REMINDER | Pork barrel is not a personal fund, veteran lawmaker tells new House members
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New members of the House of Representatives upbeat about their new jobs and the perks that go with it received a reminder from a veteran lawmaker on the use of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or popularly known as pork barrel.
"The PDAF is not a personal fund. It is a funding for the lawmaker's district or his constituency's priority development projects," Albay Representative and former minority leader Edcel Lagman told some 32 neophyte lawmakers during a seminar designed to help them learn theropes of legislation.
"The PDAF is not a discretionary fund. The congressman or senator has no absolute control over the disposition of the PDAF," he added.
Lagman also stressed that congressmen should also fight for their PDAF against attempts by the executive to withhold it or delay its release.
"Sometimes it's regrettable that the power of the purse is inferior tothe power of the President to disburse," he said, when asked by a newlawmaker if the executive can move not to release it.
Lagman, who headed the appropriations committee in the 14th Congress, said the several lawmakers were not given their PDAF during the time of former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and President Benigno Aquino III.
"My answer is unfortunately, yes, it is being done, and I think there is a need to question this action before the judiciary, because no one has attempted to question the non-disbursement of he PDAF before the courts. I hope it will not happen to anyone of you because these things happen and this is part of the realities of partisan politics," he added.
Lagman finished his nine years in the chamber this 15th Congress. Hisson, Edcel Lagman Jr., ran for his post and won.
PDAF was among the interests of the new lawmakers, who willbegin their term when the 16th Congress opens in July 22. During oneof the workshops, one of the items raised was "updating the PDAF" oflawmakers.
Each senator is alloted P200 million in PDAF, while each congressmangets P70 million, which are sourced from the national budget.
For 2013, the total budget allocated to PDAF was P24.79 billion.
For the House members, PDAF is released in two semestral tranches of 50 percent per semester amounting to P35-million for each congressional district and partylist representatives, broken down to P20 million for "hard projects" and P15 for "soft projects."
Hard projects refer to small infrastructure, while soft projects are non-infrastructure activities like funding for scholarship programs, medical care for indigents, livelihood support programs and local government units financial assistance, among others. Soft projects can be converted into hard projects, but not vice versa, Lagman said.
The Albay lawmaker said that contrary to perception, PDAF was not graft-ridden as its implementation is strictly monitored. He said that the fund should not also be seen as patronage reward, saying thatlawmakers are cautious and deliberate in identifying PDAF projects. They are mostly in response to requests from constituents, local government officials and political leaders.