The Senate will not use the hearings on the P2.26-trillion national budget for next year to dig into the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, but Sen. Francis Escudero expects the issue to come up when senators scrutinize allocations for governmental agencies.
“[The] priority is the budget and performance and we intend to pass the budget on time. But I’m sure the question will come up,” Escudero told the Inquirer when asked if he would take advantage of the budget hearings to look into the alleged channeling of P10 billion in pork to phantom projects through bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) over the past 10 years.
Escudero, the chair of the Senate committee on finance that will examine the administration’s national expenditure program for 2014, earlier filed a resolution calling for an inquiry into the scam.
Senate President Franklin Drilon and some other senators, however, disagreed with a Senate probe into the scam because of the involvement in the scandal of at least six senators from both the majority and the minority.
Escudero said he would not ask his colleagues to adopt his resolution for an inquiry into the scam.
“It’s up to them. They are big enough to decide for themselves what is best. Not for me to convince them one way or the other. Ultimately, it’s the people who will decide who did or did not do his or her job,” he said.
Escudero said he would leave it to the majority to decide what to do with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, after the exposure of the corruption that attended its use over the past decade.
Drilon earlier said that the pork barrel could be effectively abolished if Congress did not allocate funds for the PDAF in the national budget.
“I am open to whatever the majority will, in its wisdom, decide. Personally, I think we can provide stricter rules and mandatory disclosure to prevent abuse,” Escudero said.
In an interview over radio station dwIZ on Friday, Escudero said he wanted the budget to prescribe the use of the PDAF mainly for the poorest areas of the country.
“We will be stricter and I want to remove the alignment of funds to NGOs… that can’t be monitored,” Escudero said.
Escudero said he would also push for stricter transparency measures such as the publication of how the senators and the representatives used their pork.
“Just be transparent and, as they say, hide nothing. Stand by where you allocated your funds and you should be proud that you were able to help your fellowman. One shouldn’t hide and that document shouldn’t be kept a secret,” Escudero said.