A Stark Difference in the Politics of Pork

This is in response to the news article Pork No Longer Paves The Road to Re-election by the The New York Times (December 25, 2006).

The article which points out how boasting earmarks for incumbent Republican legislators has done harm for their re-election bids. “A timeworn bit of political wisdom has been that larding one’s district with pork projects can act as an incumbency protection program.” Unfortunately for these guys, the voters did saw through their ploy and much of these incumbents, failed in trying to re-acquire their seats.

This, however is not true in the Philippines. The Philippines’ has a more complicated political system. Political dynasties abound and as political analysts point out, protecting incumbency is a must. “Usapan ito ng karangalan, pamilya at hanap-buhay“. (It is a matter of pride, family and livelihood.) Magkakamatayan. (It would mean death.)

If the news article describes a discerning American voting population, Filipinos can be described as hapless bystanders. Yes, Filipinos do exercise their rights to vote. Filipinos do go through the motions of holding an election, the way democracies are supposed to do. However, this same institution that democracies pride themselves with is glaringly weak in the Philippines.

You may ask, why? Well, as we have experienced in the past, Filipino elections are not won in the voting booths but in the counting sheets. Whole ballot boxes get lost on their way to the counting centers. They can also be swapped with forged ones and yes, mistakes in counting and tallying abound. You have COMELEC commissioners running as a go-fer for incumbents and now, they are seriously contemplating running for office! Yes, elections is still practiced in the Philippines and incumbents also practices pork allocation.

The difference now is here. While Americans do spend on things that will make them vote-able, Filipinos are already readying the ballots with their names written on them. While Americans allocate budgets for specific expenditures, Filipinos legislate ambiguous items which can be spent for almost anything. And lastly, while Americans can hold their officials accountable (most of the time), Filipinos have no recourse but to go to the streets. And sad to say, people are getting tired of taking to the streets. Too many “People Powers” have come and gone, and still, there has been no change. None.

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