From pigsty to palace

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First, disparaging our anti-corruption initiatives, they violated the laws and long-written jurisprudence on the criminal pork barrel system. And then, at the eleventh hour, they blatantly abused it.

“In the animal kingdom, swine, hogs and pigs are among the thickest-skinned mammals.
The same with their close cousins at the House of Representatives.

Now, at the end of the line, where the buck stops, it is left to President Rodrigo Duterte to clean up their act and go through the tedious task of surgically cutting out the fat that Little Mr. and Ms. Piggy and the family pigsty had reanimated back into the political bureaucracy praying their abomination passes as the General Appropriations Act.

Indulge us and forgive our extended metaphors. Nothing quite as appropriate as a pork fattened pachyderm-sized ballsy swine fits to describe some of the members of both houses of Congress, who, since the last State of the Nation address, have wallowed in the slime of resurgent patronage politics.

When Gloria Arroyo prematurely clambered up the Speaker’s podium, the public’s fears were rekindled. Last Friday, those fears were validated. Voila! A pork-infused budget had just been ratified and is now headed from the congressional pigsty to the Palace.

In the animal kingdom, swine, hogs and pigs are among the thickest-skinned mammals. The same with their close cousins at the House of Representatives.

It’s nauseating. What had started as President Duterte’s anti-corruption initiatives, operationalized through the drafting of a budget where the latter provides for fully identified and specific infrastructure projects programmed for inclusive economic development thus catalyzing regional gross domestic growth in constituencies long laggard and needing budgetary booster shots, has now turned into a contentious point left to the president to resolve.

For one, salivating solons shamelessly eager for an all-day Vegas-style eat-all-you-can buffet of pork saw only “insertions” in the proposed budget handed them by the Department of the Budget and Management (DBM).

Congressmen judge from where they stand. That place is the pig pen. What the solons of the House label as “insertions” are technically called “earmarking” and, in the face of the criminalization of the pork barrel system, budget earmarks are, in fact, legitimate modes of allocating scarce resources that benefit larger swathes of the economy compared to the parochial and non-inclusive impact of congressional pork barrels meant to pander to patronage politics.

For another, the congressmen wanted to pass their own signature pork barrel-laced budget where inequitable appropriations are re-channeled to the pet projects they picked whether these were aligned with the inclusive economic agenda or not.

Obviously, Malacañang’s objectives of ridding the political system of pork barrel criminality was at cross purposes with the parochial agenda of crooks hell-bent on appropriating our money for their individual benefit.

The former was being led by one of the administration’s lead economic managers as he was wisely assigned the budget portfolio and was specifically tasked to ensure that scarce funds sourced from our taxes are allocated to the most economically inclusive and productive uses following the Duterte “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure initiative.

The opposing agenda — a stark and diametric counterpoint to wider economic inclusivity — was then being prosecuted by a resurgent political factotum of the House speakership that had resurrected the pork barrel system from the bowels of the criminal annals in time for the 2019 midterm elections where critical funding is needed.

It was not difficult for the public to take sides between protagonists who seemed to go for each other’s jugular. One strung along a train of academic degrees and a reputation for competence. The other, a lengthy rap sheet of corruption charges largely earned during his heyday under the discredited Arroyo administration.

The resultant P3.76-trillion budget ratified by Congress en route from the pigsty to the Palace might either be vetoed or signed blindly by the President. We are confident correctness will conquer corruption.

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