MANILA, Philippines (Updated) – What about our scholars? What about our constituents’ hospital bills?
Because there are services that cannot be immediately abolished, congressmen will file a resolution appealing to government agencies to continue lawmakers’ livelihood, education, and healthcare projects in their respective districts.
The resolution is a product of the compromise reached by House leaders on Monday, September 2, when they arrived at a consensus to remove the P25.2 billion lump sum Priority Development Assistance Fund from the 2014 budget.
Hours after the Liberal Party held a caucus announcing the party’s decision to support the abolition of PDAF on Monday, the majority bloc called a meeting among about 10 House leaders to discuss what the chamber will do about the lump sum discretionary fund.
Cavite Rep Elpidio Barzaga, vice president of the National Unity Party who was present at the afternoon meeting, said a resolution was presented to House leaders stating categorically that the P25.2-billion allocation intended for PDAF will be removed from the 2014 budget.
To address lawmakers’ concerns on how to fund their existing projects, the resolution also contains a paragraph stating an appeal from lawmakers to government agencies – such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education, and the Department of Health – to support the projects they have started in their respective districts, especially for scholarships and free healthcare.
As to what kind of support this would be, the 3-paragraph resolution did not explain, Barzaga said.
“There is no guarantee, as a matter of fact, in our resolution. We are just appealing,” Barzaga said in a press conference on Tuesday, September 3. “We are appealing to agencies of the government to please look into our needs, those who need help.”
The resolution is now being passed around for signatures.
The move came a week after a social media-led protest known as the Million People March, which brought together people calling for the abolition of PDAF, was held at Luneta Park.
President Benigno earlier announced he was abolishing PDAF and installing stricter measures on lawmakers’ funds in response to public clamor to scrap the pork barrel, which gained traction following exposés on the misuse of billions of lawmakers’ discretionary funds.
One of the announced reforms was to include lawmakers’ projects as line items in the budget. Eastern Samar Rep and Liberal Party stalwart Ben Evardone however said earlier there was not enough time to do this for 2014 – lawmakers want to pass the budget on time to avoid re-enacting the 2013 budget, which still includes PDAF allocations.
How will the system work?
Barzaga admitted details are still hazy as to how this proposed system would work, and lawmakers can only suggest a system if and when government agencies in fact indicate that the they are open to the proposal.
But Barzaga said it was clear from the resolution that the P25.2 billion amount would not be re-aligned to other agencies.
“Once our appeal is granted, then that’s the time when the leadership would be proposing, without legislators touching on the amount because as what we have stated, it is categorical, shall be removed, there will be no line items, there will be no soft projects in so far as the legislators are concerned,” Barzaga said.
Laguna Rep Danilo Fernandez appealed to the public to “be more considerate” about the PDAF.
“They based [their calls to abolish the PDAF] on allegations that lawmakers are stealing the funds, but they didn’t see how this would affect the aspects of education, healthcare in our districts,” Fernandez said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“We know people are saying that’s not part of our job, we should just be creating laws. But we also have our parochial concern that we are representing our people. We hope we can prioritize this for now because our constituents have needs that can’t just be cut,” Fernandez added.
Budget deliberations at the committee level are ongoing in both chambers of Congress. – Rappler.com
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