House minority presses pork scam probe
Saying the pork barrel scandal “must not be swept into oblivion,” minority congressmen want to proceed with a House investigation despite the absence of any categorical support from the chamber’s leadership.
The bloc led by Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora on Tuesday filed a resolution seeking an investigation into the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations.
“The magnitude and the destructive effects of the PDAF scam must not be swept into oblivion, as the issue is destroying the trust that members of the Philippine Congress should enjoy from the people they represent,” the group said in House Resolution No. 160.
Zamora and his colleagues maintained that “legislation to correct many processes and procedures involved in the identification, monitoring, auditing and public accountability was clearly needed.”
This, they argued, would be “among the final results of a true and faithful inquiry into this scam.”
House leaders cool to probe
But the House leadership seemed cool to the idea of a parallel inquiry, noting that the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation were already investigating the alleged PDAF scam.
“Congress does not have a good record in terms of investigating itself and it’s natural,” said Marikina Rep. Miro Quimbo, chair of the ways and means committee. “I think the Speaker is cognizant that even if we come up with the most truthful, exhaustive investigation, it will always be perceived by the public that we could not investigate ourselves because we are covering for one another.”
“Right now, there is a singular direction,” he added. “The investigation is being undertaken. Let us listen and if there would be recommendations, that’s when the leadership would act on it.”
In the meantime, Quimbo cited “safeguards” in the 2014 national expenditure program that would purportedly help ensure that pork barrel allocations would be spent properly. Each House member is allotted P70 million in PDAF yearly, while senators get P200 million each.
Western Samar Rep. Mel Sarmiento, secretary general of President Aquino’s Liberal Party, said measures were now in place “to avoid the controversies experienced in the past.”
“Right now, (the pork barrel system) has been tightened and we heard that it would be tightened even further by coming up with a shorter menu (of projects),” he said in a press conference with Quimbo.
One safeguard in the proposed 2014 national budget requires that nongovernment organizations tapped to implement a project should be accredited by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said Quimbo.
He said projects to be implemented through local government units would be limited to P10 million each. Another safeguard encourages “public participation” on how PDAF would be spent by individual members of Congress, he added.
Originally posted: 6:14 pm | Tuesday, August 6th, 2013