Philippine Partylist Akbayan to President Aquino: Abolish the pork
Akbayan Party today called on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to immediately and without conditions abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) following the shocking revelations in the recent COA audit on the heels of the P 10 Billion Napoles-pork barrel scam. The progressive-coalition partner of Aquino said that the pork barrel is "incompatible with the President's reform agenda."
"We call on President Aquino to support us in our call for the total and unconditional abolition of the pork barrel system. This is a system that has been exposed time and again as a tool of patronage politics aimed to foment elite rule through political dependence," Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said.
Incompatible with good governance
"We believe that the scandalous revelations in the COA audit and the Napoles investigation clearly indicate that the prevailing usage of the pork barrel is incompatible to the principles this administration has time and again stood up to uphold. It leads us away from the straight path and back to a dark and corrupt past. As a leader who has unequivocally demonstrated his commitment to good governance and honest service, President Aquino must take the bull by its horns and make good on his promise to eradicate systemic corruption by abolishing the PDAF once and for all," Bello added.
Akbayan also echoed a similar call to Congress, which is currently at the center of the scandal.
"We call on our colleagues in the House of Representatives and Senate to respond to the people's growing clamor on this issue. The widespread and pervasive abuse of the fund revealed by the COA report are a damning indictment of the PDAF as a policy. Congress can no longer shut its eyes to how badly the PDAF has been exploited by the unscrupulous. It must act decisively against corruption and for the integrity of our institutions," Rep. Barry Gutierrez declared.
Congress and the "anti-corruption consensus"
"Congress must sustain its commitment to the people's interest by taking collective action on the PDAF. We must unite on a clear anti-corruption consensus," Gutierrez said.
Akbayan said that while a number of lawmakers have responsibly utilized their PDAF to provide important social services and other development projects for their constituents, this cannot make up for the massive levels of PDAF-related corruption exposed by the COA audit and the Napoles scam inquiry.
"We understand the reality that millions of Filipinos suffer inadequate social services and the lack of other important programs for their welfare, and that they expect their representatives in Congress to fill in these gaps. However, this short cut to social service delivery has unfortunately been subverted by an unscrupulous few into a major thoroughfare for corruption," Gutierrez said.
"What is clear from the recent scandal is the fact that despite existing safeguards, corrupt politicians and officials have found a way to repeatedly and massively abuse PDAF. While a gradual phase out of the PDAF to ensure the implementation of budget reforms and the readjustment agencies' priorities to deliver basic services to the people would have been ideal, the extent and pervasiveness of last week's appalling revelations demand that we cut clean by doing away with the entire pork barrel fund," Gutierrez added.
Radical budget reforms and FOI
Gutierrez also urged his colleagues to face the challenge of abolishing pork and put into place radical budgetary and fiscal reforms that will secure the welfare of the people.
Gutierrez emphasized that the Napoles scandal happened also partly because the bureaucacy hides the details of spending from the scrutiny of the public, which merits the urgent passage and implementation of a Freedom of Information Act.
"We must capitalize on the current public outrage not only to push for the abolition of PDAF but also to implement far- reaching reforms into the budget system. Top priority should be transparency and accountability - not only must the government explain to the people how the budget was spent, the people must see for themselves where the money is going and that is only possible through a Freedom of Information law," Gutierrez said.
The other reforms Gutierrez want to introduce to the budget system are 1) institutionalization of people's participation in the budget process, 2) control over the impoundment power of the Executive and 3) reforms in the budget savings and augmentation.
Gutierrez also expressed the need for the executive agencies to rise to the challenge and look at the more equitable distribution of social welfare services and programs.
"We cannot leave the people behind. Abolishing the pork should free up significant funding for the people, it is the duty of the executive to implement more sophisticated systems that will make the services more responsive to the needs of the millions of impoverished families all over the country," he said.
"PNoy, join us"
For her part, Akbayan National Chairperson Risa Hontiveros urged President Aquino to join the people in the call for the abolition of the PDAF, especially since the damning evidence in the Commission on Audit Report for 2007-2009 all point to anomalies done during the time of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and involved her henchmen.
"The daang matuwid, the effort to rid our government from the vestiges of corruption of the previous administration continues up to this day. Based on the recent CoA report, all fingers continue to point to Gloria and her minions. Once more, President Aquino should take a stand with the people, and this time, to get rid of the pork barrel," Hontiveros said.
"And if the process of investigations uncover similar anomalies under the new administration, the same process of accountability must apply. That's how we should walk the tuwid na daan," Hontiveros added.
"100,000 people's auditors"
Hontiveros said she has tasked all of her party-mates to act as "people's auditors" to help in protecting the people's resources from being plundered.
"I urge the President to join us in this crucial battle. I have tasked the 100,000 members of Akbayan to act as independent auditors to monitor and protect the nation's coffers from corruption. If PNoy will join us, he will have thousands of auditors ready to do battle to cleanse the "tuwid na daan" of corrupt practices and other abuses," Hontiveros said.
Akbayan also announced that they are refusing their current allotment of PDAF and will instead focus on cleansing the budget process through reforms.
"We are not accepting our current PDAF allocation with due apologies to all our constituents who will be affected by this decision. We have survived Arroyo's brutal reign without the pork barrel. The only difference between then and now is the fact that real, substantive, and far-reaching reforms are possible because of the people's conviction to cleanse the system, and the administration's commitment to correct the sins of the past," Hontiveros said.
"We are used to not having our share of the PDAF. As such, we will instead turn our attention to ensuring that every peso this administration spends goes directly to the people, and help ensure that the bureaucracy provides clean, honest public service," Hontiveros said.
Suspension of pork must lead to its abolition
Akbayan Partylist today said President Benigno Simeon Aquino's decision to suspend the release of the pork barrel fund "must lead to its total and unconditional abolition."
"We welcome President Aquino's decision to suspend the release of the pork barrel to lawmakers until the probe on the pork barrel scam is completed. This decision effectively abolishes the pork barrel since any effort to restore it will meet massive public opposition," according to Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello.
"The decision also serve as a strong disincentive to many rascals who are entertaining running for Congress. We hope that suspension of the pork will not be a substitute for punishing those senators and congressmen who were Napoles' accomplices. They must go to jail," Bello said.
However, Bello reminded the President that the suspension of the release of the pork barrel must lead to its complete phase-out.
"Suspension must lead to abolition. While the President has already categorically stated that he is not in favor of abolishing the pork barrel, we will not relent in persuading him to drop the pork. President Aquino must go further and scrap the PDAF completely," Bello said.
Pork barrel must be abolished as it reinforces corruption and political patronage
By Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)
IF THE conditional cash transfer (CCT) that is not coupled with jobs generation, the flagship "antipoverty" program of the Aquino government, could breed dependency and mendicancy among the poor, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of politicians, on the other hand, has institutionalized corruption and political patronage.
The Alliance of Progressive Labor, in fact, believes that these two major state funding sources - that would supposedly address the perennial problems of widespread poverty and lack of basic services in the grassroots - actually abet in prolonging the vicious cycle of hardship and vulnerability of the majority.
In particular, the APL is one with the call for the abolition of pork barrel as it is a corrupt and corrupting practice, a "virus" that "infects" not only politicians from the legislative and the executive, but also employees in the implementing government agencies, as well as officials of local government units (LGUs), contractors, businessmen and ordinary people.
PDAF's "hard" or public works projects have become ready and lucrative sources of corruption, while "soft" programs like medical and educational assistance have been used to instill allegiance or political patronage between the pork barrel "providers" and their "beneficiaries" or the politicians and their constituents.
Aside from blind loyalty that PDAF generates, huge amounts of pork barrel diverted or pocketed also ensure a generous supply of funds to finance the next election bid of a politician.
Worse, instigated by sheer greed and callousness, the PDAF virus has tarnished the image and reputation of civil society organizations (CSOs) by concocting fake non-government organizations (NGOs) and people's organizations (POs) as "recipients" of pork barrels.
The recent exposť on the pork barrel scam is but a tip of the iceberg of the rampant fraud in the use of PDAF, which would make Janet Lim-Napoles' alleged plunder of P10-billion a mere pittance. It has barely scratched the surface of the racket called PDAF.
Hence, simultaneous with the scrapping of pork barrel, investigation on the PDAF rip-off should be pursued relentlessly at all costs and not to become again simply a ningas cogon - routinary probes that fizzle out when the issue dies down, and where the guilty usually remains scot-free.
A "citizens' audit" to scrutinize the scope and magnitude of this anomaly should in fact be convened and provided sufficient powers and resources, which would primarily be composed of representatives from genuine and reputable POs and NGOs, and which would work hand in hand with the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice.
28 solons linked to scam
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