PNoy abolishes PDAF video from PTV-4
FLANKED BY the leaders of the two chambers of Congress, President Benigno S. Aquino III on Friday announced his intention to abolish the pork barrel system, or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) amid a mounting clamor for its removal.
“Panahon na po upang i-abolish ang PDAF,” the President said. (It is time to abolish the PDAF.)
The President made the surprise announcement in a nationwide television address from Malacanang Palace just before lunch Friday. His statement for the abolition of the PDAF comes just three days before a planned million-person march for the abolition of the pork barrel by angry citizens at the Luneta Grandstand on Monday.
The President’s announcement comes as a surprise turnaround from another statement he made just four days earlier that he was against the abolition of the pork barrel. In a talk with reporters on Monday, the President stressed that the pork barrel has its uses, especially since the national government cannot determine the local needs of a community unlike the local legislator.
The President had said that what was needed was just tighter controls on the way the pork barrel is spent. Read about the President’s August 19 statement against the abolition of the pork barrel in this ABS-CBN news report.
Presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino on the pork barrel (2009)
The President had also made a similar statement when he was still presidential candidate Benigno S. Aquino III during the 2010 election campaign. In an interview with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, then-candidate Aquino said that while he had earlier been an opponent of the pork barrel, he realized its value when he became a congressman for Tarlac.
Interestingly, it would not be the first time a President announces the abolition of the pork barrel. In 1998, then President Joseph Estrada also announced the abolition of the pork barrel, drawing widespread praise and support from church and civil society groups. The pork barrel however merely resurfaced under a different mechanism that basically served the same purpose, that of allowing legislators to identify projects for their constituencies.
In his statement that he read on Friday, President Aquino reiterated that he still saw nothing wrong with the PDAF itself. Instead, the President said the problem was the collusion between the past administration and some legislators.
“Wala pong mali o masama sa polisiyang ito. Ang mali, ang masama, at ang siya ngang ikinagagalit ng taumbayan, ay ang pagsasabwatan sa pagitan ng isang pangulong handang makipagtransaksyon para manatili sa kapangyarihan, mga mambabatas na handang makipagkuntsabahan, at kung nariyan ang kooperasyon ng burukrasya, at mga mamamayang tila namanhid na sa panlalapasatangang ginagawa sa kanila,” the President said. The President was flanked by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon.
(There is nothing wrong with this policy. What is wrong, and what angers our people, is the collusion between a president who wanted to stay in power, legislators who connived with her, the cooperation of the bureaucracy, and a citizenry that was already numb to the abuses against them.)
Read the full text of the President’s speech here.
Still, because of the national outcry over the pork barrel abuses, the President acknowledged the need to institute more reforms in the system.
The politics of pork: Quotes on the PDAF
The President said his government will draw up a new mechanism to take the place of the PDAF, one that will still allow legislators to propose projects, but with safeguards that will ensure the money does not go to ghost projects and NGOs.
In particular, the President said the projects of the legislators will no longer be lump sums, but will be budgeted as line items in the General Appropriations Act or GAA.
“Mapapaloob ito sa batas bilang Pambansang Budget – hihimayin ang bawat linya, bawat piso, bawat proyekto, gaya ng lahat ng iba pang mga programa ng inyong pamahalaan,” the President said.
(This (new mechanism) will be placed in the national budget – and we will go through every line, every peso, every project, just like all the other programs of your government.)
The President also enumerated other reforms he plans to put into place:
- Allow legislators to choose only from a shorter menu of projects;
- Disallow spending for “consumable soft projects” such as fertilizers, seedlings, medicine, medical kits, training materials, and other items that are difficult to track.
- Short-term infrastructure projects such as dredging, desilting, regravelling, or asphalt overlays
- Prohibit the release of funds to nongovernment organizations;
- Limit the projects only to the district or sector of the legislator;
“Inatasan ko na si (Budget) Secretary (Florencio) Abad ng DBM na kumonsulta kina Speaker Belmonte at Senate President Drilon upang pandayin ang mga mekanismo, at isumite ito kaagad sa akin,” he said. “Ilalatag natin ito upang ang mga alokasyon sa bawat distrito ay mapabilang na sa ating Pambansang Budget simula sa panukalang budget ng 2014.”
(I have ordered Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to consult Speaker Belmonte and Senate President Drilon to put into place this mechanism, and this will be submitted immediately to me. We will make sure that all the allocations in each district will be a part of our national budget beginning with the 2014 budget.)
However, the President’s statement appears unclear on several points:
The President has granted Vice President Jejomar Binay his own share of the pork barrel to the tune of P200 million a year beginning 2012, even though Binay is not a member of the legislature. In effect, Binay wields the same amount of pork as other members of the Philippine Senate. It is not clear how Binay’s pork will be affected by the President’s recent pronouncements.
In addition, President Aquino has also put into place a variety of other pork-like lump sums in the budget.
Former national treasurer Leonor Briones identified these as P315 billion in Special Purpose Funds or SPFs, and P117.5 billion in unprogrammed funds for 2013.
These include P44.1 billion in Budgetary Support to Government Corporations; P17.5 billion in Special Financial Assistance to Local Government Units; P70 billion in Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund; P70 billion in Retirement Benefits Fund; and P22.4 billion in a Priority Social and Economic Projects (PSEP) Fund.
The amounts are even net of the 40 percent of national taxes that are automatically appropriated to LGUs as their IRA shares. The Philippines has 80 provinces, 143 cities, 1,493 municipalities, and 42,028 barangays. In 2011, their composite IRA reached P286.9 billion. This dipped to P273.3 billion in 2012, but soared again to P302.3 billion in 2013.
For more details on these funds, read PCIJ’s report PDAF a ‘mafia’ of executive and legislature.
Read other PCIJ reports on the pork barrel:
Visit the PCIJ website here for more stories on the PDAF and other lump sums.