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Statement of President Benigno Aquino on PDAF abolition and budgetary reforms



President Benigno Aquino, flanked by Senate President Franklin Drilon, left, and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, announces the abolition of the pork barrel fund. AP/Malacanang Photo Bureau

[This is an English translation of the speech delivered at Kalayaan Hall, Malacañan Palace, on August 23, 2013]

In 1990 what we now know was the PDAF was established for a worthy goal: to enable your representatives to identify projects for your communities that your LGU cannot afford. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with this policy. But what is wrong–indeed, what has outraged our people—was the collusion among a former President ready to trade favors just to remain in power, legislators, and members of the bureaucracy who were willing to conspire, enabled by a passive and indifferent citizenry. All these factors put together make the PDAF prone to abuse. We need to make sure the system can no longer be abused.

There are those who treat the PDAF as their own private fund, to use as they please. This is clearly wrong: What is involved here is the people’s money; it should be used for the benefit of the people, and not for the benefit of a few greedy individuals. The shocking revelations of this misuse—the latest being the COA Special Audit Report in the 2007-2009 PDAF which was released this past week–are truly scandalous, and so the time has come to do two things.

First, to exact accountability from those who have abused the system. As I informed you yesterday, I have already tasked the DOJ, together with all the agencies of the executive government under the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council or IAAGCC to work together to accelerate the process, from investigation, to prosecution, to putting people behind bars, and even to asset recovery. My directives to all agencies and members of government are clear: Extend your full aid and cooperation so that the truth may be uncovered, and so that the guilty may be held accountable.

I have utmost confidence in the impartiality and integrity of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Secretary Leila M. De Lima, and Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan; I know that they will be impartial and just. They represent the great strides we have made in restoring public faith and confidence in the institutions they lead.

That outlines our efforts to achieve our first objective. Our second goal: To find a better way to ensure that the public coffers will be spent with only the public’s benefit in mind. Let me be clear: From the very start of our administration, we have pursued the necessary reform to limit discretion, which had previously been the root of the excessive and criminal use of PDAF. We believe that a transparent process can reduce abuses of the system. We ordered that the PDAF provided to every legislator be included and noted in the National Budget; and we prohibited congressional insertions. The existing menu for PDAF projects was limited in scope, unlike in the past when funds could be indiscriminately allotted for project or program. Now, we also ask that the project details be submitted as a condition for approving it, unlike in the past where projects had very general definitions. We uploaded the list of projects funded by the PDAF on the DBM website in real time so that the public could review and scrutinize them. For the bidding stage, all bid notices and awards were required to be posted on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement Systems or PhilGEPS.

I remember when I was a Senator. A budget, as we all know, is allocated for the period between January 1 and December 31. In 2007, it was approved in April. This means that from January to April, the budget was carried over from the previous year. Does it not make sense that, because the budget was re-enacted, the funds for the months that had passed also be stricken from the budget? My proposal lost, which is why I voted “No” for the budget of 2007. Because of this, the savings for that year reached about 36 billion pesos. You have to wonder where did the 36 billion go?

This is why, from the time we have assumed office, we have ensured that the budget is submitted and approved on time, so as to prevent its reenactment, which could be used as an instrument of corruption. On the day after the SONA, we submit the proposed national budget to Congress; they are able to approve it before the end of the year, thus preventing opportunities for crooked officials to tinker with the budget, and use it for corruption.

Despite the reforms we have implemented, we have seen, as the events of the past weeks have shown, that greater change is necessary to fight against those who are determined to abuse the system. It is time to abolish the PDAF.

Now, we will create a new mechanism to address the needs of your constituents and sectors, in a manner that is transparent, methodical and rational, and not susceptible to abuse or corruption.

Together with Senate President Frank Drilon and Speaker Sonny Belmonte, I will make sure that every citizen and sector will get a fair and equitable share of the national budget for health services, scholarships, livelihood generating projects, and local infrastructure. Your legislators can identify and suggest projects for your districts, but these will have to go through the budgetary process. If approved, these projects will be earmarked as line items, under the programs of your National Government. In this way, they will be enacted into law as part of our National Budget—every line, every peso, and every project open to scrutiny, as with all other programs of your government.

Furthermore, every project, as well as their corresponding budgetary releases, will have the following safeguards against corruption:

We will continue the practice of requiring that projects to be funded come from a specific menu of qualified projects.

They cannot include consumable soft projects, such as fertilizers, seeds, medicines, medical kits, dentures, funding for sports fests, training materials, and other such items—these projects whose results and impact we cannot conclusively identify, and who may only be ghost projects, used only as a source of income by the corrupt.

They cannot be temporary infrastructure, and neither can they be dredging, desilting, regravelling, or asphalt overlay projects.

The funds cannot be disbursed to NGOs and certain GOCCs such as ZREC and NABCOR. Both of these GOCCs will be abolished, along with others of their kind that have become notorious for anomalies, and which seem to serve no other purpose aside from being instruments of corruption.

The funds must be limited to the district or sector of the legislator who sponsored it.

All items will be subject to open and competitive bidding, with all bid notices and awards posted in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System or PhilGEPS.

So that the public may monitor the implementation themselves, we will make sure that each item will be disclosed in the DBM and related agency websites and the National Data Portal of the government.

I have tasked Secretary Abad of the Department of Budget and Management to consult with Speaker Belmonte and Senate President Drilon to craft this mechanism, and to submit it for my approval as soon as possible. We are all committed to putting this in place so that, moving forward, allocations per district will be included in the National Budget, starting with the proposed budget of 2014.

For this system to work, your cooperation is required. The information will be there for you to monitor: let us understand and examine it. I am calling on each and every Filipino to do his part, even as we do ours. Together, let us work to strengthen accountability and transparency in government, in order to ensure that public funds are utilized in a just manner—one that truly benefits the Filipino people.

Thank you and good day.

Pahayag ng Kagalang-galang Benigno S. Aquino III
Pangulo ng Pilipinas
Ukol sa abolisyon ng PDAF at mga reporma sa pagbabadyet

[Inihayag sa Bulwagang Kalayaan, Palasyo ng Malacañan, noong ika-23 ng Agosto 2013]

Taong 1990 nang binuo ang tinatawag na nating PDAF ngayon para sa isang marangal na layunin: Ang bigyang-lakas ang inyong mga Kinatawan sa Kongreso, upang tumukoy ng mga proyektong hindi kayang pondohan ng mga local government units. Wala pong mali o masama sa polisiyang ito. Ang mali, ang masama, at ang siya ngang ikinagagalit ng taumbayan, ay ang pagsasabwatan sa pagitan ng isang pangulong handang makipagtransaksyon para manatili sa kapangyarihan; mga mambabatas handang makipagkuntsabahan; at kung nariyan ang kooperasyon ng burukrasya; at mga mamamayang tila namanhid na sa panlalapastangang ginagawa sa kanila–kung nagsama-sama po ang mga sangkap na ito, maaaring maabuso ang PDAF. Kailangan nating maniguradong hindi na maaabuso ang sistema.

Akala po ng iba, pera nila ang PDAF, na puwedeng gastusin kung paano nila gusto. Pero mali po ito: Pera ng bayan ang pinag-uusapan dito, at sa bayan dapat–at hindi sa ilang gahaman lamang– ang pakinabang nito. Nakakagimbal nga po ang mga rebelasyon tulad ng mga nakapaloob sa COA Special Audit Report ukol sa paggamit ng PDAF noong 2007 hanggang 2009, na inilabas nitong nakaraang linggo. Dalawang bagay po ang malinaw na kailangan nating gawin sa panahong ito.

Una, ang panagutin ang mga umabuso sa sistema. Kahapon, iniulat ko sa inyo: Inatasan ko ang DOJ, sampu ng lahat ng ahensya ng ehekutibo sa ilalim ng Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council, o IAAGCC, na mag-ambagan at magtutulungan upang mapabilis ang proseso, mula sa imbestigasyon, hanggang sa pag-usig, hanggang sa pagpapakulong, at pati na ang pagbawi ng ilegal na yaman. Malinaw ang aking direktiba sa lahat ng ahensya at kawani ng gobyerno: Ibigay ang inyong buong tulong at kooperasyon upang mahanap ang katotohanan, at nang mapanagot ang dapat managot.

Buong-buo po ang kumpiyansa ko sa integridad nina Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, Kalihim Leila M. de Lima, at Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan; alam kong wala silang kikilingan. Kinakatawan nila ang panunumbalik ng tiwala ng publiko sa mga institusyong kanilang pinamumunuan.

Iyan po ang balangkas ng ating unang layunin. Ang ikalawa: maghanap ng mas mainam na paraan upang siguruhing ang pera ng taumbayan ay mapunta sa taumbayan lamang. Lilinawin ko po: Simula pa lamang, pilit na tayong nagpapasok ng reporma upang bawasan ang diskresyon, na siyang ugat ng labis at maling paggamit ng PDAF. Naniniwala tayo: kung hayag ang proseso, mababawasan din ang pang-aabuso sa sistema. Inatas po nating itala sa Pambansang Budget kung magkano ang PDAF na natatanggap ng bawat mambabatas, at ipinagbawal na rin natin ang congressional insertions. Partikular na lamang ang menu na puwedeng paglagyan ng PDAF, hindi katulad dati kung kailan inilalagay lamang ito sa kung saan-saan. Hinihingi na rin natin ang mga detalye ng proyekto, di gaya ng nakaraan kung kailan kahit malawak ang depinisyon ay naaaprubahan ito. Real time na ring ina-upload sa website ng DBM ang listahan ng proyektong napopondohan ng PDAF, kaya’t malaya itong mabusisi ng madla. Pagdating naman sa bidding, lahat ng bid notices at awards ay nakapaskil na rin sa Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System o PhilGEPS.

Naalala ko nga po noong Senador ako. Ang budget, nakalaan para sa January 1 hanggang December 31. Noong 2007, naaprubahan ito, Abril na. Ibig sabihin, mula Enero hanggang Abril, carry over ang budget mula sa nakaraang taon. Di ba makatuwiran na dahil na-reenact ang budget, tanggalin na rin sa budget ang pondo para sa mga buwan na nakalipas at nagastusan na? Natalo po ang mungkahi ko–kaya bumoto ako ng “No” sa budget ng 2007. Tinatayang 36 billion pesos ang biglang naging savings noong taong ito. Ang tanong po: Saan naman po kaya napunta itong 36 billion na ito?

Kaya nga po, mula nang maupo tayo, maaga na ring isinusumite at inaaprubahan ang budget, upang hindi na ito paulit-ulit na ma-reenact, na maaari ring magamit bilang instrumento ng pang-aabuso. Sa araw matapos ang SONA, isinusumite na namin ito sa Kongreso; naaaprubahan po nila ito bago matapos ang taon, kaya’t nabawasan na rin ang pagkakataong makakalikot ito at mapagkakitaan.

Sa kabila po ng mga repormang ito, nakita natin sa mga ulat na lumabas nitong mga nakaraang linggo: kailangan pa ng mas malaking pagbabago upang labanan ang mga talagang pursigidong abusuhin ang sistema. Panahon na po upang i-abolish ang PDAF.

Ngayon, bubuo tayo ng bagong mekanismo upang matugunan ang pangangailangan ng inyong mga mamamayan at sektor–sa paraang tapat, gamit ang tama at makatuwirang proseso, at nang may sapat na mga kalasag laban sa pang-aabuso at katiwalian.

Katuwang nina Senate President Frank Drilon at Speaker Sonny Belmonte, sisiguruhin kong bawat mamamayan at sektor ay makakakuha ng patas na bahagi ng pambansang budget para sa serbisyong pangkalusugan, scholarship, proyektong lumilikha ng kabuhayan, at lokal na imprastruktura. Makakapagmungkahi ng proyekto ang inyong mga mambabatas, ngunit kailangan itong idaan sa proseso ng pagbubuo ng budget. Kung maaprubahan, itatalang mga ito bilang mga line item, alinsunod sa mga programa ng Pambansang Pamahalaan. Mapapaloob ito sa batas bilang Pambansang Budget– hihimayin ang bawat linya, bawat piso, bawat proyekto, gaya ng lahat ng iba pang mga programa ng inyong pamahalaan.

Dagdag pa rito, ang mga proyekto, at ang pag-release ng budget para sa mga ito, ay magkakaroon ng mga sumusunod na patakaran laban sa katiwalian:

1.   Itutuloy natin: Kailangang manggaling sa isang limitadong menu ang mga proyektong popondohan.

2.  Ngayon, bawal na ang mga consumable na soft project tulad ng fertilizers, punla, gamot, medical kits, pustiso, paliga, training materials, at iba pang mga bagay na hindi masusuri kung totoo ngang may kinahihinatnan, o kung nagmumulto at pinagkakakitaan lamang.

3.   Ngayon, bawal na rin ang mga panandaliang imprastruktura, tulad ng mga dredging, desilting, regravelling, o asphalt overlay project.

4.   Ngayon, bawal na ring padaanin ang pondo sa mga NGO at piling GOCC tulad ng ZREC at NABCOR. Bubuwagin na po ang mga GOCC na ito at iba pang tulad nila, na paulit-ulit na ginamit sa kuntsabahan, at parang wala namang ibang silbi kundi ang maging instrumento ng katiwalian.

5.   Ngayon, limitado na sa distrito o sektor ng mambabatas na nag-sponsor ang kanyang panukalang proyekto.

6.   Ipagpapatuloy natin ang tapat at bukas na bidding para sa bawat proyekto; kailangang ipaskil sa Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System o PhilGEPS ang lahat ng mga bid notices at awards.

7.   Patuloy din pong masubaybayan ng taumbayan ang implementasyon ng mga proyekto, ihahayag ito nang buo sa website ng DBM at kaukulang ahensya, pati na sa National Data Portal ng gobyerno.

Inatasan ko na si Secretary Abad ng DBM na kumonsulta kina Speaker Belmonte at Senate President Drilon upang pandayin ang mekanismo, at isumite ito kaagad sa akin. Ilalatag natin ito upang ang mga alokasyon sa bawat distrito ay mapabilang na sa ating Pambansang Budget simula sa panukalang budget ng 2014.

Gagana lamang po ang sistemang ito kung makikiisa at makikilahok kayo. Ihahayag po nang buo ang impormasyon; suyurin at kilitasin po natin ito. Nananawagan akong makiambag at magsikap ang bawat isa, gaya ng pakikiambag at pagsisikap ng inyong gobyerno. Sama-sama nating pagtibayin ang pananagutan at katapatan, upang masigurong ang pera ng bayan ay ginugugol sa paraang makatarungan at tunay ninyong napapakinabangan.

Maraming salamat po, at magandang araw po.

RELATED STORY

It’s time to abolish pork barrel–Aquino


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Tags: Benigno Aquino , budget , PDAF , Pork barrel




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