Santiago seeks gradual abolition of pork barrel
MANILA, Philippines – A resolution, calling for the abolition of legislators’ “pork barrel” by 2016 was filed Wednesday at the Senate.
In filing her resolution, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago sought a gradual phasing out of the funds starting next year until 2016 as she expects strong opposition in Congress if she would push for its total abolition.
“This is why the second best solution is to gradually phase out the PDAF. This will give senators and congressmen time to adjust to the new rules,” Santiago, chair of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes, and laws, said in a statement.
For 2014, Santiago is proposing to cut the senators’ pork barrel from P200 million to P100 million each; P50 million in 2015, and zero in 2016.
For congressmen, the senator also proposes to cut it by half in 2014—from P70 million to P35 million; P15 million in 2015, and nil in 2016.
With P200 million pork barrel each year, Santiago said, a senator is expected to receive a total of P1.2 billion for a full term of six years while a congressman is expected to receive P210 million for each three-year term.
But in practice, Santiago said, “some receive more, others less, than their regular pork barrel.”
“Of course, the best solution is to discontinue the pork barrel system by reducing what has been proposed by the President in the 2014 budget for PDAF to zero,” said the senator.
“Senators and congressmen are expected to pass laws and exercise oversight functions over the Executive Department’s implementation of existing laws. We are not expected to build roads, bridges, and other infrastructure projects.”
Once the appropriations for PDAF are deleted from the budget, Santiago said, the President could no longer resurrect it through line item veto.
“It is important that the full amount be reduced if the legislators are serious in abolishing the pork barrel. Reducing the PDAF appropriations to even one peso is dangerous, because then the President may choose to augment the peso appropriations with several billions which is allowed under the Constitution,” she explained.
To tighten the rules on the use of the PDAF until it is fully abolished, Santiago also proposed the following:
· The fund should be used strictly for “hard” projects and releases should be limited to national government agencies.
· Local government units should not be eligible recipients of the fund. Releases to LGUs have been abused in the past, especially when the local chief executives (governors, city mayors, and municipal mayors) are relatives of legislators.
· PDAF should not be released to government-owned or –controlled corporations, which may later on be released to nongovernment organizations (NGOs), fictitious or quasi-NGOs, or NGOs headed by the relatives of politicians.
· No public funds should be released to NGOs. This strict rule should be non-negotiable. In keeping with the spirit of volunteerism, NGOs are supposed to give aid to society, using funds they raised on their own, not public funds.
The pork barrel, Santiago said, should not also be used for scholarships, saying, “They are the responsibility of the more than 125 state universities and colleges.”
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