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‘NO NEED FOR PORK’

Bishops want PDAF, special funds abolished now, not in 2014 The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Saturday called on President Benigno Aquino III to scrap the Priority Development Assistance Fund this year, and not wait for 2014. “If it (PDAF) is acknowledged to be defective, why still continue it?” the CBCP asked in a statement released by its National Secretariat of Social Action. The CBCP statement added that while the Church acknowledges Aquino’s statement on the abolition of the PDAF, it said that the President did not mention a “clear time frame” when the abolition should take place. The bishops maintained that the pork barrel system cannot be fixed, “because while it exists,  the issues on the misuse of the fund would remain.” “The pork barrel promotes the culture of political patronage among the people. The people will not be running to the lawmakers for favors if they do not have anything to give, since their function is to make laws and not to distribute largess,” the CBCP-NSSA said. As this developed, the House of Representatives said that it would work with the Department of Budget and Management on the restrictions and criteria set forth Aquino on the use of pork barrel funds. House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. made the statement even as he vowed to explain to his colleagues in the Lower House the new mechanism that would be put in place to ensure that the pork barrel funds would now be corruption-free. He said he would meet with the majority bloc, as well as try to explain to the opposition about it. Aquino on Friday said it was time to abolish the pork barrel system, and replace it with “a new mechanism” that would ensure congressional allocations would no longer be open to abuse. Belmonte said he is confident that congressmen would be able to ‘adjust” to the new pork system. “Syempre may mga magagalit. Dahil sa nabago, something that they have been used to, babaguhin. But I am very confident (they will understand),” Belmonte said. At the same time, Belmonte urged his fellow congressmen to come up with a list of projects that they want to be funded under the proposed P2.268-trillion national budget for 2014 budget, following the President’s call. Opposition stalwart, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said he supports the President’s call for a tighter pork spending. He said it is a good thing that the President did not abolish the pork barrel system. “He did not abolish it… I would like it retained with whatever safeguards they want to institute,” Albano said. Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said that the President’s directive would enable legislators to focus on their primary function -- legislation. “I am 100 percent behind the President’s decision to have the PDAF abolished. It only shows his commitment to fight graft and corruption in all fronts.  He wants to nip it in the bud,” said Barzaga, a member of the administration coalition’s National Unity Party. “It is about time that we tell our constituents that our main function as legislators is to craft laws.  Congressmen and senators should just stick to legislation.” But Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate challenged the President to call for a total abolition of the pork barrel system, including the ‘presidential pork.’ Zarate said that the new mechanisms on the pork barrel would mean a “more centralized corruption.” “What we have now is like the time when (former president) Gloria (Macapagal-Arroyo) said: ‘I am sorry’ but did not mean it at the height of Hello Garci scandal.  Now, Aquino said:  ‘It’s about time to abolish the Pdaf’ he (Aquino) renamed, recycled and centralized the pork barrel into his own,” Zarate said. Another militant group,  the Anakbayan, said that Aquino’s new directive would “actually lead to an “expanded, unlimited, and invisible” Aquino pork barrel system. “The Aquino pork plan is an evil, deceptive ploy to bank on the people’s anger against pork barrel and corruption in order to breed an animal more monstrous,”  Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan chairperson in a statement. “Aquino’s statement that he “abolished” the pork is doublespeak. Under his new system, the congressmen will merely have to propose their projects to the executive and include them as line items in the General Appropriations Act instead of a lump sum allotted for them. This, Crisostomo claimed,  means “means greater Palace pork concentration and more pork under Aquino control and discretion. It is no wonder that DBM secretary Abad is smiling when Noynoy announced the move for it is he and his LP friends which would have the power to screen and approve projects.”
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