Casiño links extra pork to bid to stop Arroyo ouster

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Former Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño. INQUIRER.NET FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Selected lawmakers received extra funding from their pork barrel way beyond the normal allocation in an apparent bid by former  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to squelch attempts to impeach her, according to former Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño.

“We all know that the pork barrel is used by the administration to get favors from Congress, and congressmen used their position to wrangle concessions from Malacañang, most probably at the time when Malacañang was on the defensive,” he said in a phone interview.

Casiño noted that the releases of extra funds for certain lawmakers were made at the time Arroyo faced ouster.

Impeachment complaints were filed in the House of Representatives against Arroyo in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, but none prospered. She was accused of stealing the 2004 presidential election and committing acts of corruption. She has vehemently denied the charges.

Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, is under house arrest for plunder.

The Commission on Audit (COA) said in a special report that from 2007 to 2009, amounts released for 74 legislators exceeded their allocations under the priority development assistance fund (PDAF), or pork barrel.

It also found that some of the pork barrel funds went to dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs), including those run by businesswoman Janet Napoles. Napoles has been accused by her former employees of masterminding a P10-billion scam to channel pork barrel funds to fake NGOs for ghost projects.

Casiño said that during the period covered by the COA report, Bayan Muna and other militant lawmakers no longer got PDAF allocations for their projects. The group stopped getting the funds in 2005. Bayan Muna lawmakers were among those very critical of Arroyo and sought to impeach her.

The former lawmaker said his group had wondered where the funds allocated for them went, and he surmised that they could have been given to lawmakers friendly to the administration.

Casiño also said that in the pork barrel scam, it would be hard not to link or mention Arroyo.

“The pork barrrel is a team sport between Malacañang and Congress. The budget proposal comes from Malacañang and it releases the funds, so Malacañang really has a big role to play. I would say it plays the more decisive role. It has the power to release or not to release the PDAF,” he said.

Congress, on the other hand, identifies the projects to be funded.

Casiño said this was all part of Malacañang’s use of its advantage to get favors from Congress, and he believed this was a practice not limited to the Arroyo administration.

Earlier, former Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said not all fund releases recommended or initiated by legislators fell under the pork barrel.

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