• Lawmakers set sights on private sector, foreign donors, sans PDAF

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    At least 40 party-list lawmakers have mapped a way to assist their constituents without the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) by crafting projects for the consideration of private sector and foreign donors on top of the national government agencies.

    Party-list Reps. Francis Acedillo of Magdalo, Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol and Catalina Leonen-Pizzaro of ABS (Arts Business and Science Professionals) of the Party-list Coalition in the House of Representatives made the pitch in light of the looming abolition of the PDAF system.

    Under the party-list legislators’ proposal called Initiatives for Party-list Accountability and Transparency (i-PACT), the lawmaker would have to come up with meritorious and feasible projects for their constituents and present it before government agencies in charge of social services to secure funding from the state. Should the government agency deny such request from a lawmaker, the legislator can take the alternate route by presenting their projects before private firms or foreign donors and secure budget from them.

    “The key provision here is the guarantee [for funding]is not there anymore. The system is merit-based and within the menu cited by the President. You [the lawmaker]will just be another project proponent competing for funding,” Acedillo pointed out during the Ugnayan sa Batasan news forum.

    The PDAF system—which has been abolished by President Benigno Aquino 3rd in light of Commission on Audit report showing that at least P6 billion of PDAF funding was granted to fake beneficiaries—entitled each member of the House P70 million a year for the perusal of each lawmaker’s constituents. The discretion on who gets to benefit and which projects will be funded is on the lawmakers.

    “We [lawmakers]are not going to decide on which gets the funding to begin with. This will make sure that only those who spend the government funding judiciously will be the ones granted money,” Batocabe added.

    In abolishing the PDAF system, President Aquino has prohibited the lawmakers from earmarking state funding to: consumable soft projects (fertilizers, seeds, medicines, medical kits, dentures, funding for sports fests and training materials) and temporary infrastructure that includes dredging, desilting, regravelling, or asphalt-overlay projects. Likewise, the President banned nongovernment organizations and Government Owned and Controlled Corporations from securing funding from the state.

    Unlimited

    Also unlike the abolished PDAF system, the i-PACT scheme does not limit the funding that can be secured by a certain lawmaker for his/her particular project proposal.

    Acedillo, however, refused to engage in the thought that the absence of limit in funding the lawmakers’ proposed projects, as well as the dependence of the funding of their projects on the discretion of Cabinet secretaries, would breed political patronage and bribery much like the old PDAF system.

    “The national government will be the final arbiter on the limit for our project’s budget, should it be granted funding by government agencies. They can easily determine the limit because of the peculiar needs of every district or sector. Some need more attention than others. The important thing is that we don’t have the discretion on how much will be the funding this time,” Acedillo argued.

    “Besides, if a certain public official really has the propensity to take government coffers, they would always find a way to do that, regardless of the system,” Acedillo added.

    Batocabe agreed, saying that merit trumps limit on funding.

    “If it’s all for the good for the people, what is wrong with not setting a limit on funding?,” Batocabe said in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI

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