Senate 'macho bloc' blame agencies for 'pork' misuse
MANILA, Philippines - Blame implementing agencies and local government units, not lawmakers, for the misuse of the congressional pork barrel.
This was the comment of the six-member Senate minority bloc as it defended yesterday the funneling of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), official name of the pork barrel, to non-government organizations (NGOs) that turned out to be bogus.
The minority bloc, under fire for pork barrel misuse, disputed yesterday the results of a special audit undertaken over two years by the Commission on Audit (COA), which showed billions of pesos in PDAF funneled to dubious NGOs by at least 12 senators and over 180 congressmen between 2007 and 2009.
Minority Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Vicente Sotto III, Gregorio Honasan, Nancy Binay, Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito also debunked the COA claim that NGOs are not included among those accredited to implement PDAF-funded projects and programs.
“The provisions of the budget law have already established the parameters within which our PDAF must be implemented by the concerned government agencies.” Unfortunately, however, these guidelines and standards were evidently not followed, the group said in a joint statement.
“It is even more unfortunate that members of the Senate minority group have been pilloried and scorned by the media and by the public for this lapse in the implementation of the law,” the statement read.
Enrile, Honasan, Estrada and Sotto have been implicated in the PDAF scam involving businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
COA chief Grace Pulido-Tan said the commission has letters of endorsements from several senators for the release of funds to dubious NGOs.
In its joint statement, the minority bloc said allowing NGOs to participate in the implementation of government projects started in 2007, when a special provision was inserted in the appropriation for the Department of Budget and Management to “encourage the participation of (NGOs) in the construction of school buildings.”
The annual General Appropriations Act (GAA), including the one for 2013, “contain provisions allowing for the transfer of funds to civil society organizations, non-government organizations, and people’s organizations, subject to certain conditions,” the senators declared.
The GAA for 2009 specified limitations on fund transfers to NGOs and people’s organizations.
This year’s GAA further amended the rules, requiring the liquidation of at least 70 percent of the funds transferred to NGOs before additional money is released.
Such provisions in the GAA, the minority bloc declared, “clearly support our stand that: first, the transfer of funds to NGOs does have legal basis; and second, that it is not the responsibility of the legislators to ascertain the legitimacy of the NGOs which the implementing agencies (IAs) work with in the implementation of our projects.”
“That burden falls on the IAs and the local government units concerned as provided by law,” they added.
Earlier yesterday, Sen. Francis Escudero said the finance committee would review guidelines provided in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) on the allocation of PDAF for NGOs.
Escudero belongs to the majority and chairs the Senate finance committee.
He was asked about Section 64 of the 2014 NEP covering requirements on fund transfers to civil society organizations.
“Definitely that provision cannot and will not remain as it is,” Escudero said.
He noted that government line agencies could handle the delivery of services identified by lawmakers in their PDAF.
He also reminded the public that the role of civil society organizations and NGOs in the use of the pork barrel was expanded under the 1987 Constitution.