Understanding pork barrel politics

CHEERS TO GMA News and Public Affairs, Special Assignments Team, and News Research for its investigative series explaining what the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also known as pork barrel, is, and how Philippine legislators use their allocations.

The series started with a PDAF primer called “Pork Chopped: Pagsiyasat sa pork barrel ng Kongreso” (State of the Nation with Jessica Soho [SONA], July 16). The group built a database on pork barrel analyzing over P83 billion involving funds over five years (2003-2005 and 2009-2010; 12th to 15th Congress; including two election years, 2004 and 2010). The data on congressional allocations came from the website of the Department of Budget and Management.

Their study showed that the discretionary funds at the disposal of representatives and senators go to infrastructure projects (roads, bridges, school buildings, etc.) and other financial assistance (scholarships, livelihood programs, etc.). (“A buffet of pork: P25 billion at lawmakers’ discretion” ; “Pork Chopped: Road projects are legislators’ favorites”) GMA created an infographic to accompany the report.

The series found an anomaly in which some representatives diverted funds to areas not covered by their jurisdiction. (24 Oras, July 19) The series also found that legislators would rather spend their pork barrel funds on road projects than prioritize basic needs of communities like safe water and sanitation. (SONA, July 21)

The follow-up report on the water situation of the country’s poorest communities was a welcome development in the effort to raise awareness on this issue. (“In ‘waterless’ Tawi-Tawi, water is nobody’s priority” ; “Water can’t hold names of sponsors”) Previously, PJR Reports had cited GMA for a special report which revealed the failure of government to provide adequate water system infrastructure and service delivery to waterless municipalities. (March-April 2012)

According to GMA, the group took more than a year to complete the special report. The public had easy access to the series as it was shown on television (GMA-7 and GMANews TV programs) and is available online (YouTube videos and special reports compiled in a Facebook page).

Also see: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism special on “Pork Barrel”