“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends.” J. K. Rowling
By Alex P. Vidal
The late former Iloilo City mayor Rodolfo “Roding” Ganzon, who had served as congressman (Iloilo second district, 1961) and senator (1963-1969), was one of the only few leaders in the country who did not agree that members of the legislative branch should dip their fingers on public funds intended to finance infrastructure and development projects.
The “stormy petrel of the south” once called as “que horror” senators and congressmen during the time of the late President Tita Cory who gobbled up fat shares of countrywide development fund (CDF), the first name of “pork barrel” introduced during the heyday of Speaker Ramon Mitra of Palawan.
“Senators and congressman should legislate laws, not implement projects,” hollered Ganzon, a Nacionalista Party stalwart incarcerated during the Martial Law.
Ganzon believed those who feasted on their CDF had ulterior motives. “How can they present quality legislation when they are also busy identifying their own contractors for certain road-widening and infrastructure projects in their respective districts which is the job of the local government executives?” sighed Ganzon, while taking potshots at his political rival, then Iloilo City Rep. Rafael Lopez-Vito. “Legislators cannot ride on two horses.”
Lopez-Vito, who beat Ganzon in an upset for congressman after the EDSA Revolution, denied he misused his CDF but admitted he had some infrastructure projects implemented in Iloilo City.
Congress vultures and crocodiles were unfazed. They ignored Ganzon and continued to laugh their way to the cookie jars.
When Ganzon stirred the hornet’s nest, future senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson was still a little known police superintendent assigned in Metro Manila. Years later when he was elected senator, Lacson, now the Yolanda super-typhoon rehabilitation czar, sustained Ganzon’s stand on pork barrel and nixed the pork barrel dangled by the Arroyo administration to members of the House of Representa-THIEVES and the SIN-nate.
When the late Mitra was lording over the Lower House, there was no Janet Lim-Napoles yet. Napoles started only to build her financial empire through the commissions she allegedly siphoned from bogus projects implemented through the pork barrel of SIN-nators and TONG-gressmen during the time of Pres. FVR, Pres. Erap, and Pres. Gloria.
Ganzon served in the 4th Senate together with the illustrious names in Philippine politics such as Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr. (the president’s father), Ambrosio Padilla, Jovito Salonga, Emmanuel Pelaez, Gil Puyat, Eva Estrada-Kalaw, Jose Roy, Gerardo Roxas (father of Mar), Lorenzo Tanada, Arturo Tolentino, Leonardo Perez, Wenceslao Lagumbay, Lorenzon Teves, Alejandro Almendras, Dominador Aytona, Helena Benitez, Juan Liwag, Genaro Magsaysay, Jr., Tecla San Andres-Ziga, and Jose W. Diokno.
Would they have dealt with a Janet Lim-Napoles if the latter existed at that time and if pork barrel was coined at that time?
They, too, probably never anticipated that Congress (both the Upper and Lower Houses) would soon be devastated and ruined by a scandal called pork barrel.
When newspapers, TV and radio flashed reports during that time, it was not about who swallowed the biggest share of pie in commissions and cuts on pork barrel. The stories were all about how outstanding were our national leaders when they introduced certain bills; how they passionately debated on urgent measures on the floor; how they mesmerized the nation and foreign observers with their eloquent and bombastic speeches, and their defense of our sovereignty and interest as a nation.
Pork barrel and other scandals that rocked the legislative branch of our government shook both Houses when mediocre characters and comedians started to invade the SIN-nate and House of Representa-THIEVES.
The defects in our electoral system are the main culprits. Even a rapist and smuggler can become a president under our myopic electoral system.