PDAF abolition ‘affects the poor’-A A +A
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
AMID calls for the abolition of the pork barrel, a former congressman said the funding system has helped the poor get education and medical help.
In a press conference yesterday, former Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas (Cebu, first district) believes abolishing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) could affect educational and medical assistance to the poor.
“I am saddened to think that once the pork barrel is abolished, what happens to the scholars?” Gullas said.
Rep. Luis Gabriel Quisumbing (Cebu, sixth district) favors the scrapping of PDAF.
Quisumbing said PDAF’s susceptibility to corruption “warrants a hard second look and even its abolition.”
He said transparency in the use of public funds has always been his advocacy.
Quisumbing, vice chairman of the House committee on appropriations, said the National Government should devise a mechanism that ensures public funds go to projects that benefit the people.
“It is possible to have a line-item budget for district and sectoral programs pertaining to social services, local infrastructure and other projects formerly
addressed by the PDAF,” he said.
“We will study how this can be integrated in the programs of the National Government so that the people will still get the full benefit of our government projects,” he said.
Cebu City representatives have differing views, too.
Rep. Raul del Mar (Cebu City, north district) has no objection to the PDAF’s abolition.
“The people have spoken. They want the pork barrel of legislators abolished. They don’t want any alternative to pork that would just amount to pork in some other form,” del Mar told Sun.Star Cebu.
Rep. Rodrigo Abellanosa (Cebu City, south district) believes otherwise.
He said the abolition of PDAF “will take away from our poor and marginalized Cebu City constituents at least P140 million yearly of National Government funds for their hospitalization, medical, health, emergency and other urgent basic services.”
He said the money does not have to be coursed through the district representative, as long as the equitable share per district will not be taken away.
“In the ongoing budget hearings in Congress, I am consistently vocal against the lesser share of the Visayas in the national budget,” said Abellanosa.
Del Mar said the question is how the congressmen and senators can secure projects for their respective districts or constituents.
“This can be done if the role of the congressman or senator is limited to merely proposing the project and its approval through the regular budget process and once approved it is included in the budget of the appropriate department… the project will be solely implemented by the executive department,” said del Mar.
Del Mar also proposedstudies to find a graft-free system that will be acceptable to the public.
Del Mar said he will be happy if his pork barrel allocation will be included in the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services, which includes medical assistance, burial assistance, assistance for victims of fire, typhoon and other natural calamities.
Gullas, meanwhile, said his grandson, who replaced him in his post, Rep. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr., is planning to use his PDAF for the scholarships of 800 students in his district.
The district’s sick and those in the hospital can also receive P5,000 from the Gullas Medical Assistance Fund (GMAF), which gets its funds from the PDAF.
Gullas said the Supreme Court, in its decision, describes the PDAF as the “greatest equalizer” because non-majority bloc representatives also receive it.
While he doesn’t object to President Aquino’s decision to scrap the PDAF, Gullas worries about its repercussions.
Gullas also denied allegations that appropriations from his PDAF went to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) when he was still a congressman.
Gullas has been reported to have given about P9 million to an allegedly bogus NGO, Philippine Forest Corp. (PFC).
But Gullas denied the NGO was illegitimate. He said he did not enter into a contract with any bogus organization.
Former Cebu representative now Danao City Vice Mayor Red Durano VI also denied he appropriated P9 million from his PDAF to a bogus NGO.
Durano said he released funding through PFC but only to implement his district’s flood control, bio-diesel production and disaster mitigation programs.
He said PFC was included in the PDAF menu as one of the implementing agencies of the program.
Durano said the projects he appropriated through PFC were successfully implemented in his district.
“With PFC, the release of the budget came in two tranches. The funding will not be released without the supervision and evaluation from PFC. We organized seminars and trainings participated by our farmers associations, point-persons and officials of LGUs in the district, distribution of training kits, site inspection, distribution of seedlings and planting of seedlings”, he said.
Durano said every implementation of a project had validators from different agencies, like the Commission on Audit and from PFC.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 27, 2013.