House set to approve 2014 budget without PDAF
MANILA - The House of Representatives is scheduled to approve the proposed P2.268-trillion 2014 national budget on third and final reading without the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) this week.
Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, appropriations committee chairman, said final approval is expected between today and Wednesday.
“The third-reading copy will show that the PDAF as we know is no longer in next year’s budget,” he said.
He said the proposed P25-billion PDAF for 2014 has been distributed to several agencies, which will implement projects in congressional districts without meddling from their elected representatives.
He said in the case of infrastructure projects, these would be listed in detail in the budget, eliminating post budget-approval identification by senators and congressmen, a feature of the present system that the public and some Supreme Court justices find objectionable.
As for funds for “soft” projects like scholarships and medical assistance, it is the agencies to which they have been given that would have discretion on their allocation, he added.
While the House is for realigning the PDAF, the Senate wants it totally scrapped and deducted from the national budget.
Thus, if senators would have their way, the 2014 spending bill would go down by P25 billion.
However, congressmen will most likely not agree to totally scrapping pork barrel funds since it would mean depriving their districts of a minimum amount of money for infrastructure and social services.
They are proposing that instead of depriving legislative constituencies of pork barrel funds, senators should just give up their P200-million-a-year PDAF allocation.
“Anyway, some senators are prominently mentioned in the report of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the misuse of the PDAF. They are even accused of pocketing hundreds of millions in kickbacks from the misappropriation of their funds by bogus foundations,” one House leader said.
He was referring to the COA report on PDAF disbursements between 2007 and 2009.
According to the report, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. allocated hundreds of millions of their PDAF to bogus foundations associated with alleged pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles.
The National Bureau of Investigation has filed plunder charges against the three senators, Napoles, some of the lawmakers’ staff members, and officers of state corporations that served as conduits of pork barrel funds.
According to the complaint, Estrada, Enrile and Revilla received some P581 million in kickbacks.
Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon yesterday said he is prepared to fight for the realignment of the remaining PDAF of lawmakers under the 2013 budget.
Although there is a pending case before the Supreme Court which bars the use of the pork barrel, Drilon said the PDAF can be used to augment the government’s calamity fund.
He said the Senate can tap the funds and allow President Aquino to use it to rehabilitate areas devastated by the strong quake in Central Visayas, recent typhoons and the conflict in Zamboanga City.
Drilon said the Senate will come up with a resolution on the matter.
According to the website of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), over P1 billion in PDAF remain unused by senators.
“Even if the SC declares that it is unconstitutional, the pork barrel funds can still be used and realigned as savings because realignment is allowed under the Constitution,” Drilon said over dzBB radio yesterday.
“These funds have been appropriated,” he added.
He, however, said the Senate aims to totally abolish the PDAF in the proposed 2014 budget.
“That means the national expenditure program will be reduced by P4.8 billion,” he said. – With Christina Mendez