THERE seems to be an effort to “demonize” the priority assistance development fund (PDAF) allotted to the members of the congress in a bid to convince lawmakers to let go of it and just allow the executive to have full control over it.
Senator Vicente Sotto 3rd said that based on what is happening at present there is reason to believe that there might be some attempts of some sectors to force congress to support a move to abolish the pork barrel system.
“I’m starting to suspect that there is such an agenda,” Sotto said in a text message sent to the Manila Times.
Sotto was recently tagged in an article published by a major daily of allegedly using a portion of his PDAF for the procurement of garbage deodorizer as part of an anti-dengue project of the Municipality of Teresa. The report claimed that the funds were released even without a request coming from the officials of the municipality.
The senator however denied the allegation and even present copies of the request letters from the chief executive of Teresa asking for financial assistance to be used for their anti-dengue drive.
Sotto said he is wondering why the issue was flaunted in the front page of a newspaper even though it is clear that there was no irregularity in the said transaction.
He added that he already has an idea on who could be behind the campaign but he is still in the process of verifying it.
So far Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Gregorio Honasan 2nd, Ramon Revilla Jr., Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Lito Lapid and Sotto have been implicated in the supposed PDAF irregularity and they all expressed their willingness to be investigated.
The controversy also prompted lawmakers and most recently the Catholic Church to call for the abolition of the pork barrel system since it has become a source of corruption.
Although some lawmakers find nothing wrong with the removal of the PDAF, there are others who would rather have the system improved to prevent it from being subjected to abuse or irregularities.
For Senator Francis Escudero the PDAF is important especially to local representatives because they can use it to fund programs that will benefit their constituents.
“It is a great equalizer because on top of national government funds, there is an assurance that every district has P70 million funds that can be used for more projects,” Escudeo explained.
He added that It is also unreasonable to call for the abolition of PDAF on the notion that it is a source of corruption, because if that is the case congress should also remove some items in the budget because they too are prone to corruption.
“I think they are barking up on the wrong three, what we need it to polish the system and not remove it entirely,” Escudero noted.
The lawmaker said that improvement could start with the deliberation of the 2014 national budget recently submitted by Malacanang.
He said the proposed 2014 budget is one of the most detailed budgets in years wherein everything had been itemized and unbundled. But Escudero assured that the chamber will still come up with some amendment particularly on the budget menu.
Some members of the senate are also not in favor of the suggestion to disallow nongovernmental organizations (NGO) from getting PDAF as they insisted that there are more NGOs that are really serving honestly.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito said that is may not be reasonable to deprive NGOs banning NGO of such assistance, especially those that are really working for the poor, children, environment.
“The issue here is the bogus NGOs which do not have really a purpose but profit. This type of NGOs does not deserve assistance and funding from the government” Ejercito insisted.
Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino 4th said that it is unfair to stop giving funds to all NGOs just because of some people who took advantage of the system.
Aquino said NGOs are partners of the government in helping those sectors that are in need and most of the organizations are sincere with their advocacy and should not be punished.
He noted that congress should continue helping legitimate NGOs while working on going after unscrupulous ones.