PDAF abolished by 2014 – Belmonte
October 12, 2013 (updated)
The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), popularly known as “pork barrel,” will be effectively abolished in the 2014 national budget.
House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. said this yesterday, noting that the 2013 budget still covers the PDAF.
Belmonte gave this explanation following Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza’s admission Thursday at the Supreme Court that the PDAF has not yet been completely scrapped.
Jardeleza is heading the side of the executive branch in the oral arguments on the constitutionality of PDAF before the Supreme Court (SC).
“Well maybe it wasn’t as clear as how he (Jardeleza) wanted to say it. But what we’re saying is the PDAF will be abolished as of the 2014 budget. Definitely abolished na yun. We’re in the middle of the 2013 budget and certainly it’s (PDAF) in the 2013 budget,” Belmonte said.
“What he meant and what I would like to reiterate is that there will be no PDAF in the 2014 budget,” added the Quezon City solon.
PDAF Not Abolished, Malacañang Admits
Malacañang confirmed that the much-vilified PDAF has not been abolished by President Aquino since only Congress has the power to do so.
The release of the congressional pork barrel funds has been merely suspended for 2013 and will be scrapped next year in the wake of allegations of misuse, according to Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte.
The SC had earlier suspended release of the second tranche of the controversial funds for this year through a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO), which Jardeleza had asked to be lifted at the SC oral argument.
R25-B Lump Sum Now Realigned
In the proposed P2.268-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the 2014 national budget, the P25-billion lump sum originally intended for pork barrel was realigned to six government agencies namely the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, Department of Labor and Employment, and Department of Health.
The GAA was passed on second reading by the House of Representatives (HoR) last month. The compromise was that by the time the 2014 budget is passed on third and final reading in December, the congressmen’s pet projects will have been itemized in the proposed budget.
In the old system, congressmen were released P70 million worth of PDAF, wherein P40 million is spent on “hard” projects (infrastructure) while the remaining P30 million is used for “soft” (livelihood, financial assistance) projects.
“I might add that having a lump sum at it is now enable some lawmakers to turn over the funds to, in effect, passing through or in connivance with IAs (Implementing Agencies) into NGOs (non-government organizations) and into questionable activities. Those features will no longer be in the 2014 budget,” Belmonte said, obviously referring to the modus operandi used by individuals like Janet Lim Napoles in perpetuating the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.
At the height of public outcry against reports of the massive corruption, President Aquino on August 23 announced the “abolition” of PDAF and his desire to come up with a new, more transparent mechanism to replace it.
Yesterday, Valte clarified that when the President announced the abolition of the system, it was just a policy announcement because legally PDAF is part of the GAA.
The Speaker, who attended Thursday’s oral arguments, said he has “no doubt” that the fixes made by Congress to the 2014 national budget insofar as PDAF is concerned would be enough to appease the SC.
“I have no doubt that come 2014, what we have done will pass the test as I was able to gather… from the course of questioning from the justices.”
Meanwhile, Fr. Ben Alforque, convenor of the Church People’s Alliance against Pork Barrel, is hoping that the simultaneous ringing of church bells will awaken the conscience of President Aquino and the country’s lawmakers for them to junk the pork barrel.
“The moment they hear the bells they can’t deny anymore the extent of the people’s cry to have this pork barrel abolished,” Alforque said.
“Let us be united in praying for our lawmakers and the Supreme Court so that they will abolish this pork barrel in all its form, including the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the presidential social fund,” he added.
At least 21 archdioceses joined the simultaneous ringing of church bells yesterday such as Quiapo Church of the Archdiocese of Manila.
Msgr. Clemente Ignacio, rector of Quiapo Church, said they joined the activity to pray for the country.
“The ringing will remind us to pray for our country,” he said.
Baclaran church also joined the activity.
“We are against the pork barrel but since our church bell is broken, we will be ringing our small bell together with the priests, nuns and staff of Baclaran,” Fr. Victorino Cueto, rector of Baclaran Church, said. (With reports from Genalyn D. Kabiling and Leslie Ann G. Aquino)