DBM chief, anti-PDAF marchers set dialogue
MANILA, Philippines - Malacanang is open to a dialogue on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or congressional pork barrel with participants of the Million People March.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told a press briefing Tuesday that presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda is arranging a dialogue between the protesters and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
Valte said the dialogue would occur as soon as both parties agree on a common schedule.
She said inputs from protesters would be considered in the deliberations on PDAF in Congress, adding that Abad has been doing his best to engage the public.
Valte said citizen’s input is welcome and important to ensure transparency and efficiency in the use of public funds.
She noted that many people have been reaching out to government officials following the protest in Rizal Park and other places around the country, which drew tens of thousands of people from all walks of life.
She said the Palace also acknowledges that similar protests would continue.
Meanwhile, Valte expressed confidence that the mechanism proposed by President Aquino on how to utilize the P25.2-billion PDAF in the 2014 budget would not face rough sailing in Congress.
President Aquino earlier instructed Abad to meet with Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on working out the details of the proposal.
Valte said the President is confident of its approval even as she admitted “extra work needs to be done.”
She said at least 15 senators have so far expressed support for the abolition of the congressional pork barrel.
Asked about the “silence” in the House of the Representatives, Valte said: “We are ready to do the work for what is necessary.”
‘Not on the same side’
Meanwhile, a militant group disputed Malacañang’s statement that the President is on the same side as the people who joined the Million People March.
“The biggest joke of the day is the one about the President and the protesters being on the same side. If this is true, why is it that the people still protested despite Aquino’s announcement abolishing the PDAF last week? Why is it that the people have constantly mocked Aquino’s re-branded itemized pork? It’s because we were never on the same side to begin with, and pork was never abolished,” Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general Renato Reyes said.
Lacierda had said the administration acknowledges and shares the public outrage against abuse of public funds.
He added the Palace is not bothered by the Aug. 26 rally as it only showed that the administration has more allies against irregularities in government.
But Reyes said the Aug. 26 protest is proof that the people are “not falling for the government’s lies and spin.”
Bayan said Palace spin-doctors are in damage control mode after the President has for the first time been isolated over the issue.
Bayan said that more protests would be held if Malacañang continues to defy the people’s clamor for the abolition of the pork barrel.
It said Aquino’s refusal to scrap the PDAF was also borne out of his desire to hold on to his own presidential pork, including some P450 billion in Special Purpose Funds.
Reyes said Senate hearings on the pork barrel scam should also be an opportunity to press for accountability on the issue.
Protests are also being readied during these hearings, he said.
In Dagupan City, Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas said it is not enough to say that pork barrel funds must be investigated or scrapped, since the people are clamoring that corruption be removed. –With Rhodina Villanueva, Evelyn Macairan, Eva Visperas