THE Senate will use all options available to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) since it is the only way for Congress to win back the people’s trust, according to Senate President Franklin Drilon.
“Under my watch as Senate President, reforms will start with the immediate abolition of PDAF allocation for senators in the proposed 2014 national budget,” Drilon said.
He said the chamber will explore all options available to do away with the pork barrel, which has been awash in controversy following revelations that billions of pesos of PDAF were funneled to sham non-government agencies.
Drilon said that even if the Supreme Court declares the PDAF unconstitutional, Congress may still exercise its option to totally delete the PDAF allotment in the General Appropriations Act.
The House of Representatives is expected to pass the proposed 2014 budget at the end of the month.
“There is no turning back as far as the pork barrel system is concerned. We have to institute these reforms in order to regain our people’s trust and confidence,” Drilon said.
He said the Senate will also give priority to the freedom of information (FOI) bill during the remaining 21 session days of Congress for this year.
Debates on the FOI bill will be prioritized and the Senate leadership expects to pass it on third and final reading by the end of 2013.
The Senate Committee on Public Information headed by Sen. Grace Poe sponsored the bill last month, and the Senate will begin interpellation and amendments when session resumes today.
Poe said the measure complements the strong public clamor for transparency, accountability, and the safeguarding of public funds.
“FOI will not only prevent graft and corruption but more importantly, our citizens will learn to get involved and participate and thus will become true stakeholders in their government. This is the true essence of democracy,” she said.
The bill seeks to adopt and implement a policy of full public disclosure of all government transactions. Once approved, the public can access any record or information that is under the control of the government, except for information that concerns national security.
The Senate will also push the rationalization of fiscal incentives bill, which seeks to remove incentives granted to businesses and investors such as excessive or unnecessary tax breaks.
The Finance department estimates that the bill can generate up to P10 billion in additional revenues.
There are around 186 laws that provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives and subsidies to foreign and domestic investors.
“We will reassess and harmonize these laws to avoid redundant and overlapping incentives to cut unnecessary revenue loss,” Drilon said.