Money Politics in the Philippines=Business as usual?


Napoles  picPartyforumseasia: Would you buy a second hand car from this lady?
Probably not, because this is not a selfie but the official mugshot. Janet Napoles is accused of cheating the Philippino taxpayers at a rate of up to 10 billion Pesos (nearly 225 million USD).
M
oney politics and pork barrel scams are the ugly and dark side of politics, unfortunately not less widespread in Southeast Asia than in most politically underdeveloped parts of the world. Against the feelings of the voters and analysts, however, impunity makes them attractive for different sorts of shady “political entrepreneurs”, too many of them in parliaments and governments. Wherever the tax payers’ money is easily available, predators are not far away, and the Philippines are no exception, on the contrary.
The business minded Ms. Napoles had obviously found an easy trick to siphon away huge amounts from a well intentioned government program supposed to help lawmakers do good in their constituency and help their voters fast and efficiently, a typical pork barrel program.

The Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF was established under the Cory Aquino government in the 1990s and constantly grew until today, its allocation to the legislators being a useful instrument for the presidents to win their support in parliament. Napoles’ and her helpers “genius” created a big number of fake Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs) which pretended to implement the infrastructure projects and channeled the money back to the members of parliament and of course Napoles.
During the last decades NGOs have played a big role in implementing development programs on behalf of international donors. They were sometimes classified as Bingos and Lingos (big and small NGOs), but there were also the Rongos, or robber NGOs….
So the Napoles scam is nothing new per se but quite unique in its dimension of 10 b Pesos. And also very remarkable concerning the number of lawmakers who would have bought the second hand car from Napoles without hesiation: Napoles, last week, handed a list of “clients” to a Senate Committee with the names of 20 senators and 100 congressmen!
AsiaSentinel
(Link here) in a recent article has calculated that this means “five sixths of the entire Senate and more than a third of the House of Representatives”. And the legal instruments to bring all these perpetrators to justice are slow and not efficient enough. Headline:The Destruction of Philippine Politics…

Philippino Supreme Court: Throwing out the Baby with the Bath Water?


Partyforumseasia had taken up the pork barreling saga in the Philippines recently. babyYesterday, November 19th 2013, the Supreme Court has declared  the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel fund “unconstitutional”. Many concerned citizens welcome this decision with a sigh of relief, first letters to the editor thank the Lord for this decision.
See (link here) The Manila Times of November 20th.

For the political parties and politicians it will be a severe blow, cutting them off from the most important funding source for their activities and election campaigns. But their shamelessness in the practical handling of kick-backs from development funds in the billions of Pesos and millions of $ has triggered the loudest ever public outcry and the radical decision of the Supreme Court.

The question is now how the political system can find a legal and socially acceptable way of funding parties, politicians and election campaigns. As e.g. the German example shows, even generous public funding is not sufficient. In 2013 the “Campaign Cost Reimbursement” for political parties will amount to 154 million €, but the combined budgets of all eligible parties are being estimated at 450 to 500 m €. Donations are indispensable in every political system but not easy to control and protect against influence peddling and lobbyism.