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Friday, September 20, 2019

Puno initiative vs pork barrel gets bishops nod

SEVERAL members of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed support to the proposal of retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno to abolish the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) through people's initiative.

In separate interviews, bishops said they believe that the people's initiative would be a viable alternative to achieve the goal of the public to remove the controversial pork barrel.

People's initiative is one of the three means to amend the 1987 Constitution based on its Article XVII, Section 2. The other two being Constituent Assembly and Constitutional Convention.

"Yes, I am in favor of the people's initiative because PNoy and Congress are determined to keep it by many names," said Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes.

"Yes, I'm in favor of CJ Puno's proposal. But it should include the alternative for the common good of the country," said Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo.

"I agree that the present system of pork barrel must go. It is a source of corruption," said Caloocan Bishop emeritus Deogracias Iniguez.

"PI (people's initiative) should be the last recourse against the pork barrel, which has been the cause of corruption and patronage politics," said Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros.

On Tuesday, Puno urged those who are against the pork barrel system to start a people's initiative meant to enact a law that will scrap the PDAF.

But while the bishops favor the proposal of a law's enactment through the people, the main player in a people's initiative method is not keen on the idea.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also backed the proposal of Puno, saying it will allow the public to "assert themselves" and their positions on the controversial PDAF, and even the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

"I am all for it," Belmonte told reporters.

Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list added that a campaign to abolish the PDAF system "will restore the dignity and people's trust in the legislators."

But Cavite Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. doubted that the requirement set under the People's Initiative and Referendum Act will be complied with.

"The mandatory requirement is at least 10 percent of the total number of registered voters in the country should support the initiative," Barzaga pointed out.

With a voting population of around 53 million, at least 5.3 million voters must sign the petition.

"Without underestimating the capacity of those who are spearheading the people's initiative, I do not think they would be able to comply with aforesaid mandatory requirements," Barzaga said.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes said that he believed that using the people's initiative at this time is still premature.

"Baka premature e. Nag-hearing lang kahapon tungkol sa PDAF e. Pag dineclare ng SC na unconstitutional ang PDAF, ano pa ang ipi-PI natin?" said Brillantes.

He said it would be better if the decision of the Supreme Court on the legal questions surrounding the PDAF would be issued first.

"Siguro mas maganda na antayin muna ang decision ng SC," said Brillantes.

Section 8 of Republic Act 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act provides that "The Commission shall call and supervise the conduct of initiatives." (HDT/Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)
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