“Aquino remains obstinate on his own lump sum appropriations, which are far greater than the legislative pork barrel.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — Progressive groups are not satisfied with President Benigno Aquino III’s statement that he would abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
In a televised press briefing, Aquino said in Filipino: “It’s time to abolish the PDAF.” His announcement was made two days before the scheduled Million March against pork barrel in Rizal Park (formerly Luneta).
Aquino said “a new mechanism” would be in place to respond to the needs of the people. He said the process should be fair, and with enough safeguards against abuse and corruption.
Aquino talked about the seven-point system to deter corruption:
– Government projects will come from a “limited menu”
– Consumable “soft projects” such as fertilizers, seedlings, medicine, medical kits, training materials, among others, that cannot be scrutinized properly are prohibited.
– Temporary infrastructure projects such as dredging, desilting, or asphalt overlay projects are also not allowed.
– Public funds will no longer be diverted to non-government organizations and government-owned and controlled companies such as ZNAC Rubber Estate Corporation (ZREC) and the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR).
Merely changing the name of PDAF and putting in regulations are not the same as abolishing pork, said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares who described Aquino’s holding on to pork as “stubborn.” Colmenares said Aquino is “practically transforming PDAF into an itemized pork barrel system.”
Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon agreed. He said that “In fact, Aquino has not outrightly called for the abolition of the pork barrel. Instead, he only proposed a series of so-called reforms that would even give the Executive Department greater power over PDAF.”
Aquino holding on to and even cornering the pork
Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap said the guidelines enumerated by Aquino makes releases of public funds at his sole discretion.
Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said Aquino’s statement Friday “merely sought to preempt the August 26 day of outrage against pork and corruption by pledging the abolition of the PDAF system and replacing it with a new “reformed”system.
But “pork by any name is still pork,” Reyes said.
In a briefing paper of Kabataan partylist, pork barrel consist not only PDAF but funds that meet at least one of the following criteria:
1. A lump sum allocation in the National Expenditure Program that is vulnerable to corruption and political maneuvering.
2. Funds of which the manner of allocation and disbursement are left to the sole discretion of the President and the Executive Department he leaves, thereby leading to the funding of programs and projects that favor his select allies instead of directly financing social services such as education and health
3. Public funds not reflected in the national budget yet are collected and used by public agencies particularly those in the Executive Department, with little or no financial oversight at all.
What about your pork, Noynoy?
By jumping on the bandwagon of the people’s disgust for the pork barrel system, Aquino is trying to cover up the fact that he has the ‘greatest pork of all,’ said Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon.
Kabataan reckoned that Aquino’s pork barrel is more than P1.3-trillion ($29.41 billion) for 2014.
“This just shows that he remains obstinate on his own lump sum appropriations, which are far greater than the legislative pork barrel. He cannot be allowed to succeed in this double speak,” Ridon said.
The P1.3-trillion ($29.41 billion) presidential pork for 2014 is composed of the following:
– Lump-sum funds in the national budget, including the Special Purpose Funds (SPFs) worth P310 billion ($7.01 billion)
– Unprogrammed Funds worth P139 billion ($3.14 billion) and Automatic Appropriations worth P796 billion ($18 billion);
– Questionable in-budget line items including funds for intelligence and confidential expenses worth P1.4 billion ($31.67 million)
– PAMANA funds worth P7.22 billion ($163.32 million)
– Conditional Cash Transfer Funds worth P62.6 billion (1.42 billion)
– Funding for Bottom-Up Budgeting worth P20 billion ($452.41 million)
– Funds from realigned savings and “hidden funds” worth anywhere between P56 billion ($1.27 billion) to P113 billion ($2.56 billion).
“Aquino cannot escape from answering the biggest question now: How about his own portly chunk of pork? Certainly, he cannot have his portly pork and eat it too!” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said.
“Without abolishing the fatter and bigger presidential pork barrel, his decision on abolishing only PDAF is useless, hollow and empty,” he added.
For this year, Colmenares said the presidential pork is at P312 billion, including the controversial Malampaya Fund.
Gabriela secretary-general Joms Salvador slammed Aquino’s silence on presidential pork, saying his speech is “part of a script created by Aquino’s political spin-doctors, much like a predictable telenovela.”
“The real life politica-novela has designated a kontrabida (villain) in the person of Janet Lim Napoles, complete with cohorts and sidekicks in Congress and in NGOs, while Aquino fancies himself as the bida (hero) emerging in the end to save the day. Now we expect the axe to come down on Aquino’s opposition in Congress and not on his allies. Meanwhile, tuloy ang ligaya (all is fun) for Aquino and his own gang of porkies.”
For Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), “The Filipino workers and people have more reason to join the August 26 protest and succeeding protests,” more so because of Aquino’s Friday speech about congressional pork.
Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan secretary general, said: “We will not be fooled and spun by Aquino. We will no longer accept press releases and media spins. Protests will continue to snowball. Let us troop to the streets today and on Monday to condemn the pork barrel and the corrupt ruling set-up under Aquino.”