ARE they having second thoughts?
According to a tally made by Senate President Franklin Drilon, there are at least 17 senators who are in favor of scrapping the P200 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allotted annually to the all members of the Senate, but as of November 8, only four senators have made their intent official.
Based on the copies of the letters obtained by the media, it was learned that only Senators Francis Escudero, Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, Grace Poe, and Vicente Sotto 3rd submitted their respective letters informing the Senate finance committee that they want their respective pork barrel allocation deducted from the P2.268 trillion 2014 budget.
Escudero, who chairs the Senate finance committee, has notified the panel that he will forego his P200 million PDAF allocation and asked that the entire amount be deducted from next year’s total budget of P2.268 trillion.
It was Escudero who called for the total abolition of the PDAF through Senate Resolution 193 and according to him Congress should limit itself to the enactment of the national budget but added that he cannot decide for his colleagues on this matter.
For Escudero abolition of pork means totally removing or subtracting the allocation from the national budget.
In a letter to Escudero, Pimentel recommended an amendment to House Bill 2630 or the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA) bill deleting P200 million of programmed allocation to his office under PDAF.
He also wants the amount also be deducted from the total budget that will be submitted for final approval of the Senate.
Pimentel’s letter was in response to the request of the finance committee for the senators to submit by November 11, letters indicating how they intent to use their respective PDAF allocations.
The move is part of the Senate’s response to the public demand to scrap pork following the discovery of the P10 billion PDAF controversy wherein lawmakers reportedly getting “kickbacks” from pork barrel funds transferred to bogus non-governmental organizations.
In a separate letter Poe also informed Escudero she is recommending that her P200 million PDAF allocation be deleted and deducted from the 2014 GAA.
But even before Senate went on a caucus to discuss their options on PDAF, Sotto as early as September sent a letter to Senate President Franklin Drilon informing the latter that he is forgoing his pork barrel allocation for this year and succeeding years.
“My decision is intended to forestall any further controversy that may arise in the use of the PDAF, particularly that it is a vehicle for corruption and that it is used to fund ‘ghost’ projects,” Sotto said in his recent privilege speech.
Sotto had wanted his remaining PDAF allocation for 2013 allocated to all specialty and some regional hospitals of the government and to the University of the Philippines and other state colleges and universities.
But the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court against the further release of PDAF for 2013 prevented Sotto from doing so.
The Senate has yet to decide what to do with its P4.8 billion PDAF—P200 million for each senator.
In an interview after the caucus last month, Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano admitted that senators divided over PDAF, some pushing for its abolition, and others proposing PDAF’s realignment to the government calamity fund.
Cayetano said he would rather transfer the Senate PDAF to the calamity fund of the government instead of totally deleting it from the national budget.
The six-member Senate minority bloc is expected to vote for the total abolition of pork from the budget.
The Senate minority is composed of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, minority leader; Jinggoy Estrada, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Nancy Binay, Greogorio Honasan and Sotto.