Lawmakers 'begging' from gov't agencies sans PDAF

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

MANILA -- House Majority Leader Neptali "Boyet" Gonzales II on Tuesday likened congressmen to "beggars" who are asking for help from government agencies following the scrapping of the pork barrel system wherein their districts are assured of P70 million each from the annual national budget.

Last month, the Supreme Court (SC) declared as unconstitutional the pork barrel system or the lawmakers' use of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF). Congressmen are allocated P70 million yearly while senators get a bigger share of P200 million each.

"I do suppose that our main task is to legislate but I'm sure they are also going around departments like beggars to see how they can help their districts," Gonzales said in a press conference.

"At the end of the day, the constituents don't expect the national government to answer all the concerns of the districts," he added.

Because the PDAF is used for soft (medical assistance and scholarships) and hard (infrastructure) projects, the House of Representatives scrapped the proposed P25-billion PDAF from the proposed 2014 budget and distributed the fund to six executive agencies whose main role is on education, social services, and infrastructure.

The funds went to the Departments of Education, Health, Social Welfare and Development, Labor and Employment, and Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Commission on Higher Education (Ched).

Gonzales said congressmen now will have no choice but to scramble over their district's share of the annual budget.

"You have to plan way, way ahead the 2015, 2016 budget so you can see which will be part and parcel of the NEP (National Expenditure Program) to be submitted to every agency of the government," he explained.

"Aside from being busy with legislative work, they're also busy with coordinating with agencies, begging that your districts be included (in the budgeting of agencies)," Gonzales added.

Gonzales said that their constituents will eventually look for the executive function of their district representatives.

"With the first-termers, their constituents will not ask them if they know how to speak English or if they have a 100-percent perfect attendance," he pointed out.

Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone said they have no choice but to adapt with the reality that they can no longer provide assistance to their constituents.

"We can really feel the impact (of the SC decision) but we can't do anything with that. That's the reality," Evardone said. (Sunnex)

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