House leaders back PDAF suspension but won’t call for abolition

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THE leaders of the House of Representatives are in favor of temporary suspension of the release of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) pending the results of the probe of anomalous releases of billions worth of PDAF allocations, but won’t call for its abolition.

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Reps. Isidro Ungab of Davao City, Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list, Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela province, Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar province and Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo province expressed such sentiments a day after President Benigno Aquino3rd made the move amid mounting calls to abolish the PDAF.

Ungab, the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, noted that suspension of PDAF releases has been imperative, considering the alleged P10 billion PDAF scam that benefited fake NGOs led by Janet Lim-Napoles and the P6.1 billion worth of PDAF transferred to entities with questionable credentials.

“It could somehow affect the delivery of medical and social services, particularly in my district, but we will abide by the decision of the President. We must admit that clearer and stricter rules and guidelines are necessary in PDAF disposition. Safeguards must be in place before the release of the second tranche for 2013 PDAF,” Ungab said in a text message.

Each House member is entitled to P70 million worth of PDAF every year. A Senator, on the other hand, gets P200 million worth of PDAF annually.

Ungab invoked that at least 70 indigent patients seek assistance from his PDAF allocation every day, and that he is also using his PDAF to cater to the needs of 40 indigents who are undergoing dialysis every week.

“I have to make arrangements with local government hospitals, DOH and the DSWD to temporarily cater to them in the meantime that processing of PDAF is suspended,” Ungab, one of the lawmakers who has been accused of funneling his PDAF funding to non-existing NGOs, added, referring to the Department of Health and the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Ungab has denied any involvement in PDAF misuse.

Deputy Speaker Aggabao, for his part, argued that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) should limit the releases and implementation of PDAF-funded projects to government agencies, particularly local government units, for tighter control.

“Suspending PDAF releases is a good first step to enable the DBM to tighten the rules. I prefer limiting the release to LGUs coupled with strengthened audit to make sure the funds reach the intended beneficiaries,” Aggabao said.

Aggabao, who is not among the lawmakers identified in the PDAF misuse, cited that his PDAF allocation was always coursed thru the provincial government, scrutinized by the local treasurer, accountant, general services office and resident auditor before the check is signed by the local executive.

“What we need is tighter rein on disbursements. PDAF is direly needed, especially in the countryside. Thru it, we are able to answer the small needs of small people. I hope it is continued,” Aggabao added.

Tugna, who serves as the House Deputy Majority Leader, shared Aggabao’s sentiments in limiting agencies qualified to receive and implement PDAF projects.

Tugna underscored that PDAF should be only released to the Department of Public Works and Highways, government hospitals, State Universities and Colleges and Commission on Higher Education.

“We agree with the temporary suspension because it shows the sincerity of the administration to reform the PDAF. Such step, the ongoing probe and the cases that will eventually be filed against erring officials will lessen the Filipino people’s cynicism in the PDAF,” Tugna said.

“The people need the PDAF because reality bites that not every barangay will get to be catered by inefficient and highly bureaucratized government agencies,” Tugna stressed.

Tupas, the Chairman of the House Committee on Justice, maintained that PDAF is not a bad thing.

“PDAF is intended for the benefit of the people. It’s how you use the fund and the transparency in its implementation are what is important,” Tupas, who has been identified by COA report to have received P36 billion PDAF from 2007 to 2009, added in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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