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 livestreaming, saying that such move will enlighten the public on government spending.
Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento of Western Samar, Secretary-General of LP, made the statement a day after thousands of protesters stormed 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 pet projects of lawmakers.
“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 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 Re-straining 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 that the government gets from the payments of oil companies Caltex and Shell for extracting natural gas from Malampaya oil field in Palawan.
“Using government fund to uplift the socio-economic con-dition 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 against 38 public and private officials implicated in the pork barrel scam.
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 the latter stressing that PDAF is different from DAP.
“Livestreaming is good so that the public will 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,” 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 livestreaming having an effect since people who see PDAF as evil cannot be convinced,” he added.
Prior to its scrapping from the 2014 budget, the PDAF item used to grant P70 million and P200 million to House members and Senators, respectively, for the perusal of their constituents.