MANILA - Those calling for the abolition of the pork barrel may be missing the bigger picture, a political analyst said.
“The agitation seems to oversimplify the issue of discretion given to public officials in the use of public money. There is necessarily an anger on the legislators attached to the pork scam, but the issue on [businesswoman Janet Napoles] is just a small part of the discretion,” said Prof. Prospero de Vera of the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance.
While abolishing the pork funds may be a necessary route to ending the corruption in government, this should not be the first step, he said in an interview with ANC.
“The abolition of the pork is the last step, not the first. The danger of making it first, we might not be able to look at the whole extent of the discretion [given to public officials]," De Vera said.
He noted that all branches of government – the executive (including the Cabinet secretaries), the legislative and even the judiciary – have discretionary funds.
“My worry is if we get agitated and obsessed with the discretion given to legislators, we may be missing the bigger picture."
De Vera said the Office of the President has discretionary funds for calamities and it would be unreasonable to also abolish this fund.
Another UP political analyst, Jean Encinas-Franco, said that because of the lack of genuine political parties, discretionary funds are being dangled by the President to discipline legislators.
This is also the reason why line-item budgeting may not be the end solution to the problem, de Vera said.
“We exist in a political system that’s highly partisan. You put the line items there, but the president has the power of line veto…It unnecessarily tilts the balance to an imperial presidency at the expense of Congress,” de Vera said.
He explained that the first step should be to have a full accounting of the discretionary funds of all three branches.
“If the Commission on Audit (COA) does not have it, we ask them why? If there are abuses across all three branches, we go after those who used their discretion badly, or send them to jail, or publicly shame those who want to run in 2016,” De Vera said.
The resolution is also when everyone debates where these funds should go, he said.
Franco said the momentum behind the “Million People March” should be sustained.
“This has to be sustained. There must be trust among the organizers, although there are no leaders. It should not be used for political purposes," she said.
De Vera also warned that some groups may make use of the protests to advance self-interest. “They should be wary of groups that are pushing for their political agenda and using the anger of people to demolish political enemies.”