The only way to prove that next year's national budget has no pork barrel is for lawmakers to avoid getting involved in multibillion-peso appropriations earmarked for national government agencies, former Social Welfare Sec. Judy Taguiwalo said Friday.
Taguiwalo made the statement after Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said the lower House-approved P3.767-trillion national budget for 2018 is free of pork barrel amid accusations that it is laden with hidden lump sum funds.
“I am not a lawyer, but I know that the disbursement of funds is not among the functions of legislators. Their function is primarily and strictly legislative, not executive, but they choose to ignore this and continue to engage in patronage politics. They use pork barrel funds to wield influence over their constituents," she said in a press statement.
Taguiwalo, who was rejected by the Commission on Appointments as social welfare chief August 16, shared a particular experience she had during her stint in DSWD.
“There was even one lawmaker, who in an effort to talk me out of my opposition to specific allocation to individual legislators, assured me that it is not about corruption but about patronage or ‘in aid of re-election’, making it sound as if there is nothing wrong at all with patronage,” she said.
When she assumed office in DSWD, Taguiwalo said she was committed "to provide a leadership that gives no room for corruption by ensuring that fund allocation is guided by the General Appropriations Act."
She said she want to "shield" the DSWD budget from people who sought to influence how the agency disburses its funds and implements its programs.
“I believe there is a need for us to continue the fight against pork. It did not end when cases were filed against Napoles and her cohorts. It still exists and its evils are staring us in the face," she said.
The Department of Education took the lion's share of the 2018 national budget with P691 billion, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways with P643 billion, and the Department of Interior and Local Government with P172 billion. The DSWD will have a P138-billion budget.
The pork barrel system, dubbed as Priority Development Assistance Fund, was declared unconstitutional in 2013 by the Supreme Court.
The discretionary funds were used by lawmakers to bankroll specific projects in their districts.