Solons won’t give up ‘pork’, want TRO lifted

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Rep. Ben Evardone INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – Congressmen are not giving up what remains of their “pork barrel” or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The House of Representatives is set to ask the Supreme Court on Monday to lift the temporary restraining order on the PDAF, Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone said Saturday.

Evardone, vice chairman of the committee on appropriations, said the motion would specifically ask the high court to free up the pork barrel for scholarship and medical assistance programs.

“The TRO has created anxieties among scholars regarding their future because they are unsure whether they will be allowed to take the final exams slated next month and if they can enroll for the second semester,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Evardone said the Office of the Solicitor General has been furnished copies of affidavits of scholars and patients who depend on congressional pork barrel for assistance.

He said he and other lawmakers were hoping that the Supreme Court would calendar the motion for an en banc session the following day, considering the “urgency” of the matter.

The high court issued the TRO pending resolution of a petition questioning the constitutionality of PDAF.

Evardone said the order particularly had a heavy effect on scholarship and medical assistance programs.

As of September 20, a total of 997,782 patients had received assistance from the PDAF of 96 representatives, he said.

He said there were also 456,871 scholars enrolled in the current school year because of the pork barrel of 111 congressmen.

“On humanitarian consideration, we would like to appeal to the Supreme Court to consider the situation of our constituents who depend on PDAF,” he said in a press conference earlier this week.

Each House member was entitled to P70 million in annual PDAF, while senators each received P200 million yearly.

The appropriations committee has decided to “abolish” the P25.2-billion PDAF item in next year’s national budget.

The amount, together with Vice President Jejomar Binay’s P200-million pork barrel, would instead be spread among six government agencies, with the Department of Public Works and Highways getting the biggest share at 35 percent.

But the new pork barrel scheme remains a committee proposal as the House continues to deliberate on the P2.268-trillion national budget in plenary.

Evardone proposed that each congressmen be allowed to “propose” up to five infrastructure projects. Under his formula, each House member would be entitled to only P24.6 million in “hard projects,” a reduction of 40 percent from what they were used to getting.

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