At least 4 senators want their PDAF deleted in budget
MANILA, Philippines – At least 4 senators formally asked for the deletion of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from the 2014 budget.
Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Grace Poe echoed the stand of Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Francis Escudero favoring the removal of their PDAF from the budget.
Pimentel and Poe released on Friday, November 8, their letters to Escudero which sought the removal of their PDAF allocation ahead of the November 11 deadline set for senators to state their position.
The 4 senators said the P200 million allotted to each of them must be deducted from the 2014 budget of P2.268 trillion, instead of being realigned to 4 government agencies, the position taken by the House of Representatives.
Poe wrote the finance chairman, “May I formally advise you of my decision to submit and recommend an amendment to the [House budget bill] to be reflected in the appropriate Committee Report to effect the deletion of the entire aggregate amount of P200 million of proposed/programmed allocation for my office.”
Pimentel wrote a similar letter.
“I am also not interested and hence not availing of any PDAF for the year 2014. For this reason, I respectfully request that the amount of P200 million allocated as my PDAF be removed and deducted from the 2014 budget.”
Senators have agreed to take an individual position on the abolition of the PDAF. Escudero’s committee will come out with a report based on the views submitted, and present this to the plenary when session resumes on November 18.
In a press statement on Friday, Escudero said 8 senators, including himself and Drilon, already submitted letters to his committee. Yet his staff said he will only release the list once it is completed next week. Instead, Escudero has encouraged senators to make their own positions public.
Escudero said the individual positions of the senators will be turned into an amendment to the House version of the budget.
“During the caucus, I told my colleagues that if they don’t submit their position, I will retain their PDAF allocation in the original proposal of Congress, which is to realign the PDAF into the lump sum items for 4 government agencies.”
Escudero said the 4 agencies are the Department of Energy, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Labor and Employment, and the Commission on Higher Education.
Calls for the abolition of the PDAF snowballed after the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam was exposed. In the scam, lawmakers allegedly channeled their PDAF to fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks amounting to 50% of the cost of the ghost project.
‘Abolition is total removal of PDAF’
Escudero has said that part of the problem is that there are many definitions of the abolition of the pork barrel.
“Abolition to me is really removing or subtracting the allocation from the national budget. This is why I filed a resolution to get the Senate sense in scrapping the PDAF,” Escudero said.
“If we seek the abolition of the PDAF and subtract it from the budget, you will hear people saying they should just have given it to Bohol [quake victims] instead of removing it from the budget. Those who want to realign their PDAF still have control of it. They will say it is not a lump sum. So each has an explanation, position, and voice,” Escudero said in Filipino.
In response to outrage over the scam, President Benigno Aquino III announced in August that his administration was abolishing the PDAF but his proposal turned out to be an overhaul of the pork barrel system supposedly to be more transparent.
Protesters have also called for the abolition of the President’s Social Fund (PSF), calling it the presidential pork. The PSF remains intact in the House budget, and Aquino defended its retention in a primetime address last week.
It remains unclear how proposals for the retention of the PDAF in the 2014 budget will be affected by a Supreme Court ruling on petitions questioning the PDAF’s constitutionality.
The High Court is set to rule this month on the legality of the PDAF, which petitioners said was unconstitutional because it violated the principles of separation of powers, and checks and balances.
The Court issued a temporary restraining order on the release of the remaining PDAF for 2013. – Rappler.com