• House waives P12-billion pork

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    MEMBERS of the House of Representatives have given up their P12 billion remaining Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel for 2013 but they want the money to be used for the relief efforts in disaster stricken areas, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said on Tuesday.

    In a joint resolution, the lawmakers authorized the Executive Department to realign the PDAF to the calamity fund.

    The Supreme Court temporarily stopped the release of the pork barrel funds for senators and congressmen pending petitions filed before it questioning the legality of PDAF.

    “We have informed the Solicitor General to make representations for us before the Supreme Court to articulate this, that we are not interested in this anymore provided that this is realigned to the calamity fund. This has been decided upon by the House leaders and the House members,” Belmonte said.

    Under House Resolution 7, the lawmakers stressed the need to augment the government’s calamity fund in light of the vicious natural and man-made disasters that hit the country in the past three months—the Zamboanga City siege by the Moro National Liberation Front faction led by Nur Misuari, the 7.2 magnitude earthquake in Bohol and Cebu and Typhoon Yolanda that devastated Samar, Leyte and Capiz provinces.

    The PDAF, the discretionary fund of the lawmakers, has been vilified because of the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds which led to the filing of criminal charges against several senators, former lawmakers, government officials and Janet Lim Napoles, who has been called the brains of the scam.

    The lawmakers are also considering the realignment of P10 billion to 20 billion in the 2014 national budget for the relief and restoration of provinces badly affected Yolanda. However, since the 2014 General Appropriations Bill (GAB) is still pending in the Senate, the amendments will be proposed at the bicameral committee meeting in December.

    “Nonetheless, Congress should take in consideration that in view of this tragedy, the calamities that has been happening to the country, we decided to create the initiative to create the fund,” Belmonte said.

    “We will see to it that the 2014 budget will not be passed without the rehabilitation plan,” he added.

    The lawmakers also filed House Resolution No. 446 urging all the members of the House to donate P10,000 each to the typhoon victims that will be deducted from their salaries. This was also done during the Zamboanga siege in September.

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