MANILA, Philippines – Members of the leftist Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives said on Sunday, August 4, that they will not avail of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that congressmen are entitled to.
In fact, they are pushing for its abolition.
“We will not access our own PDAF allocations as we fight for its abolition,” Makabayan said in a joint press statement that bore the names of party-list representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna), Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus (Gabriela), Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers), Fernando Hicap (Anakpawis), and Terry Ridon (Kabataan).
Zarate said the pork barrel fund has become a “tool of the elite-controlled executive department to influence, even control, an equally elite-dominated Congress.”
“In the guise of delivering projects and services, the pork barrel system is, in reality, a deadly scourge of our people, the poor majority, particularly,” he said.
The Makabayan statement condemning the PDAF anomaly came on the day a report named several members of the bloc also received their allocations beginning in 2011 when President Benigno Aquino III was already president.
The Makabayan bloc were denied their PDAF during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for whose impeachment and ouster they pushed.
There has been renewed interest in how solons allocate their pork barrel after affidavits by whistleblowers and Commission on Audit reports showed how the PDAF of some senators and congressmen found their way to dubious non-governmental organizations. Allegedly, the lawmakers chose the NGOs in exchange for getting kickbacks.
Named mastermind of a syndicate operating some of the questionable NGOs is Janet Lim-Napoles, owner of JLN Corporation.
Makabayan said it will instead “press for the rechanneling of Congress’ and the President’s pork barrel to finance the building and operations of more public schools, public hospitals and low-cost houses for the poor.”
Makabayan also criticized President Aquino for issuing a statement the he is for the retention of the controversial pork barrel fund.
“President Aquino’s pro-pork barrel stand utterly robs his vaunted anti-corruption campaign of any credibility,” they said.
They added that the Daang Matuwid slogan of the administration is now “exposed as a sham,” with the President apparently ignoring the call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines to abolish the said fund.
“President Aquino’s pro-pork barrel stand utterly robs his vaunted anti-corruption campaign of any credibility. Daang Matuwid will be exposed as a sham. How can he reconcile Daang Matuwid with the system that has spawned what could prove to be one of the largest, longest-running corruption rackets in our history?” the Makabayan bloc said.
Aquino’s party mate, Marikina Rep Romero Quimbo, said, “I respect their position on the matter and in fact laud them.”
However, he pointed out: I’ve always believed that their position on abolition was inconsistent with the fact that they continued to use their PDAF.”
Another Liberal Party official defended the PDAF, saying there is a need to just put safeguards against abuse. “Safeguards are needed because we cannot allow our constituents, especially those in poor districts likein my area to suffer just because we want to be popular. Myconstituents depend on pork barrel for medical assistance, scholarshipprogram and other basic needs,” LP secretary general and Western Samar Rep Mel Senen Sarmiento added.
Lawmakers opposed to the abolition of the pork barrel have earlier argued that the PDAF is an “equalizer” in the implementation of projects in their districts.
The House minority bloc intends to probe the misuse of pork barrel funds in relation to the scam. – Rappler.com