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National

More than two-thirds of the Senate now seek pork barrel abolition

InterAksyon.com
The online news portal of TV5

More than two-thirds of Senators as of Friday said they are willing to give up their pork barrel funds. The senators made their positions known three days before a citizens' movement is set to hold a protest action in Manila on Monday.

In separate statements, Senators Nancy Binay, Juan Victor "JV" Ejercito, Juan Edgardo Angara, Grace Poe, Aquilino Pimentel III, Gregorio Honasan, Serge Osmeña, and Lito Lapid said that the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) - which allots P200 million each for their projects - should be abolished immediately. 

Earlier, Senate President Franklin Drilon also said he supports the move, revising his earlier position to merely suspend the PDAF until "stricter measures" are adopted by the Department of Budget and Management. 

Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano filed separate resolutions seeking the abolition of the pork barrel and other lump sum funds in the national expenditures program. 

Senators Ralph Recto and Teofisto Guingona III also expressed support for the move.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was the first to file a resolution calling for the abolition of pork barrel in phases until its complete abolition in 2016. 

Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., also said he wanted to do away with the system after he was linked to bogus non-goverment organizations that siphoned off pork barrel funds through spurious projects and programs. 

Lately, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Honasan has echoed calls for the pork barrel abolition not only in Congress but also in all government agencies, starting from the Office of the President. "If it must be scrapped, the pork barrel system should be scrapped totally," Enrile said. "We should not only look at scrapping the PDAF but include the various 'pork barrel' or lump sum appropriations of all departments of government under the GAA as well."

“After thorough impartial investigation by concerned agencies, departments, shift to line item budget process, immediate passage of FOI/POGI bill that would mean full transparency in public affairs. I would support calibrated abolition of the PDAF/pork barrel/discretionary fund system in all branches/departments of government,” Honasan added. 

Former Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, who, like Revilla, is linked to the pork barrel scam, also supported the snowballing move to eradicate the pork barrel system. 

While Angara urged Congress to support the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill to avoid misuse of public funds, he also supported the call to abolish PDAF. 

Newly-elected senator JV Ejercito said "I feel sorry and really bothers me to witness our nation being embroiled in an anomaly involving the use of government funds. This issue does not only drag the image of the Senate, House of Representatives, and Malacañang, but the entire system of governance as a whole.” 

“At this juncture, the function of our President plays an important role in giving direction to where this will all go. The President can end this by issuing a vital decision that mirrors the voice of the people,” Ejercito added.

For her part, Poe thanked President Aquino and supported his statement condemning the abuse of PDAF and his directives to make sure that those who took advantage of pork barrel be brought to justice. 

“I also agree with him that the discretionary nature of the PDAF encourages corruption. Together with the President and millions of our countrymen, I support the abolition of the pork barrel system,” Poe said.

Aquino said he will take part in the necessary steps to abolish the PDAF in the Senate, a move that supports assertions of his cousin, President Aquino.

For his part, Pimentel said: "Let's prepare for very thick and detailed national budget because there will be line item budgeting to reflect budget priorities at national district and sectoral levels. Tiyagaan ito sa budget process which should really be the case because budget is the most important law enacted by Congress yearly. But let us all be on the lookout for possible reincarnation of the pork barrel in the future.

"In the past when the CDF was abolished, PDAF took its place," Osmena said that he had already moved in 1997 for its abolition. “Only one senator voted with me.” 

Lapid said that he welcomed the decision of President Benigno Aquino III to scrap the pork barrel fund in line with the administration's effort to beef up transparency and ensure propriety of the use of the fund. 

"Ito na ang pagkakataon nating mga lingkod-bayan na maipakita na tunay tayong seryoso sa pagsuporta sa adhikain ng ating pangulo para sa isang pamahalaang bumabagtas sa tuwid na daan," Lapid said.

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