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What would Jesse Robredo have done with his pork barrel? Leni Robredo demonstrates

In order to emulate her husband’s pro-poor "Tsinelas Leadership," Camarines Sur Third District Representative Leni Robredo will not seek to abolish the controversial 'pork barrel.' Instead, she will use a performance-based incentive scheme in using the government fund—a system popularized by her husband, the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.

"Pork barrel is a tool for patronage politics," Atty. Leni told GMA News Online in a phone interview. "Ngayon, sinusubukan kong mag-formulate ng guidelines para masigurong magamit sa tama."

"We will come up with performance indicators. You need to attain minimum standards and to improve as a local government unit before you will be given incentives from my PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund)," she opined.

PDAF and the Performance Challenge Fund

The PDAF, or commonly known as the pork barrel, has been all over the news recently after two whistleblowers, Benhur Luy and Merlina Sunas, revealed a supposed P10-billion pork barrel scam involving several congressmen and a handful of senators. The alleged scam supposedly ran for a decade.

The witnesses were former employees of JLN Corporation, owned by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. The company supposedly funneled government funds to bogus non-government organizations.
"Wala pang gumawa before, but it can be done," Mrs. Robredo said, hoping to implement PDAF guidelines by 2014. "'Pag gusto ng access sa PDAF, kailangan ipakita na pinagtatrabahuhan."

In 2011, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo launched the Performance Challenge Fund among local government units—a project that his widow wanted to uphold with regard to spending her allotted PDAF.

Here's how it works: each LGU will be given a performance index, including full disclosure of government transactions. Once their target amounts have been attained, they will be conferred a Seal of Good Housekeeping and given monetary reward.

According to Atty. Leni, she will try to lead by example as her husband did. She is to propose similar guidelines on the use of PDAF to her colleagues should her attempt succeed.

"I will try this rule para 'pag nag-work, pwede gawan ng proposal sa Congress," she said.

Tsinelas leadership

A year after her husband’s death, Mrs. Robredo believes that her husband’s mayoralty in Naga City and his stint as the Secretary for the Department of Interior and Local Government has raised the bar for Filipino politicians.

Kaya Natin movement convenor Harvey Keh and Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras concurred with the widow.

Keh said in a phone interview: "Nagkaroon ng benchmark o batayan ang mga government official kung paano mamuno nang matino. Like Jesse, pwede palang magkaroon ng good governance hindi lang sa salita."

On that fateful August 18 afternoon, Secretary Robredo and two others died in a plane crash off the coast of Masbate. The cabinet official’s police aide was the lone survivor of the incident.

Almendras, who coined Secretary Robredo’s management style as "Tsinelas Leadership," explained that the late cabinet official set a new standard for Filipino politicians.

"Setting a standard, not pagandahan, not pabonggahan but the opposite—pasimplehan. It's about sino ang mas simple, mas down-to-earth, and the Filipino people reacted to that kind of leadership," he told GMA News Online in a separate interview.

Almendras recalled coining the term after he had seen the late secretary wearing tsinelas in rescue operations. According to Robredo, as quoted by the cabinet secretary, "Dapat basta ganitong lakad dapat may dala kang tsinelas, pinaka-effective sa baha."

"I think Jesse started a new wave of what a government official should be, being in touch with the people you serve."

Political analyst Ramon Casiple noted that Robredo's "Tsinelas Leadership" is still in its infancy and therefore, has a long way to go.

"Hindi ito simple matter na pagsuot ng tsinelas ng isang pulitiko tapos okay na. They should know the context. Sa 'Tsinelas Movement,' it is the movement of the people merged with the government. The people should have an ownership of their government," he said. — VC, GMA News