PORK BARREL SCAMS’ ADDRESSING IS POSITIVE SIGN FOR GOVERNANCE
Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Pork Barrel talk has become outlandishly stylish a gibberish of sorts for all stakeholders in the Philippines. Public outrage has been relentless since the scam involving a certain Janet Napoles’ and her politician beneficiaries’ plunders via the pork barrel were exposed to the light of day.
I may have been silent about the matter in my own blogs, as I preferred to write more positive developments about the sciences and technologies over the last two (2) years. My acquiescence however shouldn’t be equated to being apathetic about public issues concerning good governance. On the contrary, I was ever a social activist since my youth days, and I do silently support the tax payers’ crusade to ax those found criminally liable for diverting tax monies to their own pockets.
First of all, the Philippines is blessed with a Strong Civil Society. Social activism and dynamism for nigh three decades past already have been coming forth from civil society. The constant, sustained engagement of civil society with the Philippine state has in fact been a hallmark of good governance measures. Many economic and social reforms of a national character did spring off from civil society formations, and those reforming tasks continue till these days in order to solve problems of marginalization and mass poverty.
Contrasted to the Strong Civil Society, which renders it among the exemplars for studies internationally in political science and sociology, is a Weak State. Patrimonial interests of diverse natures continue to wield power and influence over the Philippine state and its purses which continues the history of ‘bureaucrat capitalism’ or ‘crony capitalism’ in the Philippine context.
Albeit, in fairness to state players, reforms of governance institutions have been ongoing for over a decade already. For instance, the tax bureau, audit commission, justice system, and public works department have undergone reforms. The results of such reforms paid off as the Philippines’ credit standing, global competitiveness, and related indicators zoomed up very significantly as of late.
Now here comes the pork barrel scam centering on this obnoxious evil figure Napoles, even as another brewing scam investigation involves a shadowy ‘Madam Arlene’. Napoles engaged legislators and local government officials, while Ma’am Arlene engaged the Supreme Court and justice system. The Napoles-centered scam is now being addressed, while state bureaucrats search the Earth for the shadowy Arlene.
As of this writing, the Supreme Court already decided 14-0, declaring henceforth that the Philippine Development Assistance Fund or PDAF, pork barrel in layman’s term, is unconstitutional. This is truly a landmark decision, thanks to the civil society groups that lobbied the Supreme Court to rethink its earlier decision on the matter. So even the judicial branch of state is addressing the pork barrel issue, brooking no quarters with its added declaration that those state officials who personally benefited from pork barrel over the last 20 years are liable for criminal offense and should be penalized thereof.
Which brings us to the conclusion: the Pork Barrel Scam is a positive thing for good governance. The scams are being properly addressed, and it doesn’t need a sophistical mind to see that any social problem that is appropriately addressed is a positive thing. A social problem that remains un-addressed is a negative thing, such as many crime cases that remain unreported or unresolved.
Being a positive thing, the moment that the criminal cases will begin to show progress, as one by one the involved politicians will be incarcerated for their indubitable evil, the rating of the Philippines in the global competitiveness indicators will move up again. I have no doubt about this development. Napoles is in jail, and before her there was the corrupt former president Erap Estrada who spent 7 years in jail, so it should be clear to intelligent observers that it is a different time in the Philippines today as big fishes are getting criminalized and jailed for their heinous or sordid crimes, therefore the competitiveness of PH will go up along the way.
Eradicating graft in itself takes a long time to execute, and nothing can eradicate graft completely. The sociologist Emile Durkheim said in his classic books over a century ago that there shall always be criminals, as there shall always be deviants in society, for we are not a people who are complete saints but rather ones who have to deal with our own ‘insatiable desires’ that propel us to commit deviations (‘sins’ in church language) such as crimes.
Society and its institutions can only progress step by step towards desired ends. So will it be for instituting reforms towards good governance that will hopefully lead to a Strong State in the future. Civil Society is really strong in the Philippines, while the business community is nearly a Strong Market as corporate governance reforms were instituted over the last 2 decades. Witnessing the transformation of the Philippine state into a strong one isn’t far-fetched, but this will proceed on parri passu basis and not as an overnight phenomenon.
[Manila, 20 October 2013]