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'Abolish pork' demand mounts in the Philippines

Publication Date : 17-07-2013

 

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has joined the call to abolish the pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Solidarity Philippines convenor Fr. Joe Dizon also believed that it was time for the government to do away with the pork barrel fund because it has become a source of corruption among lawmakers.

He said on Tuesday that the abolition of the pork barrel would also allow more capable and genuine lawmakers to emerge in the country and serve the public.

Dizon urged the CBCP to make a “collective statement” on the 10 billion pesos (US$231 million) pork barrel scam.

“I think it’s a moral and ethical issue so it’s the obligation of the church to give prophetic intervention,” Dizon said in an interview over Radio Veritas.

“The church must speak as one to be a moral compass in the face of this (scandal),” added the priest.

“That is not interference on the state, it is simply a prophetic engagement that the church should do vis-?-vis governance in this country.”

The House coalition of militant organisations is preparing a bill abolishing the entire pork barrel system in light of the alleged 10 billion pesos scam involving the PDAF - a move joined by an official of the CBCP.

In a statement, the left-wing Makabayan political bloc said the bill would keep the Philippine president from “providing a budgetary item or including in the proposed budget submitted to Congress every fiscal year lump-sum allocations to the PDAF and other lump-sum discretionary funds.”

“The President can make this bill obsolete by not including PDAF and other pork barrel allocations in the submitted budget,” Bayan Muna representative Neri Colmenares told a news conference.

‘It’s not their job’
Caloocan Bishop Emeritus Deogracias I?iguez told the church-run Radio Veritas that the pork barrel fund of legislators in Congress and the Senate must be scrapped since it had over time become a source of temptation that had led them to do wrong.

I?iguez also stressed that first and foremost, it was not the job of legislators to implement projects but rather to create and pass bills that will benefit the people.

The prelate, current chair of the CBCP’s public affairs committee, added that lawmakers must spend more time implementing important measures like the freedom of information (FOI) bill, which has been pending in Congress.

The proponents of the bill believed that an FOI law would make a headway in fighting corruption in the country by paving the way for an institutionalised and government-wide policy on transparency and disclosure.

Members of the Makabayan bloc admitted receiving their own PDAF allocations, though the release was supposedly dependent on the sitting President.

ACT Teachers representative Antonio Tinio on Tuesday said his group got its pork barrel during President Aquino’s first two years in office. But he said he received no allocation for 2012 and 2013.

Each member of the House of Representatives is entitled to 70 million pesos ($1.6 million) in annual pork, while senators each get 200 million pesos ($4.6 million) during the same period.

Colmenares dismissed the argument that the Makabayan bloc could not demand the abolition of the PDAF because some of its members did not reject it whenever available.

“It’s not valid,” he said in a press conference, insisting that the public was convinced that the pork barrel should be removed.

Gabriela rep Emmi de Jesus admitted that getting the antipork bill passed in the House would be tough.

Exclude from budget
Neophyte rep Lito Atienza of Buhay also asked the President to “exclude all appropriations for PDAF from the General Appropriations Act to be submitted to Congress.”

“Otherwise, it would be difficult for us to fight it in Congress as we can only reduce, and not delete certain items from the budget,” he said in a statement.

Unlike Makabayan, Atienza promised not to “get any PDAF in the present system in which they are utilised.”

“We will not use our PDAF as we must all work together toward cleaning up house,” he said.

Colmenares said the antipork campaign should cover the President’s own pork barrel.

“We should remove the pork barrel in our system,” he said.

 

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