By MANNY VALDEHUESA
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – For decades, pork and the perks it afforded to abusive leaders corrupted our political system and dashed our hopes of seeing integrity, honesty, or fair play in the political processes of our democracy.
But now that the pork barrel—or the so-called priority development assistance fund (PDAF)—has been declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, can we now proclaim:
LET THE MESSAGE GO FORTH FROM THIS DAY FORWARD THAT DEMOCRACY IN OUR REPUBLIC SHALL NO LONGER BE DISGRACED BY UNFAIRNESS, DECEIT, OR THIEVERY!
That would be ideal.
But our problem is, will the people in power, the election high rollers, and the callous predators of our electoral system respect the Supreme Court’s declaration? It is very important that everyone does.
Otherwise we, the citizenry, will once more lose a fighting chance to reform the system and transform our society into a real democracy.
The allure and temptation of pork and its variations should not be allowed to play a part in Philippine politics again.
It deadens patriotism and dilutes idealism as a motive force for entering the noble service of society. And it tempts power-greedy and badly-motivated individuals to regain their dominance over the electoral system.
A Level Playing Field
Democracy demands equal opportunity. It requires electoral competition to take place without nepotism or advantage to any contender—not especially to those already favored by incumbency and dynastic ties.
As long as certain candidates are favored by pork—financing their campaigns, boosting their image, with government funds—elections cannot be said to be equal, fair, open, or free.
But with pork out of the picture, talented men and women of integrity can aspire to public office and expect fair competition. Unlike before, when government-funded projects could be claimed by presumptuous politicos as their personal contribution to the community or to development, there will now be a level playing field for honest elections. There will be room for idealism, integrity, and honesty.
Our Task: Keep Politics from being Corrupted Again
It is incumbent upon us now to ensure that graft and corruption cannot easily infect public affairs. To do so, we must never tire of exposing and denouncing any attempt to bring back the culture of impunity.
No one who makes a mockery of integrity should be able to get away with it again. If we cannot terminate corruption entirely, we must at least curb tolerance of it by stigmatizing hypocrisy and dishonesty in public service for all time.
Not least, we must restate the proper role of a legislator—which is to articulate directions and norms for society and formulate good, wise laws in pursuit of progress and justice. In a word, a lawmaker.
Then we can focus on the task of restocking both Houses of Congress with men and women of probity, a passion for justice, and a commitment to the rule of law.
And as we do so, we must see that anyone who aspires to be a legislator may no longer fool around with public works and leave that task to the Executive Branch where it properly belongs.
Then perhaps all the fire and fury of the First Quarter Storm of 1970 and of the 1986 People Power Revolution can finally burn our society’s reform agenda into the conscience of our much-abused nation. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Manny Valdehuesa writes from Cagayan de Oro and is the president and national convenor of Gising Barangay Movement Inc. He can be reached at [email protected])