House gives up discretion on P25-B ‘pork’-A A +A
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
MEMBERS of the House of Representatives on Tuesday agreed to scrap the P25.2-billion lump-sum amount for the priority development assistance funds (PDAF) of congressmen and senators from the proposed 2014 national budget.
This was the decision reached during the executive session of the House committee on appropriations, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and panel chairman Isidro Ungab said.
"The committee has agreed that the lump sum known as PDAF has to go will disappear from the GAA (General Appropriations Act)…When you delete that, you can no longer dictate where it will go," Speaker Belmonte said in a press briefing.
The House appropriations panel has recently concluded discussions on the agency budgets. The proposed 2014 national budget will be sent to the plenary for second reading next week.
The P25.2-billion fund will instead be distributed to government agencies, which in turn, could help the constituents of district and party-list representatives, and senators.
For instance, the funds could be distributed to the departments of education, health, social welfare and development, among others. The mode of distribution will be discussed Wednesday by the appropriations committee.
"This removes all notions that the fund will be going to non-government organizations (NGOs)," Belmonte said.
Earlier, House leaders signed a statement of support to "promote transparency and accountability in government" as they called for the abolition of the PDAF.
Reforms in the PDAF system were introduced following the controversial multi-billion pork barrel scam implicating former and incumbent lawmakers.
Businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who is currently detained over illegal detention charges, allegedly funneled pork barrel funds to dubious NGOs.
Ungab admitted that the panel had a difficult time agreeing whether or not to scrap the PDAF system.
"Halos mga 100 nagsasalita e. It's really hard to come up with a consensus…Congress, being a collegial body, we allowed everyone to talk," Ungab said noting that congressmen from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao were well-represented.
Earlier, President Benigno Aquino III himself told the Budget department to put on hold the PDAF releases until government authorities end their investigation on the controversial pork barrel scam. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)