MANILA – Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Friday said he will back the scrapping of lawmakers’ priority development assistance funds (PDAF) only if all pork barrel allocations and lumpsum appropriations of all departments of government are scrapped as well.
In a press briefing, Enrile said the public is justified in its outrage over the P10 billion pork barrel scam as well as calls to abolish the pork barrel, which was restored in 1989.
“If it must be scrapped, the pork barrel system must be scrapped totally. We should not only look at scrapping the PDAF but include the various ‘pork barrel’ or lump sum appropriations of all departments of government under the General Appropriations Act as well,” he told reporters.
Outrage over pork barrel misuse has reached fever pitch recently following reports that P10 billion in pork barrel funds were funneled to fake non-government organizations over a 10-year period.
Last week, the Commission on Audit revealed that 10 NGOs linked to businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles received P2.157 billion in pork barrel between 2007 and 2009. Napoles is the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.
Several senators are now calling for the abolition of the pork barrel. The Senate will begin investigating the alleged misuse of the PDAF next week.
In the press briefing, Enrile denied the COA findings that said he disbursed over P904.5 million in pork barrel funds from 2007-2009.
He said the pork barrel amounts attributed to him are “distorted and misleading” since they came from missing and incomplete records from the Department of Budget and Management.
He said his own investigation on the records of the special allotment release orders (SAROS) issued by the DBM showed that P325 million in projects conducted by other lawmakers “were attributed to me as part of my PDAF in 2009 alone.”
The legislators are:
Senator Rodolfo Biazon - P20 million
Senator Chiz Escudero - P20 million
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada - P50 million
Sen. Lito Lapid - P42 million
Sen. Loren Legarda - P33 million
Sen. Mar Roxas – P20 million
Sen. Miriam Santiago – P50 million
Congressmen-members of the Commission on Appointments - P90 million
Total - P325 million
“The abovementioned legislators merely requested for my endorsement as then Senate President for the release of funds from the various projects under their own PDAF,” he said.
Enrile said the leaders and offices of both Houses of Congress including the chairs of the House appropriations committee and Senate committee on finance are allocated additional amounts over and above their regular allocations for priority development assistance funds (PDAF). Each senator is currently given yearly PDAF allocations of P200 million, while congressmen are given P70 million each.
Enrile also noted that the leaders of the House appropriations committee and the Senate finance committee confer with each other and with the budget secretary “as to the amounts that are agreed to be distributed either as pork barrel allocations or budgetary insertions.”
“This is a fact. The PDAF and the VILP do not represent the totality of each legislator’s congressional initiatives.”
He said Senate President Franklin Drilon had “correctly pointed out that the actual release of the pork barrel was a prerogative of the President.”
“Therefore the PDAF or pork barrel is not really the ‘equalizer’ that it purports to be. The system confers upon the executive the power and the discretion to either ‘deprive or bless’ any legislator, to slash his pork barrel, to delay each release or to deprive him altogether or to grant amounts over and above the budgeted amounts for each member of Congress,” he said.
Enrile said he is ready to face any investigation by the Senate and by the executive and prosecuted “if anyone can prove I financially benefited from the unscrupulous and illegal schemes of criminal syndicates whether masterminded by Ms. Janet Lim Napoles or her ilk and her cohorts in or out of government.”
“The dark cloud of suspicion that I have been a party to this large scale robbery of public coffers is most unfortunate. The ongoing investigation and subsequent prosecution based on evidence as directed by the President is a welcome opportunity for me to clear my name and that of my office,” he said.