Review of pork barrel project menu pressedBy Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives may have to review the project menu for its members’ priority assistance development fund, a lawmaker said on Tuesday.
In a chance interview at the sidelines of the orientation of neophyte lawmakers at the House of Representatives, Camarines Sur Representative Rolando Andaya said the PDAF menu should be reformed to counter “schemes” which seek to abuse the funds.
Andaya, who served as budget secretary in the past, likened schemes on the PDAF to a “virus” which constantly mutates. He said the menu for the funds should “evolve to answer to new schemes.”
“The menu has evolved through the years to answer the perceptions of the public. Before [projects on building] waiting sheds were allowed, now they are no longer part of the menu,” he said.
He described the current PDAF project menu as “quite strict,” bolstering the earlier statement of Marikina Representative Miro Quimbo that the menu has many limitations to lessen the risk of abuse.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has earlier said that the House was not inclined to abolish the PDAF as it was needed by both district and partylist lawmakers.
Andaya said that pork barrel was useful in instances where there was not enough funding for a certain district.
“PDAF funds can act as an equalizer for instances where, say, scholarships lack funding. It is just unfortunate that it is abused sometimes,” he said.
The Camarines Sur lawmaker maintained that there is “a need to review it (the PDAF project menu) now.”
The PDAF came under the spotlight after the Philippine Daily Inquirer released reports of an alleged P10-billion racket involving 28 lawmakers and dummy nongovernment organizations.
But Andaya begged off to comment on the case that is now the subject of investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation.
Although lawmakers assign where their PDAF goes, the Camarines Sur lawmaker explained that it is not their responsibility to audit the projects they fund.
“You can do that but government audit is not the lawmaker’s duty. There are agencies in place to do that,” he said.
Nonetheless, he urged fellow legislators to “scrutinize each and every proposal” that came their way, requesting funding.
Eighty-five neophyte lawmakers are joining the House of Representatives in the 16th Congress.
In his lecture during the neophyte lawmakers’ orientation, Andaya warned the new House members against individuals or groups who may try to talk them into funding projects which were not part of the PDAF projects menu.
“Be careful with your allocation. If you are in doubt, don’t. If it is not in the PDAF menu, then do not push through with it,” he reminded the new lawmakers.