Senators ‘reinventing’ selves for 2013 pollsBy Gil C. Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Senator Francis Escudero appears to be the new “Mr. Palengke.” Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada is emerging as “Mr. Organic Farming” and Senator Lito Lapid is turning out to be “Mr. Medical Mission.”
The image the three senators are trying to project can be gleaned from the disbursement patterns of their graft-ridden priority development assistance fund (PDAF), popularly known as pork barrel.
Each year, a senator is entitled to P200 million in PDAF while a member of the House of Representatives is allocated P70 million.
Pork barrel, a source of kickbacks, is a fund appropriated in the national budget to help lawmakers curry favor with voters by identifying the projects that will be funded by their allocations.
A report by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on PDAF releases as of August 5 showed that Escudero had spent P101 million of his allocation.
Of the amount, 96 percent was under the general heading of “construction/repair/rehabilitation/renovation of public markets in LGUs (local government units).”
Some projects were coursed through the provincial district offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Estrada disbursed P95 million, of which P90 million went to “financial assistance for the implementation of livelihood projects (organic farming for high-value crops) for micro-entrepreneurs and small farmers.”
The beneficiaries of his organic-farming bonanza were Pangasinan (P30 million), Quezon (P27 million), Bataan (P23 million), Leyte (P5 million) and Bulacan (P5 million).
Lapid set aside half of the P100 million he had so far disbursed for dozens of medical missions nationwide, including the distribution of cheap medicine under the general heading of “financial assistance.”
Funds for markets
In funding public markets, Escudero allocated P13.5 million for Abra, P19 million for the Cordillera Autonomous Region, P16 million for Ilocos Sur, P9.5 million for La Union, P3 million for Quirino, P10 million for Bukidnon, P8.5 million for North Cotabato, P3.5 million for Sarangani, P5 million for South Cotabato, and P5 million for Nueva Ecija. Each market got P500,000.
Escudero set aside P35.5 million for public markets in the Zamboanga region, or a third of the P99 million in pork barrel spending he made last year.
He neither confirmed nor denied whether this was a deliberate branding effort for his senatorial run in 2013.
“Mr. Palengke” is the moniker of Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II who lost to Jejomar Binay in the vice presidential race in 2010. Escudero was the most vocal promoter of the “Noy-Bi,” or Noynoy Aquino and Binay tandem.
Last year, Estrada was into sustainable farming. He allocated the P100 million in pork barrel he disbursed last year for organic farming. The money was coursed through the Department of Agriculture’s Livelihood Projects for Micro Entrepreneur and Small Farmers program. Estrada did not respond to the calls of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
At least three other senators have joined the organic farming bandwagon.
Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. used P60 million of his P85.7 million in PDAF allocation this year for organic farming.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile earmarked P50 million of his P100-million PDAF spending for organic farming in Bataan, Quezon, Zamboanga del Sur and Leyte.
Senator Gregorio Honasan set aside P42 million for livelihood programs (on top of the P50 million he allocated for road projects in Quezon province) from his P100-million PDAF disbursements this year.
Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. used P30 million of his P100-million pork barrel expenses for high-value crops.
The DBM report also showed senators favoring their bailiwicks in the allocation of their pork barrel—Senator Pia Cayetano earmarked a quarter of her P200-million PDAF disbursements for Taguig City; Senator Franklin Drilon set aside a third of the P106 million he disbursed for Iloilo City; Senator Aquilino Pimentel III tapped P16 million of the P59 million in pork barrel he used to purchase 80 multicabs in one barangay in Cagayan de Oro City.