Scrap pork, boost social services instead, says Mindanao lawmakers

Aug. 01, 2013

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY– Partylist lawmakers from Mindanao reiterated calls to scrap the “pork barrel” or the Priority Development Assistance Fund and urged to divert the funds for social services.

Gabriela Women Partylist Luzviminda Ilagan, who hails from Davao City, went on further to say that “(W)e are calling for the scrapping of all pork barrel funds, not just for Congress, but for the executive as well.”

For his part, Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate took exception over the involvement of Davao City Third district representative Isidro Ungab.

Ungab was implicated along with 22 other members in the House of Representatives and five senators for allocating ghost projects with bogus non-government organizations amounting to 10 billion pesos.

Ungab denied the allegations, saying he has reports to show he spent the alleged project worth 5 million pesos for livelihood projects in the third district.

He added that the fund did not come from his pork barrel but instead came from the Department of Agriculture.

But Zarate is not convinced.

“It goes on to show that this scam is as much as a sin of the Aquino administration as it is with those identified with the previous administration,” he said.

Zarate said the probe is important especially for Ungab who holds the important post as chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

“As the appropriations Committee Chair, the more that he should submit himself to an investigation. It is unsettling that he heads the very committee that will push and defend the existence of the pork-barrel in the 2014 national budget,” Zarate said.

Zarate also clarified an earlier report (at a national daily news) saying that, “While I know Rep. Ungab during his days at the Davao City Council, it would be a disservice to Davaoeños if he would be spared from any investigation.”

Ilagan said the issue involving Ungab shows the need to scrap the PDAF “as this becomes a source of corruption, and politicking. Legislators pick their pet projects to put their names on school buildings and other facilities.”

Ilagan also proposed to “re-channel these funds to national agencies to boost the much-needed spending on social services like public health services and education.”

“The lawmakers should focus on making laws, and not spend on projects,” Ilagan added.

Each member of the majority block at the House receives a minimum allocation of 70 million pesos annually in PDAF, while 200 million pesos is allocated for every senator. The projects are divided between infrastructure projects and soft-projects such as scholarships for students and health services.

President Aquino has increased the pork barrel yearly from only P6.9 billion in 2010 to P22.3 billion in 2011, to 24.8 billion in 2012. Proposed pork barrel funds for 2014 is at 27 billion. (Tyrone A. Velez,

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