Arenas: Swapping PDAF allocations with other lawmakers is legal

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

MANILA, Philippines—Former Pangasinan Rep. Rachel Arenas said the use of her priority development assistance funds for other districts was aboveboard, and branded as malicious a Philippine Daily Inquirer report on the issue.

In a statement, Arenas said the report stating that P35 million of her PDAF, or pork barrel funds, was spent outside her Pangasinan district failed to explain why some of her funds were used for projects in Manila, Compostela Valley and Abra.

Arenas 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 are those involving infrastructure. Of the P70 million PDAF of representatives, P30 million is for soft projects, while P40 million is for hard projects.

Some lawmakers prefer soft projects, while others prefer hard projects, Arenas said. She herself prefers hard projects in order to hasten the development of her district.

“As a matter of fact, swapping PDAF allocation is just one other means by which big districts, like ours, maximize the limited PDAF allocation, which is generally the same for all, regardless of the size of the district,” she said.

According to her, the P10 million she allocated for the fifth district of Manila was replaced by Rep. Amado Bagatsing with two infrastructure projects of the same value in Malasiqui.

There was another P10 million she had allocated for Bagatsing’s district, and she was expecting the Manila lawmaker to match the amount before the yearend, she added.

Abra Rep. Ma. Jocelyn Bernos also channeled P5 million to a dredging project in Santa Barbara in exchange for P5 million that Arenas allocated for road rehabilitation in Abra.

Arenas also said she allocated P10 million of her pork barrel funds for projects in Compostela Valley earlier this year. In turn, Compostela Valley Rep. Ma. Carmen Zamora funded infrastructure projects in San Carlos and Malasiqui.

She also said the transactions involving her pork barrel funds were transparent.

“During my term, I see to it that every transaction involving my PDAF would be transparent and would be used solely for the benefit of my constituents,” she said.

She further said there should be better documentation and reporting of the use of the pork barrel funds.

“Since we are working towards unprecedented transparency in government service, I urge concerned agencies to make sure that their reports reflect not just cold facts, but truths,” she said.

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

The Inquirer earlier reported that based on data posted on the Department of Budget and Management website, Arenas spent P15 million of her P70-million PDAF allocation in 2012 for various projects in Abra province and Manila. It further stated that early this year, six months before her term ended, she allocated P20 million for various projects in Compostela Valley and Manila.

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