Drilon: You can't take Congress out of budget process

By Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Aug 26 2013 05:32 PM | Updated as of Aug 27 2013 01:32 AM

MANILA - Might as well remove Congress if the people don’t want their lawmakers to help plan the country’s budget, Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Monday.

While he may just be joking, Drilon reminded the public that senators and congressmen were voted by the people to ensure that the country’s coffers are directed towards worthwhile projects.

He lamented that even legislators not involved in the P10 billion pork barrel scam are being called thieves.

“Ang problema, hindi naman lumabas ang pangalan ko sa [Commission on Audit] report, ni piso wala ako dun. Dahil ba senador ay magnanakaw na? Ang problema ay nilalahat,” he told dzMM.

Drilon, who agreed with President Benigno Aquino III to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), said there are ways of making the process transparent.

He said Aquino’s suggestions on how to reform the pork barrel system can be done. “Ito ay tungkol sa political leadership na lang. [Yung] sinabi ng pangulo, dapat gawin.”

On Friday, President Benigno Aquino III announced the existing pork barrel system--the PDAF--would be abolished to make way for a more restricted system.

“Ngayon, bubuo tayo ng bagong mekanismo upang matugunan ang pangangailangan ng inyong mga mamamayan at sektor–sa paraang tapat, gamit ang tama at makatuwirang proseso, at nang may sapat na mga kalasag laban sa pang-aabuso at katiwalian,” Aquino said.

This attracted a gamut of reactions, however.

Some said Aquino merely suggested a pork system by another name.

Drilon insisted, however, that restrictions can already be implemented even in the 2013 budget. “Una, hindi na pwede idaan sa nongovernment organizations; di na pwede consumables katulad ng gamot, fertilizer, pa-liga…”

He said the current system can be abolished by 2014, but lawmakers have to find ways by which the pork barrel can be earmarked for worthwhile projects.

Around P24 billion has been allocated for pork barrel in the proposed 2014 budget.

“Kaya yan, gagawin ko yung aking alokasyon sa P24 billion, ihihiwalay ko yung akin,” he said.

He wants his share to be used for the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, education, et al.

He said that the budget will be allocated as line items. “To the extent na pwede, gagawin natin.”