MANILA, Philippines – Their pork barrel will, in effect, be less.
In 2014, what used to be a P40-million allocation for each congressman that could be spent on infrastructure projects practically any way they wanted will decrease to P24.5 million.
And the parameters for allocating the smaller amount will be stricter.
This is what the House of Representatives and the Department of Public Works and Highways agreed on in the light of the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from next year’s budget, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said Tuesday, September 24.
The PDAF has been the subject of investigation by the justice department, the Ombudsman, and the Senate blue ribbon committee. This was after an elaborate scheme to pocket the funds, allegedly done by syndicates in collusion with lawmakers, was exposed.
Before public outrage on the pork barrel scam forced lawmakers to abolish the PDAF, each member of the House used to have P70 million worth of discretionary funds. The amount was divided into P30 million “soft projects” such as scholarships and healthcare, and P40 million for “hard projects” or infrastructure.
Starting 2014, the following guidelines in congressmen’s infrastructure projects will be observed:
- Each solon may propose between 3 and 5 projects, subject to DPWH’s approval
- The total amount of a solon’s approved projects should not exceed P24.5 million
- Each project should be worth at least P2 million
- Projects will go through public bidding
- Projects should be completed within the budget year
Congressmen may start submitting their lists of preferred infrastructure projects to the House committee on appropriations this week and may continue to do so even as Congress goes on a break from September 28 to October 13.
While projects under the PDAF did not have to be included in the annual budget before, each solons’ list of projects will be included this time as an annex to the DPWH budget for 2014, Belmonte said.
Political alliances were known to influence the allocation of pork barrel. In the past, vocal opponents of the administration received zero PDAF allocations for a given year.
How will opposition lawmakers be assured that their proposed projects will be included in the DPWH budget?
“Nobody has any assurance of anything,” Belmonte said. “I am the leader here, so I want to make sure everything is run equitably.”
Passed without questions
When the DPWH budget was presented to the plenary on Monday, the House of Representatives approved it without asking any questions on the floor.
Belmonte said he himself was “amazed” that even known critics of the budget did not stand up to ask questions.
“The reason it was speedily passed is also partly because Singson has been doing his homework and already responding to questions even before he could take his place here. He was already here earlier and he took the opportunity to discuss things with the legislators,” Belmonte said.
The House of Representatives earlier arrived at a consensus to distribute to 6 line agencies their P25.2 billion PDAF for 2014 that had been included in the proposed budget before the controversy on the misuse of the fund broke.
READ: Scholars, patients? DepEd, DOH get least of realigned PDAF
Of the re-aligned PDAF, 35% or P8.2 billion – the biggest proportion among all the departments that received additional funds – will go to DPWH. – Rappler.com
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