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Ex-solon admits pork was swapped

Former Pangasinan Rep. Ma. Rachel Arenas. Photo by WILLIE LOMIBAO/CONTRIBUTOR

DAGUPAN CITY—After initially denying that she used her pork barrel for projects outside her district, former Pangasinan Rep. Ma. Rachel Arenas on Saturday admitted that her Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations were swapped for “hard projects” needed by her district.

Arenas, in a statement on Saturday, said it was common practice for lawmakers to exchange their pork barrel funds allocated for “soft” and “hard” projects.

Soft projects consist of scholarships, fertilizers, seeds, medicines, medical kits, dentures, training materials and sponsorship of sports leagues, while hard projects involve infrastructure.

Arenas said she preferred hard projects to hasten the development of her district.

In the same statement, Arenas described an Inquirer story on the use of her PDAF allocation as “malicious, bereft of pertinent facts and information, and intended to malign my reputation.”

“While the story stated verifiable information about the usage of my PDAF, the report failed to mention the reason some of my allocations [were] used in several projects in the fifth district of Manila, Compostela Valley and Abra,” Arenas said.

But in a statement e-mailed on Thursday night after the Inquirer sought her reaction to the use of her PDAF outside her district, Arenas said: “Being the biggest district in terms of population and almost the biggest in terms of size, the funds are so not enough to meet the needs and requests of my constituents. Therefore, it is most illogical to even think of using them outside the 304 barangays of my district.”

In her latest statement, she urged concerned government agencies to adopt better documentation and reporting systems to make sure that their reports would “reflect not just cold facts but truths.”

“This issue of trading allocations could be very misleading so I encourage the development of better documentation and reporting systems,” she said.

Arenas said she saw to it that every transaction involving her PDAF was transparent and used solely for the benefit of her constituents.

A list of fund releases posted on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) website (pdaf.dbm.gov.ph) shows that Arenas spent P15 million of her PDAF allocation in 2012 for various projects in Abra province and Manila, and another P20 million early this year for various projects in Compostela Valley and again in Manila.

Under the swapping arrangement, Arenas said the P10 million she allocated last year for several projects in Manila’s fifth district was replaced by Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing with two infrastructure projects in Malasiqui.

These were the dredging of the Aliaga Creek and Ingalera River. Bagatsing released on Oct. 12, 2012, P10 million for the project, the DBM website showed. Reports from Gabriel Cardinoza, Inquirer Northern Luzon, and  Leila S. Salaverria

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Tags: Janet Napoles , News , Pork barrel , Regions

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