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Pork Barrel

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Policy Making and Policy Implementation

Public policy refers to the actions taken by government — its decisions that are intended to solve problems and improve the quality of life for its citizens. At the federal level, public policies are enacted to regulate industry and business, to protect citizens at home and abroad, to aid state and city governments and people such as the poor through funding programs, and to encourage social goals. A policy established and carried out by the government goes through several stages from inception to conclusion. These are agenda building, formulation, adoption, implementation, evaluation, and termination.
1. Agenda building Before a policy can be created, a problem must exist that is called to the attention of the government. Illegal immigration, for example, has been going on for many years, but it was not until the 1990s that enough people considered it such a serious problem that it required increased government action. Another example is crime. American society tolerates a certain level of crime; however, when crime rises dramatically or is perceived to be rising dramatically, it becomes an issue for policymakers to address. Specific events can place a problem on the agenda. The flooding of a town near a river raises the question of whether homes should be allowed to be built in a floodplain. New legislation on combating terrorism (the USA Patriot Act, for example) was a response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
2. Formulation and adoption

Policy formulation means coming up with an approach to solving a problem. Congress, the executive branch, the courts, and interest groups may be involved. Contradictory proposals are often made. The president may have one approach to immigration reform, and the opposition-party members of Congress may have another. Policy formulation has a tangible outcome: A bill goes before Congress or a regulatory agency drafts proposed rules. The process continues with adoption. A policy is adopted when Congress passes legislation, the regulations become final, or the Supreme Court renders a decision in a case.
3. Implementation The implementation or carrying out of policy is most often accomplished by institutions other than those that formulated and adopted it. A statute usually provides just a broad outline of a policy. For example, Congress may mandate improved water quality standards, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides the details on those standards and the procedures for measuring compliance through regulations. As noted earlier, the Supreme Court has no mechanism to enforce its decisions; other branches of government must implement its determinations. Successful implementation depends on the complexity of the policy, coordination between those putting the policy into effect, and compliance. The Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education is a good example. The justices realized that desegregation was a complex issue; however, they did not provide any guidance on how to implement it "with all deliberate speed." Here, implementation depended upon the close scrutiny of circuit and appeals court judges, as well as local and state school board members who were often reluctant to push social change.
4. Evaluation and termination

Evaluation means determining how well a policy is working, and it is not an easy task. People inside and outside of government typically use cost-benefit analysis to try to find the answer. In other words, if the government is spending x billions of dollars on this policy, are the benefits derived from it worth the expenditure? Cost-benefit analysis is based on hard-to-come-by data that are subject to different, and sometimes contradictory, interpretations.
History has shown that once implemented, policies are difficult to terminate. When they are terminated, it is usually because the policy became obsolete, clearly did not work, or lost its support among the interest groups and elected officials that placed it on the agenda in the first place. In 1974, for example, Congress enacted a national speed limit of 55 miles per hour. It was effective in reducing highway fatalities and gasoline consumption. On the other hand, the law increased costs for the trucking industry and was widely viewed as an unwarranted federal intrusion into an area that belonged to the states to regulate. The law was repealed in 1987.

The Pork Barrel Issue

In the Philippines, the term "pork barrel" is used to mean funds allocated to the members of the Philippine House of Representatives and the Philippine Senate to spend as they see fit without going through the normal budgetary process or through the Executive Branch. It can be used for both "hard" projects, such as buildings and roads, and "soft" projects, such as scholarships and medical expenses. Beginning in 2006, the amount was ₱70.0 M for each Representative and ₱200.0 M for each Senator. This pork barrel system was stopped by President Ferdinand Marcos during his dictatorship but was reintroduced by President Corazon Aquino in 1986.The program has had different names over the years, including the Countryside Development Fund, Congressional Initiative Fund, and currently the Priority Development Assistance Fund.

During the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the PDAF became the biggest source of corruption among the legislators. Kickbacks were common and became syndicated--using pre-identified project implementers including government agencies, contractors and bogus non-profit corporations as well as the government's Commission on Audit.

In August 2013, outrage over the ₱10 B Priority Development Assistance Fund scam, involving Janet Lim-Napoles and numerous Senators and Representatives, led to widespread calls for abolition of the PDAF system. This also included the pork barrel funds of President Aquino that amounted to several billions of pesos. The Million People March which occurred on August 26, 2013, National Heroes' Day in the Philippines, called for the end of "pork barrel" and was joined by simultaneous protests nationwide and by the Filipino diaspora around the world. Every single solon or government official connected to the latest pork barrel scam is trying to make us (the public) believe that he or she has got nothing to do with it at all. This scandalous pork barrel issue is history in the making. It is a problem and it is bigger than what it seems. Imagine how many senators, congressmen and government agencies are allegedly involved in it? How can they have processed the projects without knowing that they gave our money to a fake NGO that didn’t even deliver? How could the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Commission on Audit (COA) have approved the many transactions that took place under their very noses? There’s been a lot of anger expressed regarding Janet Nápoles, her family’s lavish lifestyles, and the Pork Barrel scam that funded it all. Everyone seems to be screaming about the need to abolish the Pork Barrel, which today bears the official name “Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). But before jumping into the “abolish the Pork Barrel” bandwagon, it is necessary for Filipinos to first understand why the Pork Barrel system exists, and why it was institutionalized the way it has been in the Philippines. Understanding this will allow us to see if merely abolishing the Pork Barrel fund will actually work, or whether it is actually part of a wider set of systemic problems that stem from a common set of root causes. Rightly or wrongly, the pork barrel was actually originally intended to serve as an immediate palliative remedy or “band-aid” to fix some key symptomatic problems caused by deeper systemic root causes inherent in the overall Philippine “System.” It is intended to fix the widespread poverty and the perceived need to “assist the poor”. There are just too many poor people all around the Philippines asking for assistance. The politicians long ago who thought of institutionalizing the Pork Barrel did so because they felt that a certain discretionary “special assistance fund” would give legislators the necessary funding they feel they need in order to spearhead projects that could “assist” the needy people in areas they represent in order to gain goodwill and justify the reason for their elected positions’ existence. Apparently, far too many Filipino leaders didn’t think that legislators are supposed to concentrate on legislation – i.e.: passing new relevant laws and/or repealing obsolete ones, or that representing their constituents’ interests in the legislature was what they signed up for.

It also exists to fix the economic disparity between the capital versus the countryside. In other words, part of the intention for the Pork Barrel was to “distribute funds from the national coffers to localities in the countryside.”

The pork barrel also exists since there is a need for the Executive to get the Legislature’s cooperation. The Philippines, sad to say, uses a Presidential System. And Presidential Systems feature a separation of powers where the Legislative and Executive are distinct entities who are meant to act as a “check and balance” against each other. In theory, the intentions in separating the legislative and executive seem good, but in actual practice, this has resulted in widespread failure. Countless world-renowned political science PhDs from the Ivy League and the world’s most respected universities have separately studied the phenomenon over and over again and the same observation keeps popping up: Presidential Systems, thanks to the separation of powers between legislative and executive, tend to be unstable and prone to gridlock. The Executive may want to do something, but the Legislature may block it. The Legislature may want to do something, but the Executive may block it. That clash between the two branches is called GRIDLOCK. And Gridlock is wasteful and unproductive. As the Philippines is a developing nation that can ill-afford delays and showstoppers caused by gridlock, many leaders in the past sought a means of mitigating this debilitating feature of the Presidential System. They needed a means for the Executive (aka “The Office of the President”) to be able to control, entice, cajole, and buy the legislature in order to get them cooperating. This became the key rationale for institutionalizing the Pork Barrel fund. Without the pork barrel fund, the Executive would simply be unable to get the legislature agreeing with it, and both branches could end up going in different directions. Surely, everyone understands this to be a disaster. Sadly, the palliative remedy that is the Pork Barrel which was originally envisioned so that the executive could get the legislature’s cooperation has spawned a lot more evil side-effects than benefits.
SO MUCH has been said about "abolish pork barrel system" but something seems missing. Has anyone suggested any alternative? But is pork the real root of corruption? Let us say a person is convicted of rape. When asked why he did such crime, he would say it is because he found the lady beautiful and tempting. Should everyone go and kill all beautiful women so that rape will end? That logic may sound oversimplified and childish but that is what the call is saying. The controversy on the pork barrel scam sheds light on the corrupt officials, ergo, many say, it should be abolished. But what would happen to the common folk if the pork barrel for the betterment of the nation be abolished?

Every decision must be followed by suggestions but it seems that our honorable lawmakers are busy diverting the minds of the people from the real issues. Priority Development Assistance Fund, a government program most commonly known as Pork Barrel, has existed and been institutionalized for many years. It is the distribution of money for the lawmakers and congressmen to aid their official projects. The people must remember that the scheme had its merits such as the paving of roads and bridges, scholarships, support for poor farmers and legitimate non-government organizations. The challenge now is to ensure that those who continue to benefit from it will not be affected if and when the pork barrel is scrapped. There must be a guarantee that these people can still go to school and continue to receive medical assistance.

The solution to the pork barrel issue is not abrogation but greater accountability, transparency, and rationality in its utilization. There must be a promotion of greater transparency in the use of pork barrel funds. The officials must be required to list their reports through the print media. By doing so, the Filipinos will have a clearer and seemingly honest record. There must also be a creation of watchdog groups that shall monitor these government or non-government organizations. They shall see for themselves these so-called organizations' existence. Before they send the money, these watchdogs must scrutinize if such organization exists and if the suggested project seems fit. They shall also determine if the organization is a type of "bad pork" or "good pork." If the request of the lawmaker or congressman is approved, the watchdogs must still be on the lookout. If no such project has been under operation, then they shall determine if it was after all a scam or not. Each government must have a website or public page inclusive of their budgets and expenditures. A constitutional liquidation must be presented each month with official receipts acknowledged by BIR. Perhaps the most obvious solution for this problem is to allocate directly the money to the social services.
For the aid of the scholars, money must be sent directly to the Department of Education.
If there is a need for a support to free medicines, the money must be sent directly to the Department of Health. If farmers ask for aid for their plantation, they won't need to approach their congressman but directly go to Department of Agrarian Reform. The common folk must also keep an eye on their government leaders. They have all the right to undertake any official who have gone bad and corrupt if proven factual. If we adapt these suggestions, then the public would have a better appreciation of the pork barrel.

While the call to suspend pork barrel comes from the good intentions to curb corruption and promote good governance, the people must make sure that all voices in our country are considered especially those that will be greatly affected of this decision.
The worst that may happen is that it may further marginalize those who are already marginalized if we do not come up with possible alternatives to help those that benefit from their congressmen or senator's pork.

So for the better future of our country, alternatives must be implemented and thought of. Let us not let the emotions and anger interfere with the decisions that are ought to be made.

God bless the Philippines.…...

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