AS the Senate prepares to investigate the alleged misuse of lawmakers’ priority development assistance fund (PDAF), Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano said on Wednesday that he will file a bill that seeks to abolish the PDAF, or pork barrel, in light of the revelation of the Commission on Audit (COA) that billions of pesos were released to bogus non-government organizations. Cayetano, who is the majority leader, said he is aware of the public perception that maintaining the PDAF in the national budget is an indication that Congress is interested in looking into the corruption-tainted pork barrel system.
Instead of allocating a budget for the PDAF, Cayetano wants a specific line item appropriation system through the General Appropriations Act (GAA) that will be distributed equally across regions, provinces, legislative districts, cities and municipalities nationwide.
A special audit by the COA showed that at least P6.156 billion of the PDAF of 12 senators and 180 congressmen were released to 82 questionable non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from 2007 to 2009.
Cayetano also proposed that the Senate allow a special independent body to conduct a parallel investigation to erase doubts on the credibility of the Senate inquiry. He suggested the inquiry be headed by former senator Panfilo Lacson.
Cayetano said Lacson is the best person to handle the investigation because he had consistently opposed the pork barrel system.
Since he was elected as senator in 2001, Lacson has refused his PDAF of P200 million believing that the pork barrel has been the source of corruption in Congress.
Cayetano said he is not questioning the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s integrity, but since senators were implicated in the controversy, it would be best if the investigation is left to an independent body.
He said an independent investigator will have more leeway to probe anybody in Congress.
“This move will show how serious we are in finding the truth,” he added.
Cayetano said he has not brought his proposal to Lacson, but is confident Lacson will accept the task.
The investigation aims to build a strong case that will warrant the immediate filing of charges against those who stole taxpayers’ money, he said.
“Filing a case is easy. But building a strong case with sufficient evidence is difficult, that is why we need a credible investigation to happen,” Cayetano said.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, who heads the Blue Ribbon panel, said the Senate will start its investigation on August 29.
At the same time, Senate President Franklin Drilon expressed the need for the public to be informed about details of the inquiry.
“Over the past three weeks, our people have expressed shock and dismay over the reported P10-billion PDAF scandal that allegedly involved some members of Congress,” Drilon said in a statement.
He the Senate at first did not find a parallel investigation necessary because the Commission on Audit and the Department of Justice were already doing their own inquiries.
But that was before the COA audit, he said.