UNDAUNTED by the resounding defeat recently of the fourth impeachment complaint against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the opposition at the House of Representatives is embarking on another crusade that does not seem to stand a chance of winning, at least under the present administration.
The opposition now seeks to control the president’s wide discretion in disbursing public money, including the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), derisively called ‘pork barrel,’ and other unspent amounts in the annual budget program.
IN THEORY and in law, the legislators’ role in pork-barrel allocations remains limited to “consultation” to enable them to recommend priority projects. In practice, however, they have the final word on what projects should be funded.
The release of pork is based on the lawmakers’ request to the Department of Budget Management (DBM), detailing the nature and location of the project they want, the implementing agency, and the funds required. This setup makes legislators the lords of pork-barrel funds. It also makes them natural magnets to contractors and suppliers who offer bribes so they can sell their goods and services.
IN 2001, 108 congressmen gave P162 million of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) — considered as the “main” pork-barrel allocation — for medical assistance to their constituents through the Department of Health and various government hospitals. The Philippine General Hospital, the country’s biggest state hospital, received P30.8 million.
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