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A Review of

Pork and other Perks: Corruption and Governance in the Philippines

by
Sheila S. Coronel
(Editor)

Quezon City: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Evelio B. Javier Foundation and the
Institute for Popular Democracy
1998. 293 pages.

Reviewed by:
Gianna Gayle H. Amul
2003-46431
MA Political Science

Political Science 252


Dr. Olivia C. Caoili
University of the Philippines, Diliman
4 October 2007
An exposé is a more powerful tool for the media when accompanied by analysis. Pork

and other Perks, as a work of investigative journalists, not only defined the future of

investigative journalism in the Philippines but also described the perplexities of the dynamics of

corruption and governance in the Philippines.

Corruption has been a usual phenomenon that a majority of the Filipinos had eventually

become apathetic to the whole system of government. Power is corrupted when it “breeds an

appetite of domination and insensitivity to the sufferings of others” in the sense that there is a

“failure to carry out „proper‟ or public responsibilities because of the pursuit of private gain

(Heywood, 2002:365).” In public administration theory, corruption in the Philippines is defined

according to the “public interest” meaning the “public official‟s action, decision or behavior is

judged on the basis of whether the power or authority is used to promote the public interest or the

personal gain of the public official (de Guzman in Bautista, et al,2003: 7).” Varela, in her attempt

to highlight the relevance of the culture perspective in organization theory to Philippine public

administration, examined the “culture of graft and corruption” among the different faces of

Filipino administrative culture (in Bautista et al, 2003:463). She underscored the roots of graft

and corruption from the period of Spanish colonialism when public offices were “disposed of by

appointment and by purchase”, to the “pressures on the political and administrative system”

arising from the grant of independence and the subsequent Civil Service Act of 1959 which

“contributed to the vulnerability of the civil service to graft and corruption,” to its peak during

Marcos‟ martial law regime resulting to a “systematic plunder of the country,” to the cynicism

regarding the Aquino administration‟s attempt to institutionalize an anti-graft and corruption

value in fear of a “ningas-cogon” attitude, and eventually, a neglect of ethics and public

accountability (Varela in Bautista, et al, 2003: 464-466).

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Pork and other Perks: Corruption and Governance in the Philippines offers nine case

studies of individual authors that explored controversial stories of corruption as well as insights

into the dynamics of Philippine politics from the legislature and the executive to the bureaucracy.

The introduction by Joel Rocamora, the executive director of the Institute for Popular

Democracy presented a guide in looking into corruption in the Philippines with views on

metastatic corruption, the income and expenditure side of corruption in the bureaucracy, the

inevitable costs of corruption, the perspective of underdevelopment and corruption, the history of

corruption in the Philippines and the sources of corruption in the country‟s popular culture, legal

system and political institutions (9-31).

The first two sections, Pork and The Public Purse, focused on how pervasive can

corruption become in the legislature. In a latter work published by the Philippine Center for

Investigative Journalism, The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy and Well-Born Dominate Congress,

the last two parts were devoted to “the perks of lawmaking (Coronel et al, 2004: 118-171)” and

the means and ends legislators go through “for the love of pork (Coronel et al, 2004: 172-215).”

The first section on Pork by Earl Parreño, a member of the Board of Trustees of the

Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, explored the who, the what, the where and the how

of pork barrel funds in Congress. In the form of the Countrywide Development Fund (CDF), the

Public Works Fund, the School Building Fund and the Congressional Initiative Allocations

(CIA), pork barrel is considered by legislator to be a “way of correcting the failure of the budgets

of national agencies to provide for the needs of the lawmakers‟ constituencies (35).” One of the

most important contributions of Parreño to the literature on corruption in the Philippines is his

flowchart showing how pork flows and how much goes to whom as well as the payment

schedules (38). It is evident in the discussion that much of the funds go into the pockets of

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legislators, suppliers and contractors, local government officials and the implementing agencies,

and not to the projects which were supposed to benefit the public.

The succeeding section entitled The Public Purse by Eric Gutierrez, an active contributor

to the Institute of Popular Democracy‟s gamut of analysis and investigative works, captured the

essence of the cogs and wheels behind the budget appropriations act. From his discussion, the

reader can understand the underlying forces behind the making and manipulation of the public

purse or the national budget from the role of the House of Representatives as the “sole originator

of all appropriation laws (64)” through the tremendous power of the most-coveted House

Committee on Appropriations (68-73), from the steering capability of the President through the

budget message, the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing, the government Staffing

Program and the National Expenditure Program (74-75) and from the roles of the Department of

Budget and Management as implementing agency and the Commission on Audit as “the

constitutional agency tasked to keep track of government expenses(75).”

Ellen Tordesillas, a journalist who contributes to Malaya and Abante, and Sheila Coronel,

the founder of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism collaborated to investigate the

story of one of the most controversial scams in Philippine history, the Amari scandal. Scam

identified not only the key actors in the Amari scandal which included a number of brokers, the

Montanos, a number of Thai and Filipino businessmen and officials of the Public Estates

Authority and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel but also uncovered a swindle of

enormous proportions that involved almost three billion pesos in bribes and commissions (82-

111).

In Monopoly, Sheila Coronel, 2003 Magsaysay Awardee for Journalism, Literature and

the Creative Communication Arts, probed into the Philippine Long Distance Company‟s almost

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seven decade- long monopoly of telecommunications in the Philippines. Coronel examined the

power of the “tradition of spoils and patronage (145)” that managed to keep Ramon U.

Cojuangco‟s family, through the in‟s and out‟s of Congress and Malacañang, in the forefront of

the telecommunications industry even until today amid liberalization and deregulation policies in

government.

Yvonne Chua, the award winning training director of the Philippine Center for

Investigative Journalism teamed up with Luz Rimban, 2004 Benigno S. Aquino Jr. fellow for

journalism and broadcast director of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism to expose

the labyrinth of corruption in government- the Bureau of Immigration formerly known as the

Commission on Immigration and Deportation (CID) in Gatekeeper. Their work highlighted

Miriam Defensor-Santiago‟s intriguing stint as CID commissioner which earned her a Ramon

Magsaysay Award for government service (152). Gatekeeper also traced the roots of corruption

“permeating every rung in the bureau‟s hierarchy (153)” as seen in the structure and powers of

the agency (156). Aside from highlighting the tendencies of the bureaucracy to be corrupt, it also

stressed the legislature‟s negligence to carefully consider the reorganization of the bureau as well

as the “insulation from political pressures” of commissioners in the bureau who most importantly

must have a “strong moral fiber” to “clean” the bureau (178).

Another glance into the lairs of corruption merits a hard look into the breadth and depth

of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). In Highway Robbery, Marites

Vitug, 1991 awardee of the International Women‟s Media Foundation‟s Courage in Journalism,

probed into the politics of the highways as corrupted by legislators, bureaucrats and contractors.

The problems involved in the delay of the completion of infrastructure projects were, as Vitug

pointed out, not only technical but also political. Citing important infrastructure projects in

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Mindanao and a number of erring contractors like Xiamen Special Economic Trade Co., Ltd and

Liberty Construction and Development Corporation to highlight the inefficiency and corruption

that emanates from the DPWH. The Infrastructure Monitoring and Advisory Group (IMAG)

concept, created in 1996 to pose a solution to the problem of “inept management of road projects

in Mindanao (210),” depended on the “effectiveness…of local official‟s leadership” because the

IMAG was composed of local government officials, DPWH representatives, contractors,

consultants and the private sector who were open for “cooperation…and complaints (211).” The

IMAG was hopefully seen as a “structure that put devolution to life (210).”

Another contentious episode in Philippine politics is elections which involved the “use

of government funds for partisan politics (239)” as highlighted in Isagani de Castro‟s Campaign

Kitty. De Castro, an elections journalist, traced a number of the most controversial use of public

funds for election campaigns which can be attributed to former Presidents- Ferdinand Marcos,

Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos. Marcos, as de Castro reported, used an outstanding PhP55

million from the Manila International Airport Authority‟s (MIAA) accounts which it supposedly

owed the Philippine National Construction Company (PNCC), formerly the Construction

Development Corp. of the Philippines (CDCP) to “help fund the massive electoral fraud in the

1986 polls (218).” De Castro, also pointed to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), the Bureau

of Customs (BOC), the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the

Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) as sources of campaign funds creatively

channeled through settlement of deficiencies and campaign advertisements. During Aquino‟s

term, the controversy behind the Php26 million local government funds for Cagayan was

supported by funds from the National Reconciliation and Development Council (NRDC) which

were allegedly used to fund Fidel Ramos‟ campaign. It prompted a Senate investigation. Ramos,

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with ingenuity, was also able to use Php70 million of funds from the Office of the President‟s

Countrywide Development Fund channeled through the Philippine Youth Health and Sports

Development Foundation Inc., a non-accredited as well as non-existing non-governmental

organization.

In Ombudsman, Cecile Balgos, deputy editor of i Report- the Philippine Center for

Investigative Journalism‟s quarterly magazine, explored the dynamics behind the inefficiency of

the Office of the Ombudsman. She looked into the case of the 1996 Ozone Disco Tragedy and

what the Ombudsman did and did not do to “define what justice is exactly in this case (246).”

According to Balgos, the Office of the Ombudsman elicits not only “disappointment” but also

“contempt- among many of those seeking redress for the wrong done them by public officials

(248).” The Ombudsman is not famous for fighting graft and corruption but for the “long time (it

takes) in mulling over the complaints it receives (248).” Balgos also probed into the terms of

former Supreme Court Conrado Vasquez and Aniano Desierto as Ombudsman discovering more

inefficiency than work done along the way.

On a positive note, Lorna Kalaw-Tirol, the coauthor of Investigating Corruption: A Do-

it-Yourself Guide in 2002 with Sheila Coronel, probed the intricacies and hurdles of citizens‟

groups who in their own ways challenge the system and provide a means to fight corruption in

government in Graftbusters. Among the success stories was of the Concerned Citizens of Abra

for Good for Good Government (CCAGG) which participated in monitoring the progress of the

Community Employment and Development Program (CEDP) of the Aquino administration.

There was also the story of the National Irrigation Administration Employees Association which

made it the “first entity to expose graft and corruption in the Aquino government” and which

earned an award from the Civil Service Commission (284). Although no longer existing, Gising

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Bayan Foundation Inc, led by the Arguelles brothers, accomplished a number of things in its six-

year active existence. It “conducted research on graft and corruption; initiated support programs

and an information campaign; organized a network of anti-graft and corruption groups within

government agencies and the private sector that would serve as watchdogs; filed charges in court

if so warranted; and federated with other groups which shared its concern and vision (284).”

Another story that merits attention is the struggle of the Fellowship of Christians in Government

(FOCIG) which chose to use a “multi-pronged approach to the problem of graft and

corruption(288)” involving the Church, parents and the Bible. Along these lines, the ecumenical

organization Kilosbayan para sa Katotohanan, Katarungan, Paglilinis at Pagbabago o

Kilosbayan of which former Senate President Jovito Salonga is a member, was also able to voice

its concerns on the issue of the illegal disbursement of public funds during the 1992 presidential

election.

Pork and other Perks is in essence an investigation into the politics of corruption in the

Philippines with an exemplary illustration of various cases that have caught the scrutiny of the

public eye. The book fits perfectly into the decade long effort of the Philippine Center for

Investigative Journalism and its partner institutions like the Institute for Popular Democracy and

the Evelio B. Javier Foundation to “promote investigative reporting on current issues in

Philippine society and on matters of large public interest (http://www.pcij.org/impact.html)”

which included publications on politics and government like The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy

and Well-born Dominate Congress (2004), Investigating Corruption: A Do-It-Yourself Guide

(2002), Investigating Estrada: Millions, Mansions and Mistresses(2000), Betrayals of the Public

Trust: Investigative Reports on Corruption (2000), Robbed: An Investigation of Corruption in

Philippine Education(1999) and Boss: 5 Case Studies of Local Politics in the Philippines (1995).

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The book made an important contribution to the literature of Philippine politics and

government in its expose and analysis of corruption in its many forms. Its extensive coverage

and attention to detail as works of journalists usually are gives the reader a thorough

demonstration of how journalists at work in exposing corruption. Analysis of the cases involving

a number of actors and institutions merits a lengthier book but the analysis provided imparts an

ample exploration of the major themes surrounding the issue of corruption like pervasive

political culture in the Philippines. One of the strengths of the methodology that was invested in

Pork and other Perks is that it is essentially a work of a team of meticulous journalists who

hounded key personalities for interviews, in uncovering important official documents and

newspaper articles as well as making an effort to include analysis of the cases that were tackled.

One limitation however is that the above triangulation of methods and analysis should have

involved scholars of Philippine politics or mainly the academe who are more familiar with the

theories and the themes surrounding the issue of corruption and governance. As any work of

investigative journalists would look and sound like, the writing style is similar to the stimulating

aura of exposés of public service television shows but with a touch of sophistication that can be

seen in the analysis.

An important contribution of Pork and other Perks to political science can be attributed

to an opening up of a new venue to which scholars of politics can participate in aside from

research oriented studies. It also explored a collaboration of the media through investigative

journalism and the study of corruption through political science as well as public administration.

Students of politics and public administration will probably enjoy and benefit reading Pork and

other Perks such that it offers a more dynamic perspective into corruption and politics.

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Bibliography:

Coronel, et al. 2004. The Rulemakers: How the Wealthy and Well-Born Dominate Congress.
Pasig City: Anvil Publishing and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism

De Guzman, R.P. 1986.”Is there a Philippine Public Administration?” Reprinted in Bautista, et


al. 2003.An Introduction to Public Administration in the Philippines: A Reader. 2nd ed.
Quezon City: National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the
Philippines Diliman

Heywood, A. 2002. Politics. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire and New York: Palgrave

Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. 2002. Journalism with an Impact: The Online
Site of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. http://www.pcij.org/impact.html.
28 September 2007

Varela, A.P. 2003. “The Culture Perspective in Organization Theory: Relevance to Philippine
Public Administration” in Bautista, et al..An Introduction to Public Administration in the
Philippines: A Reader. 2nd ed. Quezon City: National College of Public Administration and
Governance, University of the Philippines Diliman