The House of Representatives is set to scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for good by removing congressional discretion on allocating the said government fund.
Reps. Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmariñas and Dan Fernandez of Laguna province made the announcement in light of the lingering public outrage over the alleged misuse of P10 billion worth of PDAF under probe of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
“We [in the Majority bloc]have agreed to abolish the PDAF under the 2014 budget. Instead, it will be up for the concerned government agencies to help our [respective]constituents, especially their health and education needs,” Barzaga said during the Ugnayan sa Batasan news forum.
Barzaga, a member of the National Union Party (NUP) which is part of the Majority bloc in the House of Representatives, was alluding to the Department of Social Welfare and Development, government hospitals, Commission on Higher Education, among others, who are frequent recipients of the lawmakers’ PDAF for the perusal of the legislators’ constituents.
Prior to the expose on the alleged P10 billion PDAF scam which benefited nongovernment agencies ran by Napoles, each House member is entitled to P70 million PDAF every year for the perusal of their constituents. Under such setup, the lawmakers have the discretion on who gets to benefit or which projects need funding from their PDAF allocation.
“The decision has been agreed upon by the House leaders yesterday afternoon. We have to make the sacrifice. We lawmakers are not thick-faced. We have to listen to the clamor of our people. The discretion [on the beneficiaries]is already on the government agencies,” Fernandez, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), added.
Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar province, Fernandez’s fellow LP member, confirmed that the Majority bloc’s stance of abolishing the PDAF and the congressional discretion on such allocation will be made in an official statement in a few days.
The P10 billion alleged PDAF mess has already resulted in Million People March rally last August 26 wherein around 400,000 people called for PDAF abolition. This will have a sequel on September 11 titled “EDSA Tayo”, to be held in the historic Edsa Shrine.
The lawmakers, however, admitted that there is no guarantee that their respective constituents will be afforded aid by the government agencies without the congressional discretion they used to have.
“There is really no guarantee under that system. What we can do is to appeal to the government agencies to look at the situation of our people and provide them assistance,” Barzaga conceded.
“I have been saying all along that there is bad PDAF and good PDAF. There is really no guarantee since we don’t have discretion anymore. The solution is that government agencies, including those who are calling for the PDAF abolition, should also consider the situation of those seeking assistance,” Fernandez added.
But Rep. Albee Benitez of Negros Occidental province, also from the ruling LP, stressed that the government agencies should be able to take on the challenge of catering to the needs of the legislative districts and sectors because the final call on how PDAF is spent has long been the state agencies’ responsibility.
“Remember, the legislature is only recommends [projects and beneficiaries]in nature. PDAF has become the symbol of corruption and so the people want it removed. But if you take a closer look, what they are clamoring for is really the eradication of corruption. Eradicating corruption means we need to reform our institutions,” Benitez said in a separate interview.
Opposition lawmaker and Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte province, for his part, welcomed the decision of the House Majority bloc that bolstered his Resolution calling for PDAF abolition that he filed a week ago.
“We are just being sensitive to the public opinion and siding on transparency and good governance,” Romualdez, nephew of former first Lady Imelda Marcos, said in a separate statement. LLANESCA T. PANTI