House leaders confirm pork barrel releases

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 15 2011 08:02 AM | Updated as of Mar 16 2011 01:20 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers confirmed Monday the release of priority development assistance funds (PDAF) ahead of the  plenary vote for the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

Majority Leader Boyet Gonzales and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte confirmed the pork barrel releases to congressmen as part of the balance of the PDAF from last year.

Both leaders said the PDAF releases had nothing to do with the impeachment vote.

Gonzales said the PDAF releases are usually done this time of the year. “I hope so, but parang walang naman kinalaman, ibig sabihin if the intention is to, if the purpose of the question is meron bang kinalaman sa impeachment, we have submitted PDAF pa last year and I really do not know may na-issue na ang Department of Budget and Management. I'm sure walang kinalaman," he said.

Belmonte, for his part, said: "What I know are the 2010 second sem are the ones that have been released so far. They have been ongoing since January up to now. There has been no simultaneous releases of any kind."

Belmonte stressed that the final impeachment vote will be a conscience vote.

"I wasn’t even aware until you asked the question that anybody would connect that because however you vote on any issue a congressman is entitled and under this administration he will get, walang mawi-withhold because he or she may disagree with the administration or with the leadership of this house. Wala no such thing.”

House Justice Committee senior vice-chairman Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas said he has yet to receive pork barrel funds for last year and this year. “I deny that because I have not even received my PDAF for last year. Neither for this year.”

The PDAF of congressmen, worth P70 million a year, is released semestrally.

Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay said that last week, she got the balance of P9 million worth of soft projects for her 2010 PDAF.

All in all, she got P35 million for her 2010 PDAF, P20 million in hard projects and P6 million in soft projects. “I only received my 2010 last week. I'm probably one of the last to get mine for 2010," she said.

Magsaysay said the release of her PDAF has nothing to do with the impeachment since her own pork barrel release is long overdue from last year.