Aside from the usual extension of the terms of incumbents, allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of Philippine resources and businesses, and removing provisions that guarantee human rights and civil liberties, the latest proposed amendments include enshrining the pork barrel system into the basic law of the land.
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The Duterte administration’s drive to amend the 1987 Constitution outdoes the previous failed attempts in one more thing. Aside from the usual extension of the terms of incumbents, allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of Philippine resources and businesses, and removal of provisions that guarantee human rights and civil liberties, it is seeking to add the pork barrel system into the basic law of the land. According to Bayan Muna Chairman Neri Colmenares, page 1 of the Draft Constitution of Sub Committee No. 1 of the House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Amendment, provides that:
“Each district shall be entitled to an annual share in the state and federal budgets for its infrastructure, as well as for the medical, educational and social services of its inhabitants. Each member of the Senate and of the party list shall likewise be entitled to an amount not less than the allocation for a district from the state and federal budgets for their constituents within the region or nationwide.”
The said “amount” of money for each Senator, party list Congressman, or district Congressman is, in reality, pork barrel funds, the same allotment that public outcries before had prompted the Supreme Court to declare pork as unconstitutional. At that time, it went under the name of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). After the Supreme Court ban of PDAF, but not of the pork-greased workings of the patronage system, Colmenares said Malacañang and Congress have had to hide pork in the budgets of executive departments.
The current charter change proposal will reverse this Supreme Court decision. And, if this Cha-cha succeeds, Colmenares warned, “there will be no more need for politicians to hide pork barrel in the departments.” When he was Bayan Muna Congressman, Colmenares principally authored House Bill 1535 in the 16th Congress. It sought to make pork barrel illegal.
Now, he’s warning the public against the return of pork in legal plain sight. “Despite the billions of pesos reported lost, and still lost, in the ‘Napoles pork barrel scam’, Cha-cha proponents would still like to constitutionalize a system that drains public funds to corruption,” Colmenares sadly noted.
But wait, as they say. There’s more. What’s worse in the charter change proposed pork, “This amount for members of Congress who are national officials will also be deducted from the regional state budget.”
As such, it not only reverses the Supreme Court decision, it contradicts too the supposed purpose of federalism to disperse funds from the national government to the regions and provinces, Colmenares said.
The comeback of pork is one more reason members of Congress cannot sit as a Constituent Assembly as Concurrent Resolution 9 demands, Colmenares further said. He reasoned that they should not be in a place to decide on self-serving constitutional provisions such as term extensions, no-elections and giving themselves pork barrel.”
“We urge the various groups including people’s organizations, the church and other sectors opposed to self-serving Cha-cha before to come out once more and vigorously oppose this new attempt to impose another self-serving Cha –cha.” Colmenares predicted that this chacha and Con Ass will only worsen the already dire condition of the Filipino people.”