No Work, No Pork
Posted by butalidnl on 17 February 2010
In August 2009, Nueva Ecija Representative Eduardo Joson proposed to have a policy of “No Work, No Pork”, in which Congressmen who are frequently absent in Congress sessions be deprived of their share in the PDAF ( Priority Development Assistance Fund, or “pork barrel”). Joson proposed that a Congressman who has three unexplained absences from Congress’ plenaries in a month would be subject to such a punishment. The proposal was shot down by House Speaker Prospero Nograles because he says that it would be unfair to the congressman’s constituents to be deprived of such government spending – to the tune of PhP 70 million per year.
Fast forward to today. Speaker Nograles has told Negros Occidental Representative Jules Ledesma that he will only get his salary and PDAF if he attends the last two sessions of this year. Rep. Ledesma is the House’s most notorious absentee congressman, having attended House sessions only twice in the 14th Congress. If he does so, he will get paid his full salary and get his PDAF for having attended House sessions for a grand total of 4 times in 3 years. I think this is scandalous.
Absenteeism in Congress is a big problem for its work. A lot of bills have had a difficult time being passed, because the House often lacked a quorum. It has gotten so bad that sometimes, Representatives get paid (as in bribes) just to be present during the discussion of certain laws, even if they would vote against it, as long as there are enough Congressmen around to have a quorum. I think this is scandalous. The country spends a lot for Congress, and they are continually lacking quorum.
Perhaps it is time to again take up Joson’s proposal for “No Work, No Pork”. It may be too strict to say that three absences are needed before sanctions are taken on a Congressman’s PDAF. However, perhaps we could be a bit less strict. Let’s say that the limit is still 3 absences in a month, and if they exceed it, 1/12 of that Congressman’s PDAF is taken away (that should be almost PhP 6 million). That way, they always have a chance to behave better in the next month. And, so as not to be unfair to their constituents, let the PDAF portion be given to the provincial governor, with the specific restriction that it has to be spent in the congressman’s constituency. Or, alternatively, the amount could also be divided among the various municipal mayors in his district. This would take care of the problem of the constituents suffering for the sins of the congressman.
As for the absentee Representative himself, there should also be a sanction if he is continually absent. For example, if he is absent for 2/3 of the sessions in a year, he would be expelled from the House of Representatives. And if he is expelled this way, that he will not be allowed by Comelec to ever run for a legislative position again.
All that is needed to implement this plan, is for the House as a whole to amend the House rules.