belgica added that the SC must declare all kinds of pork unconstitutional, as it is “evil in whatever form.” He emphasized that PDAF can never be called a “good tool” as it circumvents the functions of checks and balances in the government. 31. The Open Forum ended at 1:10 p.m., followed by a short break. Network Mapping of the Pork Barrel 32. Dr. Giovanni A. Tapang, University of the Philippines professor, shared a network mapping of how the PDAF was used in government agencies. 33. He explained that while the COA Report (specifically COA Special Audits Office Report No. 2012-03) presents a government-wide Performance Audit of the PDAF as well as the Various Infrastructures including Local Projects (VILP) funds of various implementing agencies from 2007 to 2009—with a listing of NGOs to whom funding was given by a legislator—one cannot immediately decipher the relationships between the NGOs and the legislators by looking at the tables. The network mapping provides a “visualization” of the PDAF releases. 34. He first defined a few terms to guide the discussion, explaining that a “network” is a “set of nodes” that have a defined relationship between each other. He said that this is where his team started their study—by looking at how bills were made and who were making bills together. He then defined “clustering,” which shows “how closely or tightly knit a network is,” and “centrality,” which shows “how important one node is in a network.” He also explained that “degree” or the number of connections of each node is like the number of friends one has on Facebook. 35. He then proceeded to the presentation of the network mapping, and gave examples of what the country is being deprived of, based on the pork barrel and its cost. He said P1.3 trillion is equal to 29 600-megawatt power plants; 26 steel plants of 4.1 MT output/year; 20 chip making companies; and a 200-kilometer MRT from Manila to Dagupan. 6
  7. 7. 36. At the end of his presentation, Dr. Tapang was asked by a participant if the same visualization can be made based on how the presidential pork barrel funds were used. Dr. Tapang said that with the necessary information, it could be done, but with the help of accountants and other people who could guide them in studying the flow of funds. Closing Remarks 37. In his Closing Remarks, Mr. Mel V. Velarde, President and CEO of Now Corporation (formerly ICTV) and Chairperson of AIJC, thanked the resource persons for their presentations, acknowledging their substantive inputs to address the pork barrel issue. 38. He then emphasized the importance of moving forward as a people. He said the country is currently at a “crossroads,” faced with the challenge of steering towards a future in which the people can truly participate in the nation’s growth. He posed the question that if the goal was to make the Philippines the wealthiest nation in the region, how should its money be spent? 39. Mr. Velarde envisioned a future of transparency in governance, where citizens can be involved in carrying out the programs they need, addressing problems rooted in poverty in the process. He noted that “nothing will change” unless the Filipino people would “keep the fire burning” and continue to be proactive and passionate in fighting for their rights. He ended by reminding the forum participants that AIJC supports pro-people campaigns and is open to raising issues they would want to bring to the public’s attention. 40. Tokens were awarded to the resource persons. Mr. Cornejo thanked all of the participants and closed the forum at 2:15 p.m. 7

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