SOCIAL Watch Philippines on Sunday expressed alarm over the reports that the “pork barrel” still exists in the 2017 budget, and that legislators would continue to identify projects that could be funded by it even if the Supreme Court had declared it unconstitutional in 2013.
The group supports the call of Senator Panfilo Lacson to the Budget department to make public the alleged projects proposed by the legislators to be funded by the pork barrel, and which reportedly amounts to P80 million for each lawmaker or more.
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the PDAF and Disbursement Acceleration Program that served as the lawmakers’ pork barrel had been abolished in compliance with the high court’s ruling.
He insisted he could not possibly allow irregularities in the budget when he personally petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the two budget schemes as legally infirm.
Meanwhile, lawmakers have ganged up on Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo for issuing Memorandum Circular 9 stripping the lawmakers of their “entitlements” over their “soft projects,” which refer to the P5-million to P10-million allocation for social services for their poor constituents.
Taguiwalo had said lawmakers could no longer enjoy entitlements in identifying the indigents who would benefit from the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s financial assistance program.
Before the Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF allocation of lawmakers was outlawed by the Supreme Court, the lawmakers had been allowed to extend financial assistance to their indigent constituents through a “guarantee letter” signed by the lawmakers and submitted by the indigents to Social Welfare.
After the high court ruling, that function and the attached funds were transferred to Social Welfare.
“We hope this government will abide by its promised change and veer away from the irregular practice of inserting projects that will render the agency hostage to the whims of the legislators,” said SWP co-convenor Marivic Raquiza.
She said Lacson was right in citing conflict of interest.
“How can the legislators examine the budget submitted by the Executive when their ‘pet’ projects are embedded in these proposals?” Raquiza said.
The group also praised Lacson for raising the same concern, advising the legislators to not intervene in the crafting of the annual budget since it would be encroaching on the function of the Executive branch.