House ‘independents’ go for total pork abolition, want COA chief to resign

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COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

MANILA, Philippines — All pork must go.

And Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan of the Commission on Audit must go too, for releasing a special audit containing factual errors in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) disbursements between 2007 and 2009, the House “independent” bloc said on Tuesday.

“Out of delicadeza (propriety), I think she should resign,” Leyte Representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez told reporters, citing errors such as the report that former Compostela Valley Representative Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora got P3 billion in pork barrel.

“Otherwise, you know doing that to an institution like Congress basically brings irreparable damage, if not just to the institution, but unto herself, her credibility no less.”

Romualdez’s bloc is set to introduce a resolution seeking to junk all forms of pork barrel, not just the PDAF, in the entire national budget.

“We don’t intend to reshape it, rename it, give it a new deodorized appearance because our people will no longer countenance that,” said Buhay Representative Lito Atienza, who attended the “Million People March” against pork barrel in Luneta Monday.

“Judging from the temper and the mood of the people who attended the rally yesterday, I was there, I tell you, they were not angry only. They’re very, very, very angry and they will not countenance any other form of mutation out of this fund.”

Three days before the big rally, President Aquino announced that he was “abolishing” PDAF, a move seen by protesters as an effort to temper the impact of the upcoming mass action.

But it turned out that the President intended to keep the PDAF allocation, albeit with no label anymore, under a “new mechanism” of line-item budgeting.

Said Atienza: “Let’s abolish it. No more second thoughts. No more second-guessing. No more misleading of anything.”

In the proposed 2014 national budget, PDAF accounts for only around 5.5 percent (P25.4 billion) of the much bigger “special purpose funds” worth around P450 billion.

The SPF is said to be “non-permanent in nature” and “subject to a special provision and the approval of the President.”

“If ours is pork, the ones others get is Angus beef,” Surigao del Sur Representative Philip Pichay said in Filipino.

Under the existing budget system, Romualdez said the President would “ultimately” decide who could receive a particular allocation.

“Keep your eye on the ball,” he said. “It’s the President who holds on to the faucet. If he wants to release funds, he can do so. If he doesn’t want to, he doesn’t have to and there are political considerations for that.”

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