THE NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES IN THE PHILIPPINES (NCCP), has joined the swelling public call to junk the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF)—more popularly known as pork barrel—of legislators and other high ranking national executive officials.
In a statement released to the media, the NCCP also expressed disgust over President Benigno S. Aquino III’ refusal to remove the pork barrel, despite reports that some P10 billion in pork funds were laundered by a middleman through fake nongovernment organizations and rechanneled back to legislators.
NCCP Chair, The Most Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana cited a PCIJ report in July 22, this year, quoting Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as acknowledging “that the context of pork is ‘patronage politics,’ and the logic that drives the selection of projects and the disbursement of many politicians’ pork funds, ‘pautakan lang ‘yan’ or ‘just play it smart.’”
“Thus, there is every reason to be upset that the President who was elected via an anti-corruption drive and a platform of “daang matuwid” is not keen on removing this scourge. Instead, it will remain and may even be increased,” the NCCP statement titled: Scrap The Pork Barrel, The Fount of Patronage Politics, said.
Comprised of 10 main Protestant and non-Roman Catholic denominations and 10 service-oriented organizations in the country, the NCCP represents nearly 12 million followers. It is a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA).
Fajutagana added in the statement that “the amount involved, the outrageous sense of betrayal felt by the general public and the total insensitivity of those involved to the greater majority of the people boggle the mind.
“The scandal provokes sadness and anger. Sadness at the plight of the people in the hands of its leaders. Anger over the way people’s taxes have been misused,” the NCCP statement continues.
The NCCP also cited the PCIJ’s report on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III alloting its office with around Php 317.5 billion for special purpose funds and Php 117.5 billion for unprogrammed funds in the proposed General Appropriation Act of 2013. “(The) disbursement record on these funds have hardly been published online or disclosed to the citizens, despite repeated requests,” the NCCP statement quoted the PCIJ report.
“There is neither justification for the misuse of public funds by leaders while the majority of the people wallow in want and vulnerability to disasters, nor any moral ground in the failure of our leaders to be accountable,” the NCCP statement reads.
The NCCP proposed, instead, that pork barrel funds be allotted directly for education, health, housing and other social services and called for vigilance in monitoring the clamor for investigation not to be “muddled by the patronage system.”
“The National Council of Churches in the Philippines joins the groundswell to scrap the pork barrel system…Let us remain focused on the issue of corruption in high places diverted as we are often by other issues,” Fajutagana called on to its leaders.
“Take heed that callous insensitivity and betrayal of the public trust has led many of our people from imploring arms to defiant clenched fists. The downfall of the foolish is swift,” the NCCP statement said.