Only lawmakers can scrap pork, says Abad

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Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda: Up to Congress

MANILA, Philippines—The Catholic bishops are barking up the wrong tree.

They ought to direct their call for the scrapping of the pork barrel in the proposed 2014 national budget to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, Malacañang said Sunday.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has drawn up policy recommendations on the proper use of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), and it is up to the legislators to act on these, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

“The executive proposes, the legislative disposes. That’s the system of government,” Lacierda said over government-run dzRB. “It’s up to the legislature to decide on that because they hold the power of the purse.”

Some bishops have called on President Aquino to suspend the allocation of the pork barrel, or PDAF, for the lawmakers in the 2014 budget pending the investigation of the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

The scam, based on the Inquirer series, entailed the conversion of pork barrel into kickbacks allegedly by JLN Trading Corp., using dummy foundations, fictitious beneficiaries and forged signatures of officials. JLN president Janet Lim Napoles has denied the charges.

Abad’s recommendations include limiting the menu of projects that can be funded by pork, accreditation of the civil society organizations by the social welfare department, and limiting the number of implementing agencies.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, who is set to be elected Senate President at the opening of the 16th Congress on Monday, said the pork barrel could simply be taken out of the national budget instead of passing a new law that would abolish the program.

After his address to a joint session of Congress, President Aquino would present to Congress the proposed P2.268-trillion national budget for 2014, which contains a separate item worth P27 billion for the PDAF.

The President, however, has not stated his position on the calls for the abolition of the pork barrel.

Lacierda said the National Bureau of Investigation would see through the conclusion of its inquiry into the alleged JLN scam, regardless of the personalities involved in the racket that has implicated five senators and 23 House members.

“The government is serious in fighting corruption in all levels. And, in the Napoles situation, we are going to investigate the controversy wherever the evidence leads up to,” he said.

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