“When we say pork barrel system, we’re not just calling for the abolition of the PDAF, but the whole system of discretionary spending. This includes funds under the un-programmed funds, the special purposes fund, the presidential social fund, and other lump sum accounts that are under the Executive’s direct discretion.” – Kabataan Party Rep. Terry Ridon
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – President Benigno S. Aquino III has ordered the suspension of releases of the Priority Development Assistance Funds or PDAF while an investigation is ongoing on its alleged misuse. But for progressive groups, Aquino’s suspension (of PDAF) is a mere “token act.”
“Apparently, the scandal has reached exponential levels, enough for the Palace to quiver and take token steps,” said Kabataan Rep. Terry Ridon in a statement sent to Bulatlat.com.
He continued, “The suspension of the release of the second tranche of the PDAF is only a token move, a knee-jerk reaction by the President which is aimed at pacifying the growing discontent of the people over the corrupt pork barrel system.”
ACT Teachers Party Rep. Antonio Tinio also said, “President Aquino’s suspension of all PDAF releases, pending the results of an ongoing investigation into the P10 billion ($228 million) pork barrel scam, is a token act intended to take the heat off of the hated pork barrel, and ultimately, save it. Not surprisingly, the President makes no mention whatsoever regarding the suspension of his own considerable pork barrel funds.”
In his interview with GMA 7, Aquino said he had ordered a suspension on the release of the PDAF while an investigation against the alleged misused involving businesswoman Janet Napoles-lim is still on-going. But Aquino stood firm in his position against the abolition of the PDAF. Quoting his interview with GMA 7, he said, “Huwag naman madamay ‘yung mahusay at matino ‘dun sa taong mapagsamantala. Yang PDAF, lalo na sa hard aspect, nakakatulong matugon ng mas mabilis ‘yung pangangailangan ng komunidad,” he said. (Let’s not allow those ‘who are good and honest’ to suffer from the acts of ‘people who are abusive.’ The PDAF, especially the hard projects, helps in responding fast to the needs of communities.”)
He said the government has “performance-based indicators and the budget released are based on their performance. This applies to all government agencies, he said. He added that the budget has a “time limit.” If it will not be used it goes to savings.
“The President can hold the release of the funds from the pork barrel any time he wants. Then why did he not use this power to hold the release of funds for the anomalous projects of Senators and Congressmen?” asked Tinio.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri J. Colmenares also dismissed talks of stricter regulations of pork disbursements as useless and nothing more than “insidious attempts to perpetuate and salvage the graft ridden pork barrel system.”
Colmenares explained, “Pres. Aquino either misses the point or just doesn’t want to follow his ‘boss’ the Filipino people. Pork barrel by nature is a lump sum amount which is used for patronage politics because, not only the amount but also the selection of the projects and its beneficiaries rests on the approval of one person.”
He further said, “a Presidential pork, like the Malampaya Fund, is inherently anomalous because (1) it is a source of graft and corruption; (2) it is used to favor allies by adding to their already bloated pork barrels giving these lucky officials electoral advantage; and (3) it violates the required collective and deliberative process of budgeting public funds, diverting these funds to unnecessary whimsical projects of just an individual.”
‘Abolish the system’
The progressive groups are calling for the abolishment of the pork barrel system and not just its suspension.
“The people’s clamor is for abolition of the pork barrel system, not just suspension. The President would do well to heed their call,” said Tinio.
Ridon added, “When we say pork barrel system, we’re not just calling for the abolition of the PDAF, but the whole system of discretionary spending. This includes funds under the un-programmed funds, the special purposes fund, the presidential social fund, and other lump sum accounts that are under the Executive’s direct discretion.”
He pointed out that the suspension of the release of PDAF bears no significance to the call for abolition of the system of corruption that has siphoned billions upon billions of taxpayers’ money to the pockets of the ruling administration.
Colmenares also said that Aquino “just wants to douse water on the people’s growing clamor for the pork barrel system to be abolished.”
“There is no justification for it whatsoever and the suspension is an attempt to save the pork barrel system. President Aquino should abolish pork, including his own which currently amounts to hundreds of billions including the Malampaya Fund and channel it all directly to social services. Unjustified lump sum amounts must be abolished from the budget.”
Colmenares called on the people to act on the alleged plunder of the people’s money. “Since there will be no support from Malacañang and Congress, we are asking for the people’s support for the approval of House Bill 1535, which seeks to abolish the pork barrel system. We are calling on our countrymen to organize anti-pork barrel groups and networks to deliver the fatal blow ‘para matigil na ang sistemang ito ng pambababoy sa pondo ng bayan.” (to put a stop to a system that corrupts the people’s money)
Meanwhile, youth groups have been conducting protest actions calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system. Last Aug. 16, simultaneous protest actions were held by different youth groups in Metro Manila calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system.
The Youth for Accountability and Transparency Now! or Youth Act Now! alliance also announced their walk out protest also calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system on Aug. 23, Friday. Einstein Recedes, convener of the Youth Act Now! said students will walk out of their classes on the 23rd, before converging at the Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila in the afternoon for a short program and a protest concert afterwards. “On the 26th, youth and student contingents will mass up at the Plaza Miranda in Quiapo so that they will march together to Luneta Park at 9 a.m., and will then march again to Mendiola Bridge at 3 p.m..”
A bigger protest action is also set on Aug. 26, 9:00 am at Luneta Park.
“We call on the people to unite on Aug. 26 for a day of action and outrage amid the ongoing corruption scandal involving pork barrel funds. The public is aghast at the revelations that more than P6 billion of public money was diverted to 82 questionable NGO’s. Money from hardworking taxpayers are being pocketed by public officials and their private partners,” Pagbabago (People’s Movement for Change) said in a statement.