Chiz: Calls to scrap presidential pork 'diversionary tactics'
MANILA, Philippines – One battle at a time.
Sen Francis "Chiz" Escudero, the first senator who pushed for the abolition of the pork barrel system, on Sunday, August 25, said calls to abolish President Benigno Aquino III's discretionary funds were diversionary tactics to draw attention away from the scam involving lawmakers' funds.
Instead, Escudero, in an interview on radio dzBB, called on the public to focus on pushing for the abolition of the Congress' pork barrel first, before moving to other special purpose funds.
"Kailangan din tingnan 'yan pero [iyan ay] panglansi at panligaw sa pinaguusapan na issue ng pork barrel," he said. (We also need to scrutinize that, but that is a diversionary tactic against the issue on pork barrel.)
This was in reaction to calls made by former National Treasurer Leonen Briones, Social Watch Philippines lead convenor, for the public to also scrutinize the President's 'pork barrel.'
Social Watch earlier noted that the President's special purpose funds composes 22% of the proposed P1.4 trillion budget for 2014 while the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel only comprises 8% of the budget.
"Alalahanin natin, walang anomalya, walang misuse o alegasyon ng misuse sa parte ng Pangulo. Bakit nila pinagdidiskitahan 'yon? Dito sa pork barrel ng mambabatas, may alegasyon ng misuse at scam kaya ito ang i-aabolish natin," Escudero said. (Let us remember that there are no anomalies, misuse, or allegation of misuse on the part of the President, so why are they harping on it? In the case of the pork barrel of lawmakers, there are allegations of misuse and the scam so we have to abolish it)
A recent Commission on Audit (COA) report found at least P6.1 billion of lawmakers' funds from 2007 to 2009 were channeled to bogus nongovernment organizations.
Among the reforms to be introduced would be to require lawmakers to include their proposed projects to be funded as line items in the annual budget.
On whether such a scheme could also be implemented for the President's discretionary funds, Escudero acknowledged what Aquino had earlier pointed out – it would be difficult for amounts such as the calamity fund to be itemized.
"Papaano i-la-line item ang calamity fund ng Pangulo, hindi niya alam kung ano ang masisira. Paano ila-line-item ang contingency fund, pandagdag 'yup kung saka-sakali na may mga masisisira. Halimbawa kung may mangyaring sakuna hindi natin ma-fo-foresee 'yon. Ito ang flexibility na kailangang manatiling ibigay natin sa administration, sa gobyerno kaugnay ng mga maaring mangyari na hindi puwedeng malaman ng mambabatas ng ganitong kaaga pa lamang para sa 2014," Escudero said.
(How can we put the President's Calamity Fund as a line item on the budget? How can we put the Contingency Fund, which is used to augment funds for destroyed [infrastructure], as a line item? We cannot foresee calamities. That is the flexibility that must remain with our administration, the government)," Escudero said. - Rappler.com