Pork Barrel for Dummies


What is the Pork Barrel?

An appropriation in the budget that allows government to spend for the benefit of limited groups or constituents in return for their political support. In most cases, the beneficiaries are a representative’s district.  Thus, the legislator uses the appropriation, to earn votes from constituents.

In a nutshell: It’s a sum in the national budget that is given to a legislator, which sum allows him to fund projects for his constituents (i.e. infrastructure or social welfare services.)

Think of: bringing home the bacon.

What is the PDAF and VILP (Priority Development Assistance Fund and Locally Funded Projects- Various Infrastructure including Local Projects)?

A lump sum appropriation in the national budget to fund priority development programs and/or projects of the government.  For 2013, it is P27 billion.

The PDAF (and technically the VILP too) is the fancy name of what we know as pork barrel.

Why is it such a biggie?  From the P27 Billion:

  • Each Senator: entitled to P200 million a year
  • Each member of the House of Representatives: entitled P70 million a year.

What are hard projects or soft projects?

There are two types of projects to which lawmakers could spend their allocation:

1.  Soft projects– taken from the PDAF

“Soft” programs are social welfare programs. These include social services, pro-poor programs, education, health, livelihood, historical, arts and culture, peace and order, and small infrastructure.

The implementation of “soft” projects are obscure and leaves more room for corruption.

In other words, you can’t really see “soft” projects.  This is where Napoles’ projects were. 

2.  Hard projects– taken from the VILP

“Hard” projects are the building of roads and bridges, flood control measures, school buildings, hospitals, health facilities, public markets, multi-purpose buildings, and multi-purpose pavements.  The Department of Public Works and Highways is the implementing agency.

These are the projects that are tangible. You see them.

Each Senator should spend P100 million on “soft” and P100 million on “hard” projects. Each congressman should spend P30 million on “soft” and P40 million on “hard” projects.


Who started it?

Lump-sum allocations started during the Aquino administration through the Mindanao Development Fund (MDF) and the Visayas Development Fund (VDF.) These were funds to help alleviate poverty in Mindanao and Visayas.  Each Congressman from these districts was entitled to implement projects totaling to 10 million pesos. Luzon legislators later requested that they be given equal shares.  The Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) was created for all electoral districts in the Philippines.  In 2000, CDF was renamed the “Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).”

What are implementing agencies*?

Once a lawmaker requests for the release of his/her appropriation, an implementing agency is named. The implementing agency will depend on where the program/project is in the Menu.

This agency is the entity tasked with disbursing, monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the program/project.  Implementing agencies can be government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.  They can also be a government controlled and owned corporation such as the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) or a local government unit such as a city or municipality.

The DBM releases the money to the implementing agency. The implementing agency then releases the money to the NGO or supplier.

What is the Menu everyone is talking about?

The budget law provides a menu of services.  The legislator, when asking for a release of his/her PDAF should identify his program/project based on the menu.  The menu also sets out the implementing agencies that may implement the program/project.

For example, the menu includes Education as the service, and gives: (1) the purchase of IT equipment; and (2) scholarships, as the projects.  The implementing agencies for these projects may be: DepEd, TESDA, CHED and LGUs.

Where is the President in all these?

While the legislators try to get the funding for their districts, ultimately, it is the President who gives the requested funding.  The President has the final say on the actual release of public funds, through the DBM, once the budget is approved.  There are claims that a President will sometimes withhold fund releases in districts as an instrument for political control. This is done with the PDAF.

(Aside from these, there are so-called congressional insertions, which are subject to the President’s veto power. The President also has Special Fund subject to his discretion and control. Another big chunk is his P62.6 billion in cash doles under the conditional cash transfer program (CCT) in the national budget. He also has control over savings in several budget categories.  Legislators will usually lobby the President to get a grant from these other funds.)

Where does pigging out happen?

The rumor is that of PDAF allotments, less than 50% will go to the supplier or NGO implementing the project. The rest of the allotment is divided amongst the legislator, the head of the implementing agency, and the congressional aide, etc. Or in the case of hard projects, about 60% goes to the project, while the rest is divided in different proportions to the legislator, the provincial/city or municipal engineers, the mayors or barangay captains.  As we have seen from the COA audit, relatives or friends of the legislators usually implement the projects. This is because the legislator has a say on where the funds will go, the projects or programs, and the suppliers or NGOs.  Public bidding is not followed, as projects are already divided among NGOs or suppliers, even before funds are released.

This document is solely the opinion of the writer and should not be taken as expert opinion on pork barrel. 

Recommended read:  Politicization of Philippine Budget System: Institutional and Economic Analysis on Pork Barrel by Kohei Noda. 


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