A high ranking official of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), headed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd, has welcomed the unprecedented Supreme Court decision of putting the oral arguments on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) on live streaming, saying that such move will enlighten the public on government spending.
Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar province, LP secretary general, made the statement just a day after thousands of protesters stormed the Ayala Avenue to call for the scrapping of PDAF and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) mechanism which allows the President to realign savings to fund social services initiatives, including those pet projects of lawmakers.
“On such a contentious issue, I feel this is a welcome development, for or against [PDAF], for everyone to be heard. In any institution or organization, funding is the key to its success in achieving whatever their goals are. The fund is not the culprit. It’s the human greed,” Sarmiento said in a text message.
The oral arguments on PDAF, a discretionary fund of lawmakers, stemmed from the High Court’s issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the release of the remaining P14 billion PDAF allocation under the 2013 budget. The same TRO also covered the release of the Malampaya fund, an allocation which the government gets from the payments of oil companies Caltex and Shell for extracting natural gas in Malampaya oil field in Palawan province.
“Using government fund to uplift the socio-economic condition of our people is moral,” Sarmiento added.
The House of Representatives already scrapped the P25 billion PDAF allocation under the P2.268 trillion proposed budget for 2014 in light of the government probe and the filing of charges vs. 38 public and private officials in connection with the P10 billion PDAF scam that benefited fake entities ran by Janet Napoles.
Among high-ranking officials charged with plunder over the P10 billion PDAF mess are Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. and. Juan Ponce Enrile.
Sarmiento also got the support of Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, with Valte stressing that PDAF is different from DAP.
“The live streaming will be good so that the public would be properly informed. We won’t agree that PDAF is one and the same with DAP. DAP has earmarked funding for sitio electrification as well as building day care centers and shelters for the homeless in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. We will continue with our information drive on DAP,” Valte said in a separate radio interview.
But for Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list, the PDAF has long been unfairly demonized that it is already beyond redemption.
“I don’t see the live streaming having an effect since people who see PDAF as evil have closed their minds already that no amount of convincing can change their minds,” Batocabe added in closing.
Prior to its scrapping in the 2014 budget, the PDAF item used to grant P70 million and P200 million for House members and Senators, respectively, for the perusal of their constituents. LLANESCA T. PANTI