LEGAZPI CITY, 19Aug2013 – The Commission on Audit findings that some P6.2 billion in Priority Development Assistance funds may have been lost to corruption from 2007-2009 strengthens the calls to abolish the pork barrel system, according to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).
“There can be no ifs and buts. The pork barrel system has to go. Billions of pesos are apparently being channelled to ghost projects, questionable NGOs and unscrupulous politicians. The Napoles NGO’s appear to be just among the 82 NGO’s that have questionable practices and links to politicians. The system is so corrupt that there can be no other way to address the issue but to abolish pork altogether,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“It is time to end the ‘public-private partnership’ of lawmakers, spurious NGO’s and corrupt government agencies who are responsible for plundering the nation’s coffers,” he added.
Bayan said that it is very likely that the questionable practices from 2007 to 2009 may have continued up to the present administration. The group said that it was necessary to review the PDAF disbursements during the Aquino administration. It said that what is posted on the Department of Budget and Management website are just projects supposedly undertaken using the PDAF of lawmakers but no stringent audit appears to have been carried out.
The DBM website on PDAF projects show that even under the Aquino administration, hundreds of millions of pesos were allotted to projects such as livelihood trainings and seminars. The group said that even partylist lawmakers appear to have questionable PDAF use as some projects have no connection with the sectors or regions that they claim to represent.
While admitting that the scope and depth of corruption in the PDAF was shocking, Bayan asked why the COA recommendations fell short of calling for the abolition of the PDAF and the investigation of erring lawmakers.
In its recommendations found on page 139 of its report, COA asked lawmakers to limit their participation in PDAF project to identification of eligible projects and implementing agencies, and to ensure that projects fall within their congressional district or sector. COA also recommended that some NGO’s and government agencies be probed. “
What is striking in the COA report is that there is no recommendation to probe the lawmakers who may have been involved in the questionable PDAF projects. Only some NGO’s and government employees have been recommended for investigation. COA also does not recommend the abolition of PDAF. Given what COA itself has revealed as corruption on a massive scale, these recommendations are certainly not enough,” Reyes said. “
The COA found at least 6 lawmakers tied to certain questionable NGO’s, yet there was no recommendation to investigate these lawmakers. If despite the COA report no one is held accountable, then corruption will continue. That’s impunity,” he added.
Bayan said that pressure should be made to bear on President Benigno Aquino III and his allies in Congress to hold accountable all those involved in the scam.
“The whole system – the executive, legislative and judiciary – is on trial here. A scam of this magnitude demands that officials be made accountable. Lawmakers, bogus NGO’s and erring officials of implementing agencies should be thoroughly investigated. Congressional hearings should also be undertaken. PDAF projects for 2014 should be halted. Aquino cannot act as if it’s business as usu al. His refusal to scrap pork is very telling,” Reyes said.