Aquino finally vows to abolish pork fund
MANILA – President Benigno Aquino III yesterday yielded to public pressure and announced he would scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) ahead of Monday’s nationwide protest calling for the abolition of the graft-tainted pork barrel fund.
“Despite the reforms we have implemented, we have seen, as the events of the past weeks have shown, that greater change is necessary to fight against those who are determined to abuse the system,” Aquino said in Malacañang.
“It is time to abolish the PDAF.”
The remark was a complete turnaround of Aquino’s position Monday, when he said the pork barrel fund had its “good uses” and should not be junked.
Lawmakers will still be able to propose projects but they need to undergo the normal budget process, under line items in the national government’s general appropriations, he said.
The new project menu will prohibit consumable soft programs such as fertilizers and medicine and temporary infrastructure projects in the form of dredging, desilting, regravelling or asphalt overlay.
Prosecute erring officials
Aquino also called for the prosecution of involved officials and the creation of a new system to ensure that public funds are used for the benefit of the Filipinos.
He directed the Department of Justice and other agencies under the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council to investigate, prosecute and jail those who are found guilty and seize their ill-gotten wealth.
Aquino said government funds can no longer be disbursed to non-government organizations (NGOs) and government corporations allegedly involved in PDAF anomalies.
A series of exposés by the Philippine Daily Inquirer revealed a web of corruption, with Janet Lim-Napoles as the alleged brains behind a P10-billion scheme that channeled funds over the past 10 years from the pork barrel and other state agencies into kickbacks of up to 60 percent using bogus NGOs.
The public uproar grew into a web-based movement campaigning for a “Million People March” at the Luneta on Monday, National Heroes Day.
The drive has snowballed into a national campaign as enraged netizens agreed to hold similar protest actions in various points across the country.
It also spilled over to Filipino communities abroad with groups in Hong Kong, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York planning simultaneous protests. /INQUIRER