Amid the furor surrounding the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) by some lawmakers, Vice President Jejomar Binay on Wednesday asked Congress to remove his pork barrel fund for next year.
The Office of the Vice President has been appropriated with P200 million for local projects in the 2014 national budget.
The fund was given starting 2011 and came from the unused PDAF of President Benigno Aquino 3rd when he was still a senator.
In 2012 and 2013 the amount was integrated into the OVP’s regular budget.
Binay earlier asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to clarify if the fund can be considered as pork barrel and if it was, it should be abolished.
He said he made the decision to end speculation and politicking on the true nature of the fund.
Binay expressed hopes that this would assure the people that government officials are sensitive to their sentiments and are committed to serve with transparency and accountability.
He made the request in a statement read by Undersecretary Benjamin Martinez Jr., OVP chief of staff, during the Senate hearing for the OVP’s 2014 budget.
“I am fully aware that my decision would affect various projects such as providing college scholarships, extending medical assistance and constructing building for our senior citizens,” Binay said.
The Vice President previously allocated part of his office’s fund for the construction or repair of senior citizens’ centers.
From 2011 to 2012, the OVP bankrolled the construction or repair of 500 such centers. Around 200 more are expected to be built this year.
Part of the fund went to the Vice President’s scholarship program.
Binay said that since he assumed office, the locally funded projects of the OVP had all passed the scrutiny of the Commission on Audit (COA).
With the removal of the P200 million, the OVP’s budget is down to P217 million from the original P417 million Binay’s office was requesting.
The OVP currently has 1,160 scholars in state colleges and universities nationwide and an additional 180 beneficiaries from AMA Computer University/ACLAC/ABE, St. Jude College & Medical Center, Manila Central University, Manila Business College and University of Batangas.
A June 19 report of the COA lauded the OVP’s social services programs including providing medical, dental, burial, and transportation assistance to some 31,691 indigents.
State auditors likewise lauded Binay’s scholarship program and credited him for distributing school bags and school supplies to 15,975 beneficiaries.
RITCHIE A. HORARIO