MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Francis Escudero was urged yesterday to name congressmen who allocated their outlawed Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to local government units (LGUs).
Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Dasmariñas City in Cavite made the appeal to Escudero, whom he quoted as telling a news conference that some members of the House of Representatives realigned their PDAF “in areas where their allies are.”
The Supreme Court (SC) has struck down the PDAF, the official name of the congressional pork barrel, as unconstitutional.
Barzaga said in fairness to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Escudero should name House members who supposedly gave their pork barrel to their LGU allies.
Estrada had realigned P100 million of his P200-million PDAF to Manila, where his father, former President Joseph Estrada, is mayor.
He gave P50 million to Caloocan City and another P50 million to Lal-lo town in Cagayan.
Five other senators contributed their pork barrel allocations to the calamity fund, while three others realigned their allocations to the Department of Public Works and Highways and other agencies. Barzaga said the congressmen’s realignments were allegedly made during the bicameral conference on the final version of the P2.265-trillion 2014 national budget.
“Let the chairman of the House appropriations committee, Rep. Isidro Ungab of Davao City, confirm or deny these realignments, and let their proponents explain their allocations,” he said. Escudero, Senate finance committee head, and Ungab co-chaired the conference, during which Escudero presented his colleagues’ realignments.
Escudero said the SC decision striking down the PDAF did not prohibit lawmakers from re-allocating their outlawed pork barrel.
Asked whether what Jinggoy did was ethical and proper since he gave P100 million to his father’s city, Escudero said he would leave the ethical issue to Estrada. As to its propriety, he said that would depend on where and how the funds, if released, would be used, and “that would be better addressed by the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) and COA (Commission on Audit).”
Barzaga said as far as he knew, no House member had realigned his or her PDAF to any LGU.
As a leader of the National Unity Party, he said he was always part of the House leadership’s budget consultations, where it was agreed that the congressmen’s share of the PDAF would be distributed among the health, labor, social welfare and development, and public works departments, and the Commission on Higher Education.
“Realigning funds to LGUs was not part of our agreement because we might be suspected of repeating the abuses allegedly committed by certain lawmakers. It’s only from Sen. Chiz (Escudero) that I’ve learned that this was done,” he said. – With Jose Rodel Clapano, John Unson