SAGIP Party List representative Rodante Marcoleta, came out with both barrels blazing when he
gave a ten-minute speech in Congress to assail statements issued by Baguio City mayor Honorable Benjamin Magalong alluding to the alleged inability of the members of Congress to let go of their
pork barrel and issues of corruption surrounding it.

While it is the privilege of Congressman Marcoleta to take the floor to express his sentiments in front of his colleagues in the Lower House there is much to be desired in his response to the anticorruption message delivered by mayor Magalong during an occasion in Camp Crame last July 3, 2023. Quite simply, Marcoleta could have responded, on the comments of the mayor regarding the pork barrel, that being responsible elective public officials mandated to provide for the welfare of the people they would be more than willing to contribute their so called pork barrels to address issues concerning the national budget.

Or he could have replied, on the comment of the mayor regarding certain percentages from project budgets going into the pockets of legislators, that there is no truth to such claims and allegations and that in the interest of transparency and for the sake of the people they serve they would be more than willing to conduct an honest to goodness inquiry and discover the bad eggs among them, and have them removed from office to preserve the integrity of their hallowed institution.
Yet regrettably the good congressman did none of that.

In his lame attempt to respond to the statements made by the mayor, he decided instead to attack the reputation and supposed poor performance of the local chief executive even claiming that in the latter’s case it would be like the pot telling the kettle black. The congressman then went on to say that the mayor should not make a generalization and point an accusing finger against the legislature since the institution is much greater than the sum total of its parts.

And apparently not satisfied in his criticism of the statements of the mayor the congressman also came up with a reminder that they can easily summon Baguio officials anytime as part of their oversight function when they conduct inquiries in aid of legislation, perhaps making reference and alluding to a recent COA report pertaining to un-utilized funds of the city.

But even from a layman’s point of view nowhere in the speech of congressman Marcoleta do we discern some sort of justification, or even a simple explanation, as to why up until now the pork barrel continues to exist and been granted to lawmakers in Congress, and coupled with the common knowledge that somehow a certain percentage of the budget for projects allegedly end up lining the pockets of legislators.

What we did observe is that the congressman crudely deflected the issues raised against members of Congress and accused instead the mayor for being a non-performer and therefor bereft of any right or standing to say what he said against them. As the column title suggests “the truth is out there”, (which is actually a tagline for the TV series “the X-Files”), and for our edification ten years ago or on November 19, 2023 to be exact the Supreme Court (SC) made a declaration and decision that the pork barrel (PDAF) is unconstitutional.

In its decision the SC concluded that, “In the final analysis, the Court must strike down the Pork Barrel System as unconstitutional in view of the inherent defects in the rules within which it operates.” The highest court of the land observed that the pork barrel system violated the principle of separation of powers, violated the principle of non-delegability of legislative powers, flouted the prescribed procedure of presentment which denied the President the power to veto items, impaired public accountability, subverted genuine local autonomy, and transgressed the principle of non-delegability.

The decision of the Court also stated that, “This Decision is immediately executory but prospective in effect. ( judjuris/juri2013/nov2013/ gr_208566_2013.html) if
members of Congress really believe that they deserve to be called honorable legislators or preserve whatever remains of their integrity when they entered the murky world of politics then all they have to do is admit that their job as legislators is simply to make laws and having done their part in approving the budget and the detailed appropriations contained therein allow the executive to implement the law they have enacted.

Any subsequent act on their part in connection with the budget they approved would just be to
exercise their oversight role to determine whether the law they enacted was faithfully executed. That should be the extent of their primary function as lawmakers and if they also believe that they are capable of making good laws then they should have no problem exorcising any form or type of
pork barrel in the next annual budget using the SC decision as a guide.

Since this column is limited in space for a more detailed explanation of how the pork barrel system is perceived and how it became prone to abuse ditto the clamour for its abolition especially after being declared unconstitutional here are some links for your perusal and consideration. Finally, it is quite unfortunate that congressman Marcoleta’s attempt to somehow refute the statements made by Mayor Magalong failed to supply any sensible response that would have clarified matters and laid to rest concerns about the pork barrel and its alleged abuse by members of Congress.

Amianan Balita Ngayon