20 November 2013

PDAF Was Always Functionally Anomalous

Well there you have it! Now that the Supreme Court has finally spoken on the Priority Assistance Development Fund, a.k.a. the much-maligned PDAF or the even more maligned ‘pork barrel,’ the anomaly has finally been made ‘official.’ Unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has branded the PDAF; past, present and – let us all hope – for good.

In so doing, the Supreme Court has made unlawful a practice that has always been functionally anomalous. The allocation and disbursement of funds has always been a function of the executive branch; i.e. through its various agencies.

To simplify, let us liken government to a household where the father is the breadwinner who lays down the rules but at the end of each payday turns over his entire salary to the wife for the management of the household.

It is the wife who allocates and spends the money for the children’s tuition and daily expenses at school, payment of the bills, weekly groceries and so on and so forth, including the husband’s own daily allowance at work.


It has to be said that even if it was functionally anomalous, the PDAF or its predecessors were potentially useful tools to expedite the development of the marginalised sectors of Philippine society. The problem always was when the tools were used for matters other than what they were created for.
The wife’s function in the household can be likened to that of the executive branch in government. Thus, the executive is also often referred to as the housekeeping function of government.

That the pork barrel is a tradition basically inherited from the American system of government is well documented.

In a manner of speaking, the very concept of the pork barrel is paradoxical considering that, as pointed out by the Supreme Court of the Republic of the Philippines, it violates one principle upon which the governments of both the Philippines and the United States is founded.

The democratic governments of both countries are based on two major principles: 1) the separation of powers of the three co-equal branches of government and; 2) being as it is that the branches are co-equal, one implicitly serves as check-and-balance to the others.

The executive branch, as already stated, is tasked with housekeeping. The legislative, in a nutshell, is tasked with the creation and passing of bills for eventual enactment into laws. Finally, the Supreme Court ensures that neither branch violates the Constitution of the Republic.

The President’s veto power allows the executive to prevent a bill from being enacted into law and, thus, checks the powers of Congress. Congress, on the other hand, can protect the republic from being run by a tyrant with its right to initiate impeachment procedures against the President. This is the check-and-balance principle upon which the democracy is built.

In coming out with its landmark decision, the Supreme Court of the Philippines has correctly pointed out that the PDAF violates the first principle of separation of powers.

As stated, the pork barrel system allows Congress to perform housekeeping functions that are outside of what it was created for. Seen this way, the pork barrel becomes functionally anomalous; even if those who favour its use frequently defend themselves by saying that the funds are disbursed through agencies of the executive branch.

Beyond this, the pork barrel can also be used by the executive as a carrot-and-stick to keep members of the legislative dancing to the tunes of the former. This is something that the local media has all but accused the executive of doing during the much-publicised impeachment proceedings against former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona.

In other words, the pork barrel can be used by the executive to control the legislative and this reduces to a farce the principle of separation of powers, as the Supreme Court has so eloquently stated. Moreover, it also negates the second principle as well because there can be no checks-and-balances if one branch has the ability to wield influence over the other.

The wonder of it all is that the Supreme Court had previously confirmed the constitutionality of the very same pork barrel.

It has to be said that even if it was functionally anomalous, the PDAF or its predecessors were potentially useful tools to expedite the development of the marginalised sectors of Philippine society. The problem always was when the tools were used for matters other than what they were created for.

Corruption for one; and it is never as if this has to be pointed out to the Filipino people.

Acknowledgment: Photo from www.search-best-cartoon.com .











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RELATED STORIES:
Understanding Impeachment and the Justice Corona Case
The Arroyos, de Lima and a Potential Governmental Crisis

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