Senators react to #MillionPeopleMarch

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At least 8 senators acknowledge the legitimacy of the protesters’ call to abolish the PDAF


LUNETA CROWD. Protesters in Manila calling for the abolition of lawmakers' discretionary fund. Photo by Dennis Sabangan, EPA

MANILA, Philippines – They stayed out of the Luneta rally – even out of social media – but senators issued statements as tens of thousands gathered for the #MillionPeopleMarch on Monday, August 26.

At least 8 senators acknowledged the legitimacy of the protesters’ call to abolish lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.

Some of these senators vowed not to avail themselves of the pork barrel, while the others indicated they wanted it to be reformed and utilized in a more transparent way.

But they offered more – proposed laws, prosecution of those who misused the fund, and a comprehensive audit of discretionary allotments for all government officials in the last 26 years.

Sen Ferdinand Marcos Jr said he was “one with the people” in seeking the abolition the PDAF. He said an audit should be made of all discretionary funds from 1986 to 2012, and not only of lawmakers but of all government officials.

Jail the corrupt

Sen Grace Poe said in a text message to reporters: “I am one with them in spirit. It has always been my position that those who stole from our government should be held accountable.”

She vowed to push for the passage of a “true” Freedom of Information (FOI) bill that will allow the public access to state documents.

Sen Antonio Trillanes IV reminded the public that “PDAF or no PDAF, the real issue here is corruption.”

“We should start making the corrupt people accountable by charging them in court,” Trillanes said.

Won’t use their ‘pork’

Sen Loren Legarda maintained her position for a “total abolition of pork barrel under any name” and that she would not use the PDAF until the end of her term in 2019.

Assistant Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the pork barrel system was no longer his “concern” since he would not avail himself of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) “no matter what they call it” in the next General Appropriations Act.

Change the system

Sen Juan Edgardo Angara said the protest rally “can be a chance for our democracy to move forward and develop better institutional safeguards for public funds.”

“Leaders and officials should take heed of the wind of change and realize that the old ways have not worked. The old system which had lax safeguards against misuse must be replaced with more specific and limited projects, because everyone knows this money can be put to better use,” he said.

Sen Paolo Benigno Aquino IV proposed the creation of a “People’s Fund” mechanism, where taxpayers can choose to allocate 5% of his income tax to an accredited charity or civil society organization, a national or local priority government project, or a legitimate political party.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said in an interview with DZMM that one change that can be adopted is to leave it to the government agencies, and not the lawmakers, to identify the implementer of the projects funded by their pork barrel.

Drilon expressed dismay that since reports on PDAF misuse came out, there has been a blanket accusation of corruption against all lawmakers. – 

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