A DISTRICT representative and ally of President Benigno Aquino 3rd has thrown his support for the total abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) which funds the lawmakers’ chosen projects for their constituents.
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmariñas, Cavite, Chairman of the House Committee on Games and Amusements, made the announcement in light of the Million People March in Luneta for the abolition of the PDAF or pork barrel allocation.
Barzaga, a member of the National Union Party aligned with the Aquino administration, noted that the time has come for the legislators to focus on lawmaking rather than implementing projects for their constituents.
“There should be complete abolition of PDAF to restore public trust and confidence to legislators. We should focus on our constitutional duty of crafting laws,” Barzaga said in a text message.
The Luneta rally was spurred by National Bureau of Investigation’s (NBI) probe on the alleged P10 billion worth of PDAF given to fake non-government organizations ran by businesswoman Janet Napoles and the Commission on Audit Report on PDAF spending from 2007 to 2009 which revealed that P6 billion worth of PDAF was granted to 82 bogus NGOs, 10 of which ran by Napoles.
A member of the House is entitled to P70 million of PDAF a year while a Senator is entitled to P200 million worth of PDAF annually.
“The people have already spoken and we have heard their voice,” Barzaga added.
The PDAF controversy has already prompted President Aquino to scrap the lump sum P25 billion PDAF allocation provided under the 2014 budget and instead subject it to line-item budgeting.
The line-item budgeting would mean that the lawmakers should identify the proceeds and beneficiaries of their respective PDAF allocation and place it under the General Appropriations Act for 2014 or the proposed 2014 budget. The said proceeds and beneficiaries of the PDAF allocation would then be subjected to the approval of Congress, just like the case of the budget allocation for each of the government agencies.
But such efforts were not enough for party-list lawmakers.
Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela party-list has called on President Aquino to certify the House Bill 1535 abolishing the PDAF and the discretionary funds of the President as urgent, noting that the Million People March proves the people’s united stance against PDAF and the massive disgust at the pervasive corruption that the Aquino administration failed to address halfway through its term.
“The public continues to see through Aquino’s superficial responses to the clamor against the pork barrel with his adamant retention of various lump sum and discretionary funds accessible to the Office of the President and the attempts to repackage or reform the PDAF for legislators and cabinet executives. President Aquino should display political will and make the sacrifice by making House Bill1535 abolishing the pork barrel and the President’s discretionary funds urgent,” Ilagan pointed out.
The P25 billion worth of PDAF and other billions worth of the President’s discretionary funds, Ilagan said, should be realigned to basic social services such as healthcare, education and housing.
“History will judge Aquino and his government harshly on turning his back on his campaign promises against plunder and corruption unless the pork barrel is eliminated,” Ilagan added.
The President’s ally from the party-list Akbayan agreed with Ilagan, underscoring that the Chief Executive should set a good example by letting go of his own pork barrel fund and subjecting to strong regulations his fiscal powers over the national budget.
“President Aquino’s statement was courageous as it went against his political interest. Now, we urge him to go beyond courage and sacrifice for the greater good of the people by scrapping all forms of pork barrel including his. We also urge him to clip his fiscal powers over the budget system,” neophyte Rep. Barry Gutierrez said.
Gabriela and Akbayan participated in the August 26 protest which were also simultaneously held in other provinces such as Baguio, Cebu, Bicol, Zamboanga and Davao. LLANESCA T. PANTI