Pork loss may ‘hurt the poor’-A A +A
Thursday, September 12, 2013
CEBU CITY -- Governor Hilario Davide III and two of Cebu’s lawmakers worry that the temporary prohibition on using pork barrel funds this year might harm the poor, particularly those who can’t pay for hospital bills.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released at least P20 million this year to assist indigent patients in the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC), the DBM said on its website.
Governor Davide said he was glad the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) last Tuesday on the use of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) for the rest of the year.
“Maybe this is already an offshoot of the anti-pork barrel movement,” he said.
Despite the rain, about 50 people gathered at Fuente Osmeña Wednesday night to call for the abolition of the PDAF or pork barrel funds. A much bigger protest took place in Metro Manila earlier in the day.
Calls to scrap the PDAF followed reports, confirmed by government auditors, that billions in pork barrel funds went to fake non-government organizations (NGOs) organized by Janet Lim-Napoles, a businesswoman and a retired soldier’s wife.
“We might lose our medical assistance because of this temporary restraining order,” Davide said.
This year alone, the DBM reported, the legislators whose terms ended last June 30 had a total of P20 million in their pork barrel released to the VSMMC.
These were the amounts: Rachel del Mar of Cebu City’s north district, P5 million; Pablo John Garcia of the province’s third district, P3 million; Eduardo Gullas of the first district, P1 million; Arturo Radaza of the sixth district, P6 million; and Benhur Salimbangon of the sixth district, P5 million.
Salimbangon was reelected. The rest either ran for another office or were replaced in the House by a family member.
The Province, Davide added, still has funds in the government-run VSMMC. But “of course, this (prohibition) will probably affect katong mga pundo sa mga congressman nga nihatag diha sa (the funds the congressman released for the) Vicente Sotto,” he also said.
If ever the PDAF or pork barrel will continue, then strict guidelines on how to use this should be implemented for the legislators to follow, he said.
The Supreme Court issued the TRO on Tuesday in response to a petition filed by Samson Alcantara, Greco Belgica and former Boac, Marinduque Mayor Pedrito Nepomuceno.
Rep. Wilfredo Caminero (2nd District, Cebu Province) agreed with what the governor said.
Caminero said the funding left for constituents of the second district was the one given by a senator.
He said the assistance given to his constituents went up to P25,000 each, depending on their needs.
Before the TRO, he had looked forward to the release of P4 million for medical assistance in his district.
About P72.9 million of former congressman Pablo Garcia’s PDAF, intended for the second district, remains in the Capitol’s trust fund, said Davide.
The governor assured that Capitol officials will be more careful in the release of the amount.
Rep. Gerald Anthony “Samsam” Gullas Jr. said he hopes that the National Government can address the problems of his constituents, particularly medical and financial needs, now that the PDAF’s use has been suspended.
“We have to follow the rule of law. The Supreme Court has spoken. Hopefully, the national agencies can address the problems of the first district barangays. Their needs should not be left behind,” the first-term congressman said.
At least P1 million from the PDAF of his grandfather, former congressman Eduardo Gullas, went to the VSMMC this year for poor patients from the province’s first district, the DBM report showed.
The elder Gullas’ term ended last June 30. He earlier expressed opposition to the plan to scrap the PDAF.
While he said he isn’t questioning President Aquino’s decision to scrap the pork barrel system, the elder Gullas fears the repercussions it may bring. He suggested giving local governments more funds to improve public service, without relying on the pork barrel system.
At the Fuente rally last night, one of the organizers, Abbey Canturias, said they started a signature campaign on a petition that calls for the replacement of the pork barrel.
In a separate interview, Blessie Velasco said she attended the gathering to be counted as among those who call for scrapping the pork barrel.
She also attended the Aug. 26 rally and is not bothered that fewer people attended last night’s event.
“The pork barrel could be used or added to education, health services and not splurged by legislators,” she told Sun. Star Cebu.
Station 2 Chief Inspector Renero Agustin said there were 40 to 50 rally participants.
They prepared for thousands and the gathering was generally peaceful.
The rally, where some people were given three minutes each to talk, ended a few minutes past 8 p.m.
Meanwhile, more than 50 students of the University of the Philippines (UP) in Cebu gathered at their arts and sciences lobby and protested against the pork barrel system Wednesday.
Ronald Baldo of Nagkahiusang Kusog said in a press statement that the pork barrel should be abolished and rechanneled to social services, including education.
UP has proposed a P17.1-billion budget for 2014 but the Department of Budget and Management has reportedly endorsed only P8.1 billion.
The state university said this was lower compared to the present P9.5-billion budget. (PDF/BAP/FMG/With PR/Sun.Star Cebu)
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 13, 2013.