The PDAF Virus
There have been discussions at the Supreme Court regarding the abolition of the PDAF from this year’s budget. So far, it is not looking good. Since the PDAF is part of the 2013 General Appropriations Act, it is a law that is unlikely to be removed unless amended by Congress.
The General Appropriations Act (GAA) is basically that budget that is passed every year. This is also where the PDAF is embedded and the source of it’s legitimacy. Assumedly, if the PDAF is taken away from next year’s GAA, it would be gone from any debates and discussions. Unfortunately, it is more complicated than that.
The PDAF dilemma emerges when next year's GAA is presented for congress to decide. Will they agree that the PDAF be totally out of the budget, will they stop the GAA all together without it? Or will they simply reform the PDAF in another way. According to the House Leadership, the PDAF, in its present form, is not in the 2014 budget. Which leads us to believe that there is a chance this PDAF will mutate into a different virus that may still continue to plague us. As much as Speaker Belmonte may want to give up the PDAF as well, he may end up not having the power to do so.
The PDAF will not easily be eradicated. It is like a drug that many of the lawmakers are highly dependent on. Like a drug, there is so much incentive to keep the power entitlement and very little to rid off totally. When the public’s anger has subsided, and the vigilance has eased, it can deceptively reshape itself into a seemingly innocuous form.
In this scenario, if PNoy forces the issue on the GAA, we might have a similar situation as the US where the budget is stymied.
It is earily similar because the root of the government shutdown in the US is the choice between Obamacare vs. the legislative entitlement which the Republicans are bitterly fighting for. President Obama has forced the issue by crafting a comprehensive health insurance program that will cost the government a lot. At the same time, he refused to raise the debt ceilling which means that other appropriations will have to give way for the Obamacare.
Unfortunately or not, if and when Pnoy forces a similar showdown, our laws will just automatically pass a re-enacted budget which prevents a government shutdown. In other words, if the 2014 budget is not passed, the 2013 will automatically be re-enacted. At this scenario, the PDAF will still not be eradicated and will still infect us. Sen. Drilon has recently assured that there will not be a re-enacted budget, but many are skeptical about it.
If we are to assume that the PDAF will still afflict us, what are our choices?
The senators are weary about this. They know that support for a PDAF-infected budget will bring political scorn from the raging public. But could the same be said for the raving congressmen? In all likelyhood, they would take any opportunity to retain this power entitlement since it is the most potent instrument to ensure their victory in their district. Even if they are listed as PDAF abusers, they would probably still be elected by their constituents.
At this rate, we are in for a chronic PDAF affliction. By this time, the contagion will be so deep, it will be much harder to remove. It will become a social affliction like vote buying and jueteng where it will take more than a generation to get rid of. It will continue to shackle us from our journey towards good governace and nationhood.
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Jess Lorenzo is a Core Member of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership. www.kayanatin.org @kayanatin on TwitterDisclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.