A former congressman on Friday filed graft charges against Senate
President Franklin Drilon, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and his wife, Henedina, accusing them of misusing over P890 million worth of pork barrel.
In a complaint filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Augusto Syjuco, who represented Iloilo province, questioned the disbursement of P892-million Priority Development Assistance fund (PDAF).
Syjuco said Drilon and the Abads connived to disburse “inequitable” amount of pork barrel to Batanes, which Mrs. Abad represents in Congress.
He said that while the province has the smallest in population and land area it received the highest amount of PDAF.
“At the end of 2011, Congresswoman Abad was allocated the amount of P800 million. In the year 2012, she received P92.5 million,” Syjuco said.
He said that in 2009, Batanes’ pork barrel was only P13 million.
In 2010, the province, which was then represented by Carlo Oliver Diasnes, received only P30 million in pork.
“Hence, the amount of pork barrel allocated and received under Henedina Abad is artificially bloated,” Syjuco said.
This “horrendously exaggerated” amount of pork barrel, according to him, could only be possible because of Drilon, who has the “wide and very discriminating discretion to decide” on budget allocation.
Abad, Syjuco said, has “control over the formulation and application of government resources.” His wife, meanwhile, can “present projects for the use of the fund allocation.”
Syjuco said the three all belong to the ruling Liberal Party, which makes them “indispensable partners.”
“With Batanes as the ideal spot, it is there that they, indeed, consummated this unholy union,” Syjuco said.
He added that the “sudden increase” of Representative Abad’s pork barrel was mystifying since each member of the House is only allotted an annual PDAF of P70 million.
“She received way more than what she was entitled to,” Syjuco said of Henedina.
He accused the three officials of violating the anti-graft law “to ensure the abuse of their pecuniary interests” when Batanes received an amount of pork that was way over the line.
They were also charged with violations of the Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees for the unlawful and erroneous discharge of their official functions as public servants.
“Patently, the amounts allocated to the district of Batanes are unconscionable, exorbitant and shocking to the senses,” Syjuco added.
In Malacañang, Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said the PDAF has not yet been abolished.
Valte issued a statement after Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, testifying at the second hearing on the constitutionality of pork barrel, claimed that the President has no power to scrap pork funds.
It was a turnaround from of the earlier pronouncements by Malacañang officials that the President had abolished the PDAF.
Valte explained that when the President announced the abolition of the pork system, “it was a policy announcement on the part of the President because, legally, PDAF is part of the GAA [General Appropriations Act], which is a law.”
The President, she said, recognizes that the power to scrap the fund belongs to Congress.
”Which is why, if you recall, when the President made that announcement, he was saying that we are going to work with Congress on how to go about this particularly because the abolition relies on the repeal or the non-inclusion in the next year,” she added.
Valte agreed with a Supreme Court justice’s position that only Congress can abolish the PDAF.
”Because it’s a law. That is correct. Of course, the Supreme Court justice is correct because the PDAF as far as it is embodied in the General Appropriations Act is law and only Congress can repeal or amend or modify a law,” she noted.
Asked why the government asked for the partial lifting of the temporary restraining order on the use of the remaining 2013 PDAF for scholars and indigent sick people when it has been abolished, Valte said, “As far as the 2013 releases were concerned, the President had it suspended.”
The request for the partial lifting of the TRO, she said, covered only the remaining allocation of PDAF for 2013.
”It’s not for the entire lifting of the TRO. Only for that part that affects the tuition of the scholars that are—that are benefiting from those—the part of PDAF of certain lawmakers as well as iyong medical assistance,” she added.
Valte said the abolition of the pork barrel is meant for the year 2014.
”Klaro tayo doon, na at least for 2014, we have been working with the leaders in the House and in the Senate on how implement particularly iyong abolition of the law or at least that item in the GAA that provides for the PDAF,” she said.
”We are working with them on how to make that happen. The budget deliberations are still ongoing and there are also debates on how to address the needs of the constituents that were formerly addressed by funding from the PDAF,” Valte said.
Another Palace spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, had said that “the President has already announced that the PDAF has been abolished…”
”As far as the executive branch is concerned, the President has already stated that we have abolished the PDAF,” Lacierda said in a recent interview.
President Aquino himself announced on August 23 the scrapping of PDAF.
With a report from Catherine Valente