MANILA - Senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares on Wednesday called anew for the abolition of the pork barrel, saying it has tilted elections in favor of incumbent officials vying for a fresh mandate.
"Loaded na agad si incumbent congressman and senator kasi meron na siyang pork throughout the years," Colmenares said in a press conference shortly after he and 9 other candidates were officially endorsed by a group of lay leaders.
"It is not just an issue of corruption but subservience of the electoral process dahil hindi level ang playing field sa isang pork-ridden elections," he said.
The Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the legislative's priority development assistance fund (PDAF) in 2013, but lawmakers have found a way to circumvent the decision, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay said.
"'Yung kultura ng pork barrel nandun pa din," he lamented.
(The culture of pork barrel is still there.)
"Ngayon mas malaki pa talaga 'yung pork barrel kasi ngayon hindi na nakalagay sa budget, nakabaon na siya as lump sum," he said.
(The pork barrel is larger now because these are no longer itemized in the budget, but are buried as lump sum.)
The pork barrel system is also among the main culprit behind the political turncoatism in the country, Colmenares said.
"Ang isa sa pinakamalaking dahilan bakit maraming congressman, senador ay lumilipat sa partido ng presidente dahil sa pork barrel," he said.
Regardless of its label, discretionary funds are used by the executive to sway lawmakers in their favor, De La Salle University College of Law founding dean and Otso Diretso senatorial bet Jose Manuel "Chel" Diokno said.
"Pork is pork no matter how you cook. Ginagamit iyan pang-control sa Kongreso (It is used to control the Congress)," he said.
"It compromises the independence of Congress," Colmenares added.
MASSIVE CONGRESS DETOX
The passage of the P3.7 trillion 2019 budget was stalled after several House members allegedly protested the budget cuts for infrastructure projects for their legislative districts, Senator Panfilo Lacson earlier said.
"Some congressmen are protesting the budget cuts for 'their infra projects' aka PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund)," Lacson said in a tweet.
"They need massive detox and full rehab so they can lick the more dangerous addiction for money," Lacson said without naming House members.
The Senate and the House of Representatives ended its months-long impasse on the passage of the budget after it was transmitted to Malacañang for the President's signature, Tuesday.
"I affix my signature with strong reservations," Sotto said of his letter to the President.
Sotto earlier refused to sign the budget after Lacson alleged that P25 billion in funds were realigned by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to favor some of her allies.