Hell hath no fury than congressmen denied of pork.
When the news of the pork barrel allocation finally came out, the House of Representative – aptly called the Lower House – exploded in anger and general mayhem. Congressmen took to the floor to deliver privilege speeches to hit each other, the Inquirer, Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. and President Ramos for depriving them of more pork.
While it is normal for congressmen to fight each other over bills, committee chairmanship and impeachment hearings, I never saw them fight as hard and bloody as when their pork barrel allocation – and wounded pride – was in question.
This period in Congress has gone down in history as the “Great Pork Barrel Revolt.” This was because most of the more 230 members of Congress then were ready to impeach President Ramos and unseat Speaker de Venecia because of the pork barrel issue.
No, they were not rebelling against abuses in the pork barrel funds, they were rebelling over the fact that they felt like fools and insulted to think that while they thought they all got a uniform share of P12.5 million each in CDF funds annually, they later realized that those who were critical of Ramos and de Venecia got more in the form of Congressional Initiative Allocation (CIA), another form of pork barrel inserted in the budgets of government departments for projects to be pinpointed by legislators.
On January 4, 2006, me and Inquirer deskman Juan V. Sarmiento came out with a story recalling the ruckus we created 10 years hence in Congress in an article entitled; “Pork barrel: Pigging.” Here are excerpts of the Inquirer story:
“Worse than hell's fury
Hell hath no fury than a legislator denied his pork barrel. Unhappy about the share that they got, congressmen began turning on each other.
Several took to the House floor or went on radio to denounce the unfair allocations. Loyal administration congressmen felt insulted that their P21 million in CIA paled in comparison with the allocations for the most vociferous critics of President Ramos and House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.
The list showed that Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora and Makati Representative Joker Arroyo, for example, got P103 million and P38.1 million, respectively.
The then Deputy Speaker Hernando Perez said he could not accept that the late Representative Rolando Andaya, who headed the appropriations committee, got P3.6 billion.
Pork even for relatives
Perez, who was allocated P76 million, said the fact that others got P100 million "makes me look like an idiot."
Iloilo Representative Raul Gonzalez noted that some of the contractors for projects funded with pork barrel were relatives of congressmen or officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Others revealed that 23 construction firms were owned by House members or their close relatives.
The House was in crisis. De Venecia suspended the session one afternoon to prevent a free-for-all.
The Speaker then called a caucus where he promised to resolve the matter by giving the rebellious representatives more pork, averting a threat to declare all House positions vacant.
Who was Deep Throat?
Speculation on the source of the Inquirer kickbacks list was so intense that on August 12, two congressmen from Samar fought on the House floor, one of them accusing the other of being the source of the Inquirer story.
Various congressmen demanded an investigation to find out who leaked the list to the Inquirer.
Congressmen suspected Senator Edgardo Angara of leaking the list. Senator Ernesto Maceda delivered a privilege speech blaming the "ignorant media" for the "demolition job versus the entire Congress."
The Inquirer decided to come out with a story on the source of the list. It turned out to be a Department of Budget and Management official who was so exasperated with the floods in his area that he gave the list to the Inquirer's congressman source in the hope that it would result in a more equitable sharing of the CIA and free up funds for flood mitigation and control.
With the public pressure, the DBM would confirm that the list was authentic.”
(3rd Part: Congress prepares P1 billion libel case against the Inquirer, have the prok barrel writers jailed and the Inquirer office padlocked.)