A bill seeking to scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of the President and lawmakers has been filed at the House of Representatives.
The Makabayan bloc, which groups party-list representatives from Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Anakpawis and Kabataan, filed House Bill 1535 in light of the reported misuse of P10 billion ‘pork’ of several senators and House members.
Under the measure, the President will be prohibited from providing a budgetary item or including in the proposed budget submitted to Congress every fiscal year lump sum allocations and other discretionary amounts to be sourced from his PDAF.
Aside from abolishing the PDAF of senators and members of the House, the bill will also stop revenue-generating agencies like the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Malampaya Fund from contributing amounts to the President’s Social Fund.
“We call on like-minded legislators in the House to support our bill and urge the members of the Senate to file a counterpart measure. The full force of the law should be meted out to those who plundered the nation’s coffers and enriched themselves at the people’s expense,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.
The PDAF system, they added, is a form of institutionalized patronage that tolerates graft and corruption.
Each House member is entitled to P70 million PDAF annually. Senators receive a bigger amount – P200 million.
For members of the House, P35 million of their ‘pork’ should be used for “soft projects” such as education and medical assistance. The remaining P35 million is for hard projects such as construction and/or repairs of roads and bridges.
“Contrary to claims by other legislators that more and better safeguards can be implemented to prevent abuse, the current scam proves that the pork barrel system is beyond salvaging and should be abolished,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.
“We are confident that the righteous public outrage generated by the sheer magnitude of the plunder allegedly perpetrated by this P10 billion pork barrel scam will provide the momentum needed to move this issue forward,” they added.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has also called for the scrapping of lawmakers’ pork barrel, saying it is a source of great corruption.
However, Malacañang had opposed the proposal, saying the President’s ‘pork’ is being used to help the families of soldiers slain in battle.
In the Senate, Sen. Pia Cayetano expressed doubt on the effectiveness of the system put up by the Department of Budget to protect public funds against possible exploitation. She pointed out that the supposed release of billions of lawmakers’ PDAF to bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) casts doubt on the government’s system to safeguard public funds.
“They cannot claim that there are enough safeguards, because obviously there are not, if these things are happening,” Cayetano pointed out.
She said it would be better to scrap the PDAF if the government can’t put enough safeguards to protect public funds.
Senator Vicente Sotto 3rd also said he will not oppose the abolition of the pork barrel system.
“The only concern is the problem that will arise when Congress, in the absence of a legitimate PDAF, will start inserting their projects in the GAA (General Appropriations Act). That will be difficult to monitor and will surely be messy,” he said.
Senator Francis Escudero is also open to the idea of scrapping the PDAF but he said he favors the putting up of stricter guidelines and monitoring the management of funds.