Oro folks to march for anti-pork barrel-A A +A
By Bobby Lagsa
Saturday, August 24, 2013
ONE with the public outrage to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the pork barrel, Cagayan de Oro folks will be joining the nationwide march to scrap it at Gaston Park on August 26.
The PDAF is an annual fund amounting to some P70 million given to each of the 289 congressmen for them to spend on their identified and targeted projects.
The senators, for their part, each gets P200 million of PDAF, a whopping 1.2 billion pesos in their gig as lawmakers of the country.
The government is allocating P25.2 billion for the PDAF distributed to both the Lower House and the Senate.
Sixty percent of the pork barrel is spent on soft projects such as Philhealth and fertilizer fund, which is susceptible to loss of check and balance.
The PDAF was initiated in 1990 under President Corazon Aquino, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s mother.
The pork barrel scandal that rocked the nation in 1997 and now in 2013 is still the same story -- with congressmen, senators and government officials involved in a ring of crime that involves people’s taxes.
The country came off reeling from the 10-billion pesos pork barrel scam of Janet Lim-Napoles who allegedly used bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) to siphon off people’s money in the guise of government projects that did not exist.
Deeply rooted corruption
Civic leader Tito Mora opined that corruption in the country is so deeply rooted from the culture of not wanting to touch sensitivities and that each is accountable for not demanding accountability from elected and public officials.
He said that the movement against pork barrel is just a start in the country’s quest to root out corruption.
Mora doesn’t favor the pork barrel as it has become a source of massive corruption.
“Checks and balances are absent in our governance, we need check and balance, just like in our own houses, we have to ensure that check and balance is observed,” Mora said.
The national movement on Monday calling for the abolition of the pork barrel will be attended by members of the multi-sectoral groups and civil society organizations and individuals across the country.
Mora also added that there are no speakers during the event but said that pocket discussions will be initiated to let the public know about the movement.
The anti-pork barrel movement is patterned after the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York which has no leadership structure and no speakers.
The movement will give people the avenue to freely express their opinions and thoughts on the pork barrel system.
People are also encouraged to bring their own placards though banners are discouraged.
Maria Irene Aserios, a blogger, said on her Facebook page that the government should spend government’s money to look for Janet Lim-Napoles.
Over the last few weeks, social media is on fire taking their shots against the Napoles family.
The flame was fanned anew when a video of Napoles’s daughter's, Jean Napoles, lavish 21st birthday in posh Beverly Hills in California, U.S.
'Time to abolish PDAF'
On Friday afternoon, Aquino announced on television that: “It’s time to abolish PDAF.”
Aquino said that PDAF was established for a worthy goal: to enable your representatives to identify projects for your communities that your LGU cannot afford.
“There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this policy. But what is wrong—indeed, what has outraged our people—was the collusion among a former president ready to trade favors just to remain in power, legislators, and members of the bureaucracy who were willing to conspire, enabled by a passive and indifferent citizenry. All these factors put together make PDAF prone to abuse. We need to make sure the system can no longer be abused,” Aquino said.
Aquino added that the government will do two things for the pork barrel system.
Aquino said that the first thing to do is to exact accountability from those who have abused the system.
Second is to find a better way to ensure that the public coffers will be spent with only the public’s benefit in mind.
The first goal is to outline the efforts of the government on the accountability and tasked the Department of Justice, together with all the agencies of the executive government under the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council, or IAAGCC, to work together to accelerate the process, from investigation, to prosecution, to putting people behind bars, and even to asset recovery.
“My directives to all agencies and members of government are clear: Extend your full aid and cooperation so that the truth may be uncovered, and so that the guilty may be held accountable,” Aquino added.
The abolition of PDAF was also met with doubt.
Bayan Muna representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said that Aquino’s statement abolishing the PDAF as misleading.
“Looking at Pres. Aquino’s statement, he still stubbornly refuses to abolish pork by merely changing the name PDAF and putting in regulations like congressmen will have to choose from a list of projects and limiting it to the district of the congressman concerned, practically transforming it into an itemized pork barrel system,” Colmenares said.
“Pres. Aquino hopes that by changing its name as itemized pork, people will be misled into thinking that there is no need for the August 26 rally. Firstly, the pork barrel system was called Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) then renamed to PDAF but the corruption and patronage politics it spawns remained, no matter how much it is regulated,” Colmenares added.
Colmenares added that Aquino failed to mention his pork largesse which is at least P312 billion this year.
“Such as the much abused Malampaya Fund, as if hoping it will not be noticed by the people,” Colmenares said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on August 24, 2013.