Crying the Pork Away

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's so easy to complain, isn't it? Heck, nowadays you don't even have to voice out to complain anymore. A few clicks, a few button presses and you're already complaining using the voice of some other person in the internet. In the digital age we thought we could finally have absolute freedom of opinions. What we actually got was the absolute freedom to repost other people's opinions. In that light,  it's never been easier to complain and it's now even easier to be angry, stay angry.

But is anger, complaint, and discontent all there is to fixing things?

When one of the organizers of the rally today was asked of what can be done in lieu of the pork, she couldn't say anything remotely practical and said "well, we're not the experts".

No one is.

But if you're going to be responsible enough to carry a protest you should be responsible enough to try and understand the situation as well. Not one or the other. They have to go hand in hand. How else would you know something is being done?  Solving a problem as an adult isn't just about complaining. It's about understanding the picture and pointing out where it can be fixed. There's a difference between "I WANT MY CANDY" and "You have candy, and I deserve it because." It's called maturity. Maturity in complaints means knowing what can be done and acting on it rather than just waiting for somebody else to hear you.

So here's a bigger picture.

Not THE big picture, just a bigger one.

Yes, I wholeheartedly agree, the pork needs to go. The fund disbursement roles should change hands from legislative to executive branch (which, yes, includes the office of the president). But until that role actually changes hands, removing the PDAF at once means a lot of people who have good reasons and are depending on them will be left hanging. Scholars. Sick people. True charities. Yes, they exist. Nobody ever mentions them because nothing's interesting about them, other than they are in need of assistance.

You cannot just tell these people "Tough shit, you've been sucking from a particularly corrupt, deprecated teat. Better start looking somewhere else." There is nowhere else. Believe it or not, the PDAF is one of the fastest ways one can get financial aid when you're part of the marginalized and outside Metro Manila (where there's PAGCOR, bigger charity groups). Ask anybody who was in actual need and benefitted from it. I'd like to bet half of the people in the rally today have never seen it in action. Sure it's not incorruptible (hell no). Sure, it doesn't serve a lot of people. Sure it reeks of feudalism. But I can assure you, it does work when you're tens of thousands of pesos short of getting that kidney transplant for your father.

You cannot say "Well they should itemize this in the budget!". That's the whole point of PDAF. The fund originally existed for priority issues  that fell outside the items mentioned in the budget. How can you anticipate Lolo Lando's kidney failing during budget deliberation? Storms? Dengue Outbreaks? Famines? Visits of the Lopezes?

You cannot also say "Well we're the ones paying taxes so we should be the ones benefiting, not them!" News flash. Taxation serves three purposes. Running government services, economical control, and  redistribution of wealth. While running public healthcare, charity services, and emergency response falls to the first part, when things are not running as efficiently as they should, a special avenue needs to be made available to fix where the seams aren't perfect. PDAF belongs to the third, and it aims to provide for those special exceptions that the first component cannot address.

Don't get me wrong. There is an issue at hand. The PDAF is not working as intended and this has to be addressed, yes. But will we be be able to address it now and solve the problem forever? Good bloody luck with that. Because as long as there is a need and the people see the last viable solution in PDAF, there will still be calls for its return in one form or the other. And for so long as it exists, the problem stands. A gradual transition from dependence in pork to smaller priority funds on executive bodies and working oversight is the only way this can get fixed without long term repercussions.

Abolishing pork is a goal, not a solution. The solution is actually a longer and gruelling process of reform that requires gargantuan political will and ever present vigilance from the populace. But of course that's too daunting and far too complex to place in a banner and gain traction in this age where the average attention span is often no longer than two clicks or 140 characters.

It's hard. And the first thing you can do to actually make it work is to get over the idea of simplicity. It never is. It's called daang matuwid, not daang madali.

Because complaining is easy.

Understanding, understandably, never is.  

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