Replacement of PDAF will be corruption-proof
President Benigno Aquino 3rd said on Friday that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers will be abolished and replaced by a “new mechanism” that will be shielded from abuse
The President revealed the scrapping of the scandal-tainted pork barrel after he announced the immediate suspension of PDAF releases.
Each senator receives an annual P200 million PDAF, and each congressman, P70 million.
In a speech, the President said the events of the past weeks have highlighted the need for tougher action in fighting those who are determined to abuse the system.
He was referring to the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) that from 2007 to 2009, P6.156 billion from the PDAF of close to 200 lawmakers were channeled to dubious non-government organizations (NGOs).
The COA findings tended to support accusations against Janet Lim Napoles, the businesswoman perceived to have masterminded the irregular PDAF disbursements.
“It is time to abolish PDAF,” Aquino said.
“Now, we will create a new mechanism to address the needs of your constituents and sectors, in a manner that is transparent, methodical, and rational, and not susceptible to abuse or corruption.”
The President’s decision to cut the pork barrel comes ahead of a rally at Rizal Park in Manila on Monday to denounce the anomalies involving the PDAF.
“Together with Senate President Frank Drilon and Speaker Sonny Belmonte, I will make sure that every citizen and sector will get a fair and equitable share of the national budget for health services, scholarships, livelihood generating projects, and local infrastructure,” the President said.
From now on, all the projects proposed by legislators will go through the budgetary process.
“If approved, these projects will be earmarked as line items, under the programs of your National Government. In this way, they will be enacted into law as part of our National Budget—every line, every peso, and every project open to scrutiny, as with all other programs of your government,” he added.
The President said lawmakers cannot propose projects include consumable soft projects, such as fertilizers, seeds, medicines, medical kits, dentures, funding for sports fests, and training materials.
Short-term infrastructure projects like dredging, desilting, regraveling, or asphalt overlay will no longer be allowed.
The funds can not be disbursed to NGOs and certain government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) such as ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC) and National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), which had been implicated in the pork barrel scam.
ZREC and Nabcor will be abolished, “along with others of their kind that have become notorious for anomalies, and which seem to serve no other purpose aside from being instruments of corruption,” Aquino said.
The funds must be limited to the district or sector of the legislator who sponsored it, and all projects will be subject to bidding, the President said.
He said he has directed Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to consult with Belmonte and Drilon in coming up with the new mechanism.
Meanwhile, all but one of the 24 senators indicated they want their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scrapped.
The exception is Sen. Cynthia Villar, who until Friday afternoon has not sounded out on the raging pork barrel controversy.
Three senators, Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano and Miriam Santiago, have filed a resolution asking either the gradual phase-out of the pork barrel or its swift abolition.
Neophyte Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Nancy Binay and Grace Poe support the President’s stand on the PDAF.
In place of the PDAF, Senator Aquino proposed a “People’s Fund” that will give taxpayers a bigger say in disbursing public funds.
Ejercito said the President should not only expedite the filing of cases, but also broaden the scope of the investigation to include pork barrel allocations from 2001.
He called on the President to lead by example by scrapping his own Special Purpose Funds (SPF), commonly known as presidential fund, and other such lump-sum funds sourced from revenue from some government agencies or government-owned and controlled corporations.
Senators Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, Sergio Osmena 3rd, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., also support of the clamor to do away with the pork barrel.
Senators Lito Lapid and Ramon Revilla Jr., two of the five senators who the COA report said allotted part of their PDAF to questionable non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are also for the abolition.
Also joining the scrap-the-PDAF bandwagon are Senate President Franklin Drilon, Senate president pro-tempore Ralph Recto, minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Loren Legarda, Vicente Sotto 3rd, Jinggoy Estrada and Pia Cayetano.
The President’s allies in the House of Representatives have joined the chorus for abolishing the PDAF.
Aside from Belmonte, the pro-Aquino group includes House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd of Mandaluyong, Deputy Speaker Henedina Abad of Batanes, House Ways and Means panel Chairman Romero Quimbo of Marikina, House Justice panel Chairman Niel Tupas, Jr. of Iloilo and Liberal Party Secretary General Mel Sarmiento of Western Samar.
“I agree with the line-item policy because it will plug the loopholes in the system. This proves that reforms have been happening since the start of the President’s term. On top that, NGOs should be disallowed as recipients,” Belmonte said in a text message.
”Like the President, we are not numb, unmindful and insensitive to the growing clamor of our people for the abolition of the pork barrel. We welcome his pronouncements and we will certainly abide by it,” Gonzales said.
Abad, Quimbo, Tupas and Sarmiento conceded that line-item budgeting for PDAF can limit the beneficiaries’ access to PDAF, but said the benefits of line-item PDAF budgeting outweigh such risk.
Not every congressman is toeing the presidential line.
A party-list lawmaker called the President’s decision to cut the pork barrel a desperate attempt to “save face.”
“Clearly, the executive department is now quivering with fear as public outrage against the pork barrel continues to grow. Yet his new pronouncement rings hollow, as it doesn’t address our call against the presidential pork barrel,” Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon said in a statement.
“By jumping on the bandwagon of the people’s disgust for the pork barrel system, Aquino is trying to cover up the fact that he has the greatest pork of all,” he said.
The President did not call for the outright abolition of the pork barrel.
“Instead, he only proposed a series of so-called reforms that would in fact even give the executive department greater power over PDAF,” Ridon said.
He said the President’s own pork barrel for 2014 is P1.3 trillion.
With reports from Jefferson Antiporda, Llanesca T. Panti and Johanna Ballaran