MANILA, Philippines - Will the pork barrel scam stall his priority bills?
"Of course I'm concerned," Aquino told reporters on Wednesday, October 23 at the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines presidential forum. "The legislature will necessarily be distracted by all of these issues and we, in turn, need laws."
The scheme — which involves lawmakers working with alleged syndicate head Janet Lim Napoles to channel their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to her bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in exchange for hefty kickbacks — has captured headlines for months and has resulted in widespread public anger.
Aquino said the constant focus on the scam, which has implicated past and current lawmakers, and the ongoing investigations on the matter may delay laws he wants passed before he steps down in 2016.
"There are so many other laws that we need that will change certain systems, certain procedures that have outlived the re-usefulness. Now, a distracted Congress may not be able to sit down and discuss all of these matters thoroughly and if they are not able to discuss these matters and pass the necessary legislation then we continue with the damaging effects of these particulars laws in our economy," he said.
Since the scam broke out, the release of remaining 2013 PDAF has been suspended by the Supreme Court, halting projects of some lawmakers who were relying on funds from their respective pork barrel. The administration has also insisted it will abolish the pork barrel in 2014 as it has been known and make it more transparent.
So far, plunder charges have been filed against at least 38 people including lawmakers, their staff, government officials, and private individuals before the Ombudsman in relation to the scam.
The Department of Justice is preparing its second set of cases, expected to be filed before November 1.
Dealing with distractions
Aquino cited the charges filed against those accused of misusing their PDAF as one of the ways he is addressing the distraction, adding the sooner they fix the problem, the quicker they can get back to working.
"Hopefully, we will be able to correct the system and change the system to one that better addresses the needs of our people, and make it more efficient and less prone to abuse. Then hopefully, we can all now buckle down to the work that has to be done," he said.