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Lump-sum pork

Palace to pig out on PDAF, solons say The House committee on appropriations is set to approve the proposed P2.268-trillion national budget for 2014 on Tuesday, Sept. 10, amid accusations that the Commission on Audit, the Department of Budget and Management, and implementing agencies of various recipients of the priority development assistance fund were equally to be blamed for the pork barrel scam. ABAKADA Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, said the P10-billion pork barrel Janet Lim Napoles scam had materialized with the involvement of CoA, DBM and other government agencies. “Don’t just blame congressmen, who gave the approval to allocate their PDAF to non-existing NGOs,” he said. The scam was perpetrated also by other agencies, he said,  warning  of the lump-sum PDAF being tossed to the Palace. “Why is it that DBM had released funds every so often to the NGO-recipients without validating their legitimacy?” he asked. The minority bloc of independent members of the House of Representatives will dig deeper into the participation of auditors in the pork barrel scam, he said. He also criticized CoA Chairperson Grace Pulido Tan and Commissioner Heidi Mendoza for the errors in the special audit report of the legislators’ PDAF, particularly of former Compostela Valley representative Manuel “Way Kurat” Zamora. “CoA must validate their documents several times before releasing reports. Its documents could be used to absolve Napoles of the pork barrel scam. As this developed, AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, asked the public, especially the media, to exercise extra vigilance now that the so-called legislators’ pork barrel will be turned over to the Executive branch. “Unlike the legislative branch of government which is checked by our people through elections, the executive is not held accountable by a direct mandate of our people,” Batocabe said. Meanwhile, Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, panel chair of the appropriations committee, said they would come out with a committee report in line with the directive of President Benigno Aquino III and the recommendation of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad that the lump sum priority development assistance fund (Pdaf), otherwise known as the ‘pork barrel,’ will be re-aligned to executive agencies, such as Departments of Education, Health and Commission on Higher Education for the beneficiaries of the medical and educational assistance from lawmakers. Ungab said that the legislators’ Pdaf does not necessarily mean that it was taken out from the 2014 budget bill but only re-channeled at the discretion of the Executive branch, cabinet secretaries and department heads. “We will come out with a committee report taking out the P25-billion provision on Pdaf in the next year’s budget at the discretion of congressional leaders. The common consensus will be to transfer these funds to Executive department, the committee will agree on that,” Ungab said. “Definitely, congressmen will no longer have discretion over the funds if it goes into the budget of the Executive.  Cabinet Secretaries and regional offices will be the ones handling that,” Ungab added. The only role of congressmen over the ‘Pdaf’ was to make recommendations in the implementation, Ungab said. Every congressman receives P70 million and senators get P120 million Pdaf funds. Aquino had earlier sought the abolition of the Pdaf. House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that the House leadership would support the Aquino government’s efforts to bring transparency and accountability in the budget process. Batocabe and Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III welcomed Belmonte’s statement. “Realigning the PDAF is a concrete move to show that we are sensitive to the clamor of our people to abolish the pork barrel,” Batocabe said. Albano said that agencies of government concerned being the recipients of those funds should be held transparent and accountable on the use and misuse of such public funds. “The agencies are the ones liable because they are the ones who execute the program,” Albano said. Ungab, meanwhile, said that the House will begin the plenary debates on the budget bill as soon as his panel comes out with a report. With Rio N. Araja
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