• Lawmaker delivers P2-B projects with too little ‘pork’

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    ZAMBOANGA CITY: Former House Deputy Speaker and now Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar of Zamboanga defended herself Friday from erroneous reports that she got more than her allocated “pork barrel” funds following a report released by the Commission on Audit (COA).

    Salazar said she has sought clarifications from COA pertaining to projects funded through the Priority Development Assistance Fund released annually to lawmakers—P70 million for members of Congress and P200 million for senators.

    She said there were inaccuracies in the COA report for her PDAF allocation for Zamboanga’s First District from 2007-2009, which totaled only P117.54 million.

    Salazar said she was entitled to P175 million, but received less, but still managed to deliver over P2 billion in development projects for Zamboanga at the end of her term. “It is significantly less than the supposed allocation of P175 million considering that the annual PDAF allocation is P70 million per House member,” she said.

    “In my State of the City Report during my first term, I said my priorities were to perform my work in Congress and to deliver projects for the people. I was able to bring half a billion pesos in my first term and at the end of my second term, the amount became P2 billion,” Salazar said. “The allegation that I had an over allocation of P8 million is incorrect because we were able to bring more or less P2 billion worth of development projects and programs. Zamboanga and our people benefited from all these projects.”

    She said other government agencies also benefit from her PDAF allocations through various projects and programs and these include the Department of Education for scholarships to poor, but deserving students, feeding program for indigent children and other education-related projects, and the Department of Interior and Local Government for the purchase of patrol vehicles for the local police force, among others.

    Salazar said pointed out that in the COA audit report, the bulk of the allocation is in the form of “Various Infrastructures, including Local Projects” which are projects carried out in the district represented by the concerned member of Congress whose funding came from various sources and not necessarily from the PDAF allocation.

    “In other words, it is possible for a congressional district to receive more funding for various local infra projects than the PDAF allocation of its representative since such funding may come from other sources as identified and approved by the Department of Budget and Management,” she said, adding that in case a congressional district receives more funding for infrastructure projects, it is the constituents of the district that benefit from all these.

    Salazar said she is yet to receive a copy of the COA audit report, but stressed that she is supporting the investigations into the pork barrel funds.

    “Given the fact that we have yet to receive a copy of the COA audit report, as well as due to time constraints and the voluminous records involved, my office cannot ascertain the veracity or accuracy of the details contained therein,” she said.

    Just recently, Rep. Manuel Zamora of Compostela Valley also was reported by COA to have received P3 billion in PDAF, but the former lawmaker strongly denied this. The Budget department later admitted that there was an error on its reports, which was cited by the auditing body.

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