DESPITE claims by Malacanang that pork barrel funds no longer exist, some lawmakers maintained that the scheme continues through the allotment of lump sums and inclusion of “vague items” in the proposed national budget for next year.
“Pork barrel is indeed alive and kicking. From the initial deliberations on the 2015 national budget, we have seen how the Aquino administration is once again attempting to legislate a budget ridden with lump sums and vague items. There is truly a need to pass a law that will slay the monstrous pork barrel once and for all,” Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list said.
He explained that the existence of pork barrel system is the reason why his group fully supports the passage of a bill that will junk the controversial scheme through a so-called People’s Initiative.
Ridon said his group will mobilize its 90,000 members nationwide to help gather signatures for the campaign.
Republic Act 6735 allows registered voters to directly propose a bill under what is called a “People’s Initiative.”
The Initiative and Referendum Law requires the bill to be endorsed by at least 10 percent of the total number of registered voters nationwide. The 10 percent should include at least 3 percent of voters in each legislative district.
The Philippines has about 50 million registered voters.
“Through this united effort of citizens, the Church, and several cause-oriented groups, we will be able to show the Aquino administration what the people are truly clamoring for. Attaining the required number of signatures may prove to be a daunting task, but the youth and the people [are]up [to]the challenge,” Ridon said in a statement.
He added that the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives decided to back a People’s Initiative because a measure they filed in July 2013, which seeks to dismantle the pork barrel system, is yet to be calendared for committee deliberation.
“This is a unique approach that will truly show the Aquino administration how wide the clamor for change is. We in Makabayan are one with the nation in passing this bill through a direct sovereign act of the people,” Ridon said.
Under the law, a referendum or initiative affecting a law, resolution or ordinance passed by the legislative assembly of an autonomous region, province or city is deemed validly initiated if the petition is signed by at least 10 percent of the registered voters in the province or city, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three percent of registered voters there.
Rep. Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list said his group fully supports the signature campaign against the pork barrel.
“Any and all lump sum and discretionary fund is always subject to abuse and prone to corruption,” Tugna noted in a text message.
Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares has confirmed that his party will “definitely participate” in the campaign.
“The message to Malacañang is clear, the Filipino people want the pork barrel system to be abolished and we are taking it upon ourselves to abolish it,” he said in a text message.
For Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan, the signature campaign is a sign that the people have had enough.
Ilagan also explained that the People’s Initiative against pork barrel is a stronger and “more ascendant” expression of their will to stop corruption.
“Since Aquino is stubbornly clinging to his presidential pork and still inserting it in the budget, an enraged nation will take the highest legislative act, a people’s initiative bill to stop the dictatorial tendency of Aquino,” she said in a text message.
The People’s Initiative Movement aims to gather six million signatures by January 31, 2015.
Colmenares challenged President Benigno Aquino 3rd to support their signature campaign but Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda downplayed the call, saying supporters of the signature campaign should clarify their definition of “pork barrel.”
Lacierda said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad “has repeatedly explained the budget and the reform principles behind it.”
The Supreme Court, in its decision last year striking down the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional, defined “pork barrel” as “lump-sum, discretionary funds of members of the legislature.”
“Let’s wait for the process to take its course,” the Palace official told reporters.
During a recent budget briefing in Congress, Abad told lawmakers that lump sums that are not disaggregated or itemized in the 2015 budget amount to P48.1 billion.
This includes the calamity fund worth P14 billion, contingent fund, P2 billion, rehabilitation and reconstruction program, P1 billion, and allocations to local government units, P33 billion.
Other special purpose funds in the budget include Budgetary Support to Government Corporations, P170 million, E-Government Fund, P1 billion, International Commitments Fund, P7.4 billion, Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund, P118 billion, and Pension and Gratuity Fund, P140.5 billion.