Senator Escudero to lawmakers: Keep your pork, be accountable and transparent; no abolition

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Senator Francis 'Chiz' Escudero. Contributed Photo
Senator Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero. Contributed Photo

By Joey Natividad

CITY OF NAGA, Bicol Region, 04Oct2013 (BicolToday.com) Senator Chiz Escudero wants to keep his pork barrel as long as he is accountable and transparent. His latest policy is not for its abolition.

He wants other lawmakers to do the same with their pork. This is what BicolToday.com learned yesterday from his statement regarding his latest policy to keep pork, and wants other lawmakers to do the same.

In his statement sent to this online group, Senator Escudero said “the disbursement and use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) by legislators should be open to public scrutiny to ensure transparency and accountability.”

Escudero issued the call to his fellow lawmakers “to open their books to the Filipino people amid the reported misuse and abuse of the PDAF, which was originally intended to finance the pet projects of Senators and Congressmen.”

Escudero’s latest press statement means he is not for the abolition of pork barrel allocation among legislators, but for lawmakers to practice honesty, transparency, and accountability.

An observer took note that Escudero’s appeal sounds like telling the “thief” to report his plunder and earnings to his neighbors.

Escudero admitted that several lawmakers have been involved as revealed by a recent special report by the Commission on Audit (COA), and revelations at the ongoing investigation by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee which initially showed that some lawmakers have allegedly connived with bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) to pocket kickbacks through ghost projects.

“Whether it’s PDAF, pork barrel or DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) is immaterial. The important issues here are transparency and accountability. At the end of the day, as public officials entrusted with public funds, we should be able to explain to the public how these were disbursed and used,” said Escudero, who chairs the Senate Committee on Finance.

According to Escudero, how each lawmaker allocated and used every single centavo earmarked for the PDAF should be made public and accessible to all stakeholders for scrutiny in the spirit of transparency and accountability.

“This is a challenge to my fellow legislators: reveal how you spent public funds. We owe it to our constituents, we owe it to our taxpayers,” he said.

BicolToday.com was informed by Escudero that when he started availing of the special budget for legislators’ pet projects in 2010, he has posted on his website (www.chizescudero.com) the detailed allocation of his PDAF to local government units (LGUs) across the country. The senator did not receive any PDAF during the Arroyo administration.

He said all the allocations he received under the PDAF had been properly accounted for, and open to scrutiny by COA and the public.

“All releases and disbursements to LGUs which had sought my assistance were transparent and verifiable. These can be scrutinized by COA and the public anytime.”

Escudero also sought to clarify the “confusion” surrounding the P96 million (not P99 million as earlier reported) he had requested the Department of Budget and Management to download to local LGUs to finance their requests for repairs of specialty hospitals and construction of public markets.

The whole P96 million released by the DBM, through its DAP, covered the project funding requests that went directly to LGUs in the cities and municipalities of Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Cavite, Rizal, Ilocos Norte and Pangasinan, among others, mostly for infrastructure projects and medical help.

Majority of the LGUs received P500,000. each for the construction and rehabilitation of their public markets.

Since the Senator started using his PDAF in 2010, he had only funded infrastructure projects and medical assistance through various LGUs, as well as improvement of regional and specialty hospitals. [BicolToday.com]

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