SP Flip-flop

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Yes, that’s Senate President Franklin “Flip-flop” Drilon. And since it’s not the first time that Drilon is going to be elevated to the third-highest position in the land, it is only fitting that he should also backtrack shamelessly—and oh so quickly—on an opinion that he was supposed to have held with all the conviction that he could muster.


Of course I’m talking about Drilon’s supposedly firm belief, declared only last Monday, that he is in favor of abolishing Congress’ pork barrel funds. And the fact that, only a day later, Drilon—the Palace suck-up who is purportedly a shoo-in to become the next Senate president upon the opening of Congress later this month—reversed himself, saying basically that lawmakers need their pork barrel funds to, well, bring home pork to their districts.

By flip-flopping on the pork barrel controversy in the space of 24 hours, Drilon must have set a world record of sorts for political self-reversal. After all, even his public profession of love for then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo the last time he was Senate head and his subsequent joining of the “Hyatt 10” group that later called on Arroyo to resign took several days to happen.

Only Drilon can explain why he took back his own words on the scandal of the misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (as pork is currently known) so fast. Or why he could perform such a sudden 180-degree turn in public whose degree of difficulty would have scared an Olympic gymnast without any apparent remorse or even an admission of error.

All I know is, at the start of the week, after one newspaper broke the story on the supposed malversation of up to P10 billion in PDAF, Drilon got on his high horse and declared that he will move (presumably as Senate chief) to abolish the fund. And then, the day after, he was saying that lawmakers needed pork to provide medical benefits and other goodies to their constituents, which was why the fund should stay.

On Monday, people were admiring the presumptive Senate president for his position on pork, saying that perhaps they could have misjudged the often-abrasive and always brown-nosing gentleman from Iloilo. Then, the following day, they were all let down again and restarted their favorite pastime of bashing Drilon, even making hurtful remarks about the senator’s well-known girth and connecting it with his strident defense of pork.

But Drilon brought it all on himself, of course. He probably thought he’d “ride” on the issue by taking the high moral ground in favor of pork abolition, only to realize that his own pork-addicted Congress peers might think he was actually serious—and so he had to backtrack.

I’ve said before that this tendency of Drilon to flip-flop should serve as a warning to his current boss, President Noynoy Aquino, about the transitory nature of the senator’s loyalty. But if this doesn’t bother Aquino, then who am I to be bothered by it?

I just hope that the popularity of Aquino doesn’t wane during his term to the point that Drilon would consider junking him and calling for his resignation. I guess we’ll have to wait until Drilon professes his love for Aquino and asks the President to take up residence in Iloilo; then we’ll know for sure that Noynoy has lost Flip-flop Frank.

All things considered, that’s not really such a bad thing. I’m sure Aquino has his true believers, even outside of his circle of former classmates and firing-range buddies, who will fight for him to the bitter end, no matter if his daang matuwid sends them all off the edge of a cliff like suicidal lemmings.

But Drilon is not one of them. He would have thrown his gear in full reverse and headed off in the opposite direction so fast that he would qualify as a stunt driver in the next “The Fast and The Furious” installment.

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On a final note, let me just say that Drilon’s latter-day defense of pork is mistaken because it assumes that the current system of allocating funds for local projects is necessary or even effective. If pork were abolished altogether, people would no longer demand that lawmakers bring home such projects—and lawmakers will be forced to concentrate on the job of crafting laws and investigating in aid of legislation.

And that would certainly lead to the election of a better class of legislators. Not the current crop that gets elected to do nothing but rely on pork and which is under the Palace’s thumb all the time because of this addiction.

If Congress is to have any role in identifying projects to benefit their constituents at all, let this be done by allocating funds for that purpose in the national budget as line items, like the US Congress does. The current practice of Malacañang giving senators P200 million and congressmen P70 million in pork annually and then giving them the discretion to choose where to spend it is what is really wrong with the current PDAF system—and the true source of corruption.

No, Drilon got it right the first time. He just didn’t have the guts and the good sense, as usual, to stick to his guns.