• President still mum on pork barrel: Malacañang

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    President Benigno Aquino 3rd has not revealed his stand on retaining or scrapping the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the pork barrel of lawmakers.
    In a radio interview, Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said this was the impression she got the last time she discussed the matter with the President.
    The President had indicated he was not in favor of scrapping the pork barrel, but that was before the Commission on Audit (COA) found that at least 12 senators and 180 congressmen earmarked P6-billion of their PDAF to 82 questionable NGOs, including those allegedly formed by Janet Napoles, from 2007 to 2009.
    “Perhaps this is something that we can discuss with the President. We haven’t had the opportunity to discuss it with him again in light of the recent findings of the COA and maybe it’s something that we can raise with him,” Valte said.
    The President earlier ruled out the abolition of the pork barrel system, saying it was meant as a way to help those most in need.
    Asked if the audit had focused mainly on the opposition, Valte said, “Let’s go through the entire report. We go where the evidence will take us. So that is very clear for us at that juncture.”
    “The bulk of releases that have been given, some of them have very minimal involvement of the NGOs. If you look at the list of releases that is up on the DBM website, the implementing agencies are
    mostly agencies of the national government,” Valte said.
    She promised stricter accreditation and monitoring of NGOs to prevent another pork barrel scandal.
    The Department of Social Welfare and Development, she said, will “make sure really that these NGOs do the work that they represent themselves to be involved in.”
    The Department of Agriculture likewise “will be tightening their policies on releasing funds to NGOs as identified by legislators,” Valte added.
    Meanwhile, she said it was up to the Office of the Ombudsman to take any action on the COA findings.
    “We will defer to the Ombudsman, to the independent constitutional commission that it is, because we do not also want to be accused of pressuring any independent agency into acting a certain a way,” she
    said.
    CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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