Aquino puts lid on pork barrel-A A +A
By Mia A. Aznar
Saturday, August 17, 2013
THE scandal brought about by the alleged misuse of legislators’ pork barrel funds has led one senator to suspend the disbursement of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) until proper guidelines are put in place.
Sen. Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV, who was in Cebu to speak at the Mandaue Business Summit yesterday, said he and the rest of the Senate prefer to wait for the results of the investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation, saying they feel it would be counterproductive for them to initiate another inquiry.
The NBI is investigating claims that JLN Corp., headed by Janet Lim Napoles, worked
out a scheme to funnel P10 billion in government funds into bogus non-government organizations.
He admitted the details coming out on the amount of public funds wasted “make me sick to my stomach.” Aquino said he prefers to let the country’s justice system work and let those found liable account for their mistakes.
However, Aquino said legislators should be made accountable for how their PDAF is spent and should sure it reaches intended recipients.
With the scandal, he hopes the Senate can come up with guidelines on the type of organizations and the kind of projects they can support.
Until such guidelines are out, Aquino said his office has decided to defer disbursing his PDAF.
Asked if he favors scrapping it altogether, Aquino said the system, if used properly, has its benefits. Having worked at a non-government organization before running for public office, he said, he has experienced for himself how PDAF funds can help. He also cited the case for Gawad Kalinga, which has benefitted from Sen. Francis Pangilinan’s PDAF.
The scandal, he said, ruins the reputation of legitimate organizations that do need more funds to support their initiatives. He added that it has also put the PDAF system into question.
Before the scandal became public, Aquino said had hoped to use his PDAF to focus on activities supporting the trade and commerce committee, which he chairs.
He planned to pilot programs that would serve as “mini-studies” to prove positive results if his bills are passed.
He has also received suggestions to give the bulk of his PDAF to agencies that need more resources, such as the Department of Education for the construction of classrooms, or to trusted entities like Gawad Kalinga. He welcomes suggestions but insists on withholding the disbursement of his PDAF until such guidelines can be made and until the investigation on JLN is completed.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 17, 2013.