LIBMANAN, Camarines Sur—Scholars of Representative Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo sent registered letters to President Benigno Aquino III through the post office here Tuesday, asking for the release of scholarship funds from Arroyo’s share of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The PDAF is a pork barrel that channels funds to congressional districts.
Roy Nedia, chief of the administrative staff of the second district office here, said some 2,000 scholars of Arroyo were affected by the holding of the congressman’s pork barrel in the last two semesters.
Nedia said that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad had told the district office that it was President Aquino who had ordered the holding of Arroyo’s pork, which includes scholarship funds for schoolchildren.
He quoted Abad as saying that without the President’s approval, the budget department could not release the fund.
Nedia said the scholarship funds consisted of P10 million for college students and P8 million for vocational trainees.
Sought for comment, Abad denied that the President had ordered Arroyo’s pork withheld. “There is no order,” Abad said in a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. “Representative Dato Arroyo was one of the biggest recipients of pork, in the hundreds of millions, way beyond the P70 million that on the average was received by the representatives.”
Nedia said the scholars decided to write to Mr. Aquino.
“We want to tell P-Noy (Aquino) what we feel about the delay [in] the release of the funds for our scholarship,” said Edgardo Delfin, a sophomore at the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture and one of the students who wrote the President.
“We are asking President Aquino to help us scholars by releasing the fund, because it’s not Dato that he [is punishing] but the scholars,” said Joseph Coros, a senior electrical engineering student at University of Nueva Caceres.
Abad said Arroyo’s constituents should get an accounting of the pork releases to his district. He said Arroyo received hundreds of millions of pesos in pork during the Arroyo administration.
Asked what the government intended to do about the plea from Arroyo’s scholars, Abad replied, “We are open to helping them.”
Arroyo himself said it did not matter anymore whether Malacañang released his pork or not. “Starting June, we [will have] funds from other sources and it’s already OK,” he said.