Is President Benigno Aquino III just renaming the pork barrel?
That is what lawyer Harry Roque is afraid of, as it has happened before.
The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a pork barrel that channels funds to congressional districts, was formerly known as the Countryside Development Fund (CDF), Roque said on Friday, reacting to Mr. Aquino’s announcement of the abolition of the PDAF.
The administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo changed the name of the CDF to PDAF after it had been analyzed in the press and exposed for what it truly was—a source of pork for her allies.
“What the President may have announced is only a change of name. The PDAF used to be known as the CDF or the Countryside Development Fund,” Roque said.
“To completely do away with the pork barrel, what [needs to be done is] to abolish all lump-sum appropriations,” he added.
Roque noted that under the plan announced by the President, lawmakers will still be able to continue identifying the projects they want funded with taxpayers’ money.
That means the congressmen and the senators will continue to have a say in the choice and implementation of projects, he said.
Roque also said all forms of pork barrel must be abolished, adding that the Malampaya Fund must be spent according to the rules set in the Local Government Code.
“This means putting an end to presidential discretion on spending this multibillion-peso fund. Likewise, the judiciary must once and for all also be transparent in its spending of the Judiciary Development Fund. It must also make public and do away with the discretionary fund of all justices,” Roque said.
“The President’s announcement today is proof that public anger cannot be ignored. We must not be deceived, the pork barrel will continue despite this latest presidential pronouncement. We still need to occupy Luneta on Monday, Aug. 26, starting at 9 a.m.,” he said, referring to the Million People March to demand the abolition of the PDAF.
Preempting pork march
Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz believes the presidential announcement is an attempt to preempt the march.
“It is worth noting that he [announced the abolition three days before the march],” Cruz said, adding that he will join the action against the pork barrel.
“As far as I am concerned, the manifestation on Monday will push through. In fact, I am going to join the gathering, which is worth it precisely because up to now [President Aquino] is just saying what he is told to say by those people around him,” Cruz, speaking on Church-run Radio Veritas, said.
“I am already tired of words from him. He is full of words, good ideas, but in the end nothing happens,” he said.
“Before I clap my hands, I would like to see that what he said becomes reality. And not only that, it has to apply to his own pork barrel, which is more than P2 billion,” he said.
Cruz also asked why the Commission on Audit’s (COA) special audit of the PDAF was limited to 2007 to 2009, the last three years in office of Arroyo.
“How about in 2010? Is everything OK from 2010 to 2013?” Cruz asked.
He said the COA should not have exempted anyone, and urged an audit of pork expenditure under the Aquino administration.
In her press conference last Friday, COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan said the special audit covering 2007 to 2009 began in 2010 but was only completed this year. She said that it takes time to gather, collate and analyze data.