Bayan: Confidential funds and the scourge of bureaucrat capitalism
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan supports the formation of the ‘Abolish Confidential Funds’ network which signals the people’s continuing vigilance against the misuse of taxpayers’ money and our resolve to fight the systematic stealing of government resources by corrupt bureaucrats.
We call on the Senate to do better than the House of Representatives by removing the confidential and intelligence funds of all civilian agencies, including the office of the president, and rechannel them into programs and agencies related to the delivery of frontline social services such as public hospitals, state universities, and support for local farmers.
News of the bloated allocation of confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) for civilian agencies, the anomalous transfer of confidential funds for the office of Vice President Sara Duterte, and the highly irregular spending of P125 million pesos of confidential funds by her office in just 11 days – all of these reflect the corrupt character of Philippine politics.
Corruption in the bureaucracy is more than just a recurring scourge but a fundamental problem in society. The systematic pillage of the public treasury for the benefit of the tiny elite who wields power is known as bureaucrat capitalism. Top officials use their position and influence to further enrich themselves, their patrons and favored cronies as well as to consolidate control through political patronage and thereby entrench their political dynasties. Bureaucrat capitalism has bankrupted the country, mired us in trillions of pesos in debt while depriving social services and economic development much needed funds. It is part of the reason why we remain in abject poverty.
It is a colonial legacy which became an embedded feature of governance when the county became a neocolonial state after the end of World War II. Succeeding corrupt regimes have normalized thievery and pillage of public funds; but the most notorious plunderer was the Marcos dictatorship which bankrupted the country and triggered a massive economic and financial crisis.
Over the years, the pork barrel system became synonymous with graft and corruption eliciting widespread condemnation from the public. Instead of doing away with pork barrel, politicians have merely recycled the infamous system through various names — countryside development fund, congressional insertion, priority development assistance fund, disbursement acceleration program – until the Supreme Court made a definitive ruling against it in 2014.
The current controversy surrounding the use of CIFs is proof of how political dynasties have connived over the years in recalibrating the budget system by introducing pork barrel-like programs under the guise of extending aid to the poor. The expanded use of CIFs by civilian agencies, which started during the term of Rodrigo Duterte, is a reminder of how the pretext of promoting national security can also enable corruption.
As long as bureaucrat capitalism continues to plague Philippine politics, there’s no moderating of greed of recidivist plunderers. And even anti-corruption laws have failed to stop the institutionalized looting in the bureaucracy as shameless politicians found ingenious ways to circumvent rules and legitimize their misdeeds. Worse, even those indicted for corruption have used their ill-gotten wealth to regain power.
Large-scale corruption has unleashed People Power uprisings which led to the ouster of Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001. Public outrage against pork barrel inspired the ‘million people march’ in Luneta in 2013. This is a warning to all those who think that they are exempted from public accountability because of their supposed popularity, electoral mandate, and hegemony in the bureaucracy.
The abolition of confidential funds is part of the campaign for good governance. It is also an affirmation of our longstanding call to expose and oppose bureaucrat capitalism as we continue the struggle for real freedom and democracy.