Tagle: Search for alternative to pork barrel

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Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga – In the wake of a government audit report confirming pork barrel anomalies dating back to 2007, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said here Friday that proposals to remove the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the President’s pork barrel should be seriously studied.

Tagle, who was interviewed in Angeles City on Friday, said an alternative PDAF allocation must be presented, “or else, the pork barrel may go to private pockets again.”

Many of the congressmen who were implicated in the Commission on Audit report concerning P2 billion in pork barrel funds coursed through organizations identified with fugitive businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, said the list was “erroneous or was proof they were used.”

Aurelio Gonzales, former Pampanga third district representative, said he did not course his PDAF and VILP (or PDAF allocations to Various Infrastructures including Local Projects) through non-government organizations. “My projects were implemented by government agencies,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by telephone on Saturday.

The COA special audit report showed that PDAF and VILP funds of Gonzales amounted to P121.7 million.

Other former Pampanga representatives Juan Miguel Arroyo (second district) got P220.5 million; Carmelo Lazatin (first district), P148.8 million, and Dr. Anna York Bondoc (fourth district), P135.4 million.

Lazatin and Bondoc did not answer the Inquirer’s calls to their mobile phones. Arroyo could not be reached via his mobile phone.

Former Nueva Ecija Representative Eduardo Nonato Joson was on the list of lawmakers who allegedly exceeded their PDAF allocations in 2007 and 2009, based on the COA report, but he said his PDAF was spent properly through government agencies.

The auditors listed his PDAF allocations, coursed allegedly through Napoles’ NGOs, to have reached P158 million.

“My soft PDAF (a reference to education, health, livelihood or rural water projects) was covered and supported by vouchers and disbursements while [my] hard PDAF (or infrastructure projects) was fully implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways through their district offices. I did not run for reelection because I do not want to be swallowed by a rotting political system,” Joson said on Saturday.

He said: “The additional funds for lawmakers are [acquired] through budget insertions, connections with the President and Cabinet secretaries, and from ‘fixations’ or fundings overseen by fixers.”

“During my first two terms [as lawmaker] in 1987 until 1992, walang ganito kabulok na sistema (the system was not this rotten),” Joson said.

“Ganito na pala ngayon. Si President P-Noy takot sa impeachment kaya hindi kayang tanggalin ang principal source of corruption (I didn’t realize this is how things operate today. President Aquino fears an impeachment so he can’t stop the principal source of corruption),” he said.

In Isabela, Governor Faustino Dy III, who served as representative of the third district from 2001 to 2010, said his inclusion in the COA report was “absurd and cheap.”

“I smell something fishy here,” Dy said, adding that he has not coordinated with any private groups with regard to his PDAF.

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