By GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
Manila, Philippines- Fisherfolk-lawmaker Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis partylist over the weekend called on Malacañang to certify as urgent the bill calling for the scrapping of pork barrel of senators, congressmen and even the special pork given to the Office of the President.
Rep. Hicap challenged President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to certify House Bill No. 1535 recalling the pork barrel to all lawmakers, including the audit free special funds allocated to the Office of the President. HB 1535 was filed last week by militant congressmen belonging to Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers and Kabataan Partylist — collectively known as the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives.
“As representatives of the people and the taxpaying public, we compel the highest office in the land to certify as urgent HB 1535 to frustrate the large-scale resource grabbing and plunder of taxpayers’ money in aid of legislation. Instead, the pork barrel fund should be re-channeled to basic social services such as housing, education, health and other forms of services beneficial to the people,” the neophyte solon said during a phone interview with Bulatlat.com.
Hicap asserted that Aquino should send the marching order to allies in both chambers of Congress, ahead of the discussion and approval of the P 2.268 trillion national budget for 2014.
“Will President Aquino follow the collective interest of the people? Or he will let what the pockets of interest groups dictate. That remains to be seen from a President who enjoys the biggest pork barrel of a lifetime,” Rep. Hicap told this journalist.
The bill authored by progressive lawmakers seeks the abolition not just of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, of which House members gets P70 million each and senators P200 million every year.
Section 3 of the HB 1535 likewise prohibits the president from “allocating, releasing, disbursing or realigning any amount from Special Fund 151, including that which is generally referred to as (the) Malampaya Fund” and from the President’s Social Fund, which is sourced from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and other revenue-generating agencies.
Fund 151 is a special account maintained by the Department of Budget and Management in which the government’s share of revenues from the Malampaya natural gas project — last estimated to be P115.17 billion — is held.
The Makabayan bloc anti-pork barrel bill states that the government shall ensure that every cent from the public purse is used towards attaining real and comprehensive development, equitable distribution of income and wealth, and a sustained increase in production of goods and services for the benefit of the people, especially the underprivileged — and none for patronage and traditional politics.
The bill was filed by Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarates of Bayan Muna, Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, Antonio Tinio of ACT Teachers, Hicap of Anakpawis, and Terry Ridon of Kabataan.
The bill was filed amid reports of an alleged scam that involved lawmakers who allegedly funded billions of pesos worth of bogus projects through non-existent nongovernmental organizations.
Anakpawis partylist also noted that the Office of the President intends to keep his pork barrel amid mounting call demanding the abolition of pork barrel given to lawmakers and the Office of the President. The Makabayan bloc had vowed to push the bill abolishing pork barrel including the President’s Social Fund (PSF).
Audit of PSF
“The Filipino taxpaying public including the urban poor who pay P 3.60 expanded value added tax for every kilo of rice is entitled to a honest-to-goodness audit of the 24 billion peso pork barrel transferred to Aquino’s presidential account in 2012. The COA should establish how the President spent his pork last year and present a honest accounting of public funds spent by the ruling political party in Malacañang,” the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said in a separate statement.
Pamalakaya lambasted President Aquino for refusing to heed to the legitimate demands of the people to have presidential pork abolished along with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers following the discovery of P 10-B pork barrel scam by COA.
The group said PSF is one venue where the president and his allies can corrupt public funds since this kind of pork barrel is free from public scrutiny and government audit. In 2010, during the Arroyo administration, the COA found out that some P 1.2 B from PSF was transferred to various NGOs and government agencies and irregularly reflected as donations, making it difficult for COA to establish accountability for the funds.
According to Pamalakaya, the Office of the President’s pork barrel in 2012 include the P2.695-billion in intelligence funds, of which, P666 million was earmarked for “National Security Monitoring including requirements for the Presidential Anti-Organized/Syndicated Crime and Transnational Crime Campaign, as well as P600 million for confidential and intelligence expenses to be released upon approval of the President.
The group said in 2012, the Office of the President also sought P224.68 million budget for travel expenses alone. Pamalakaya said President Aquino exercises discretionary powers on the intelligence funds of the Office of the President, contingent funds, calamity funds and unprogrammed funds. About P 1 billion peso was given to President Aquino for contingent funds.
Pamalakaya said the contingent fund was administered by the Office of the President and used exclusively to fund the requirements of new and/or urgent projects and activities that need to be implemented during the year. This fund may be used to augment the existing appropriations for local and foreign travels of the President, but in no case shall it be used for the purchase of motor vehicles.”
The group said the Office of the President also received P14.2 billion for disaster management, apart from the calamity fund, which went up to P7.5 billion in 2012 from P5 billion in 2011.