How pork barrel connects lawmakers, NGOs

by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 10 2013 01:51 AM | Updated as of Sep 10 2013 10:18 AM

MANILA - Can visualizing data from the Commission on Audit's (COA) special report on lawmakers' pork barrel funds show possible conspiracy between lawmakers and their colleagues, as well as between non-government organizations (NGOs) and other groups in the scam?

A team of Filipino scientists has found striking connections and relationships between lawmakers and NGOs tagged in the pork barrel scam.

Gabriel Sison, Pamela Anne Pasion, and Giovanni Tapang of the University of the Philippines-Diliman's National Institute of Physics used Gephi, an open source software, to visualize such relationships based on the COA special report on lawmakers' pork barrel funds from 2007 to 2009.

The visualizations, which can be seen online at https://visser.ph/pdaf, show the networks between lawmakers and their colleagues based on the funds they gave to a common NGO, as well as as NGOs who got funds from the same same legislator.

What did the scientists find out?

The scientists said that based on the COA data and their visualization project, they discovered that on average, a lawmaker distributed his PDAF to around 21 NGOs.

They also found 6 "communities" of legislators, or groups of lawmakers who tend to give to the same set of NGOs together.

The first visualization shows Bohol Rep. Adam Relson Jala topping the list of lawmakers with the most number of partners who gave to a similar NGO.

"This is reflected in the high degree or number of connections that he has," the scientists said in a paper explaining their data visualization.

"We can also add weight to these links by the number of times that two linked legislators funded a common NGO. In such a weighted network, (Cebu Rep.) Nerissa Corazon-Ruiz becomes the most connected legislator," they added.

ENRILE TOPS LIST

The scientists also used a more advanced technique that measures influence in the network of lawmakers who gave public funds to NGOs.

Then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile tops the list.

The others on the top 10 list of most influential lawmakers, based on pork barrel spending are:

  • Rep. Arrel R. Olano
  • Rep. Ignacio T. Arroyo, Jr.
  • Rep. Adam Relson L. Jala
  • Rep. Francisco T. Matugas
  • Sen. Edgardo J. Angara
  • Rep. Mariano U. Piamonte
  • Rep. Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva
  • Rep. Samuel M. Dangwa
  • Rep. Marc Douglas C. Cagas IV

Meanwhile, the second NGO network visualization using COA data shows than on average, NGOs get typically allocations from 7 to 8 different legislators.

The scientists found 5 groups of NGOs having the same node color that are more likely to have receive funds from the same legislator.

The thickness of the arrows on the data visualization also represents the weight of how the NGOs are connected with each other.

"The stronger the weight of the arrows, the greater their connection is. Thicker arrows are funded together more often by more than one legislator," the scientists said.

The second image shows SDPFFI in the blue group and KKAMFI in the green group as having arrows with more connections.

The two allegedly bogus NGOs have been linked to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, who is at the center of the pork barrel scam scandal rocking Congress.

The scientists used other techniques such as looking at which NGOs carry more importance in the network.

MAMFI topped the category, followed by CARED and SDPFF.

The NGOs with the most connections and influence, are: 

  • Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation, Inc. (KKFI)
  • Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation, Inc. (KKAMFI)
  • Dr. Rodolfo A. Ignacio, Sr. Foundation Inc (DRAISFI)
  • Farmerbusiness Development Corp (FDC)
  • Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc (AFPI)
  • Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc (MAMFI)
  • Pangkabuhayan Foundation (Pang-FI)
  • Kaagapay Magpakailanman Foundation Inc (KMFI)
  • ITO NA Movement Foundation Inc (ITO NA MI)
  • Hand-Made Living Foundation Inc (HMLFI)

"These are just a sample of the things we can do with the network representation of the PDAF releases. Deeper knowledge about Congress and the interlocking directorships of the NGOs would be also be extremely helpful in further analysis," the scientists said, adding that they want to do this in a future project.

"These tools allow the average Filipino to glean information readily as opposed to tables and documents, helping them better participate in the process of democracy," they said.

*Pamela Anne Pasion is a fourth-year BS Applied Physics student at the National Institute of Physics working on translations and network analysis. Gabriel Dominik Sison finished his BS Physics degree in 2013 with an award for Best BS Thesis. Dr. Giovanni Tapang is an Associate Professor at the National Institute of Physics and is also the chairperson of the scientist group AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People.

*Gephi, the interactive visualization and exploration platform used by the scientists, is free for download at https://gephi.org. NodeXL, a free template extension for Microsoft Excel, is a similar open-source software for visualizing nodes and relationships. It can be downloaded at https://nodexl.codeplex.com.