2 Mindanao lawmakers defend pork barrel

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ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines—Amid calls for the abolition of the graft-ridden Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), two lawmakers in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) defended Wednesday the pork barrel and said they needed their allocations.

Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman, serving his second three-year term, said he used his P70-million-a-year share of the PDAF to extend “assistance even to the barangays for infrastructure projects.”

“I also give to some hospitals,” he said.

Hataman, elder brother of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, said P4 million of his share went to the Basilan Provincial Hospital every year, and some amount goes to National Kidney Institute, Heart Center, Philippine General Hospital in Manila and to Zamboanga City Medical Center.

“I do this because we have poor constituents who need medical support. There are serious and emergency cases that can be attended to only by these hospitals,” he said.

Most of his pork allocation also went to barangay infrastructure projects like waiting sheds, small bridges and roads.

“It (PDAF) is very important, especially in the barangay level. They really need our PDAF. You know how our situation is in Basilan, particularly health,” Hataman said, adding that a certain amount of his pork went to scholarships for deserving students.

Smaller than IRA

The pork he received, Hataman said, was small compared to the P300 million internal revenue allotment (IRA) that his town got when he was mayor of Sumisip before being elected to the House of Representatives in 2010.

The computation of the IRA is based on the population and income of local governments.

Newly elected Tawi-Tawi Rep. Ruby Sahali described the PDAF as a life support for her province, which is on the southernmost part of the country.

“The PDAF will enable me to provide assistance and deliver the goods and services to my constituents,” Sahali said.

Education

She said she planned to use her P70-million pork for “educational assistance to indigent students.”

“[With my share of the PDAF], they will get school supplies like bags, notebooks and other school materials that their parents [have difficulty providing them],” she told the Inquirer by phone.

“Through [my share of the] PDAF my constituents will feel that they are important to our government. Tawi-Tawi is one of the poorest provinces in the country. Geographically, it is so far that we hardly receive services from national and regional government,” Sahali said.

She said a “morally upright leader can make a difference” when using the PDAF.

“In the same way, a crooked individual can always malign the best intentions of the PDAF,” Sahali said.

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