Noy vows to prosecute those behind ‘pork’ scam

Aurea Calica - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Punishment awaits those who had embezzled their Priority Development Assistance Fund, President Aquino vowed yesterday.

“We will do everything in our power to find those who conspired to take advantage of the PDAF’s good intentions, and to hold them accountable,” Aquino said in his speech during rites commemorating National Heroes’ Day at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City.

“We will not allow anyone to be used to propagate the corrupt practices of a few. We will make certain that the mistakes of the past are not repeated so that we may further ascertain that the people’s money is spent properly,” the President said.

He said his decision to abolish PDAF “is part of continuously finding and forming a mechanism that ensures that the people’s money can only be used for the people.”

But for the system to be truly effective, Aquino said the people must also keep their vigilance to ensure their money is properly spent.

“The challenge for us: that we not be content with waiting for and receiving help from others. Instead, let us do everything we can to fulfill our responsibilities to our fellowmen and to society,” he said.

“Can we still look ourselves in the mirror if we say no to the opportunities to contribute to change? Wouldn’t it feel good to be the rightful inheritor of the freedom our heroes fought and died for?” he said.

He said “heroism begins within us - in identifying and siding with what is right, and shunning what is wrong.”

He said the best way to honor the nation’s heroes is to value their examples and “give life” to their “lessons and commitment.”

“Each one of us, no matter the size of our contribution, can be a hero. Every step we take forward - as long as we do it as one Filipino nation - can bring about widespread change,” he said.

Under the banner of solidarity, the President said Filipinos should help one another in pursuing collective desires.

Aquino said one shining example of heroism was displayed by Commodore Ramon Alcaraz. Alcaraz, after whom the country’s newest naval vessel was named, shot down nine Japanese zero fighters with a machinegun on a wooden boat.

“His contribution to history did not end there. He was recognized as the father of the Philippine Marines, and he even resisted the dictatorship when our nation was on the brink of martial law,” he said, referring to Alcaraz.

“In the same way, our OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) should be considered heroes. They sacrifice so much and distance themselves from their families just so they can afford better lives for their loved ones,” he added.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the public outrage against corruption must be consistent and sustained unlike during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In  a press briefing, Lacierda noted the people became apathetic during the time of Arroyo and even the outrage against the national broadband network-ZTE deal died down after protest actions were held.

Lacierda said the people should have a “consistent attitude towards ensuring that our money will not be abused, that corruption should not be tolerated in any form.”

He said the people could go to the Department of Budget and Management under Secretary Florencio Abad and monitor budget deliberations in Congress to ensure that public funds would be spent on important programs and projects.

Lacierda said the public should consistently display their indignation at cases of official corruption. He also said a fool-proof system of disbursing pork allocation, which is being worked by the administration, would only be effective if  the people remain vigilant.

“For this system to work, your cooperation is required. The information will be there for you to monitor. I ask you to do your part, as we do ours. Let us work together to heighten transparency, to strengthen accountability, and to ensure that public funds are utilized justly and in a manner that truly benefits the people,” he said.

He said under the setup being worked out, disbursements would be easier to track and monitor.

“I don’t know the details of the mechanism but, suffice it to say, the attitude of the two branches of government - House, Senate and the executive - is to work towards ensuring that there is no leakage or at the very least, really have a significant impact on corruption,” Lacierda said.

“We put up all the reform measures, we put up all the safeguards there and then we have COA to audit the project at the end. So that’s where the general framework is right now,” he said.

He stressed it was unfair to accuse the President of giving PDAF another name to mislead the public.

“What we have right now, you can help us monitor and tell us... The proof is in the pudding. If it doesn’t work, you tell us,” he said.

He reiterated the administration’s determination to prosecute wrongdoers including allies.

“The President made a statement, we’re going to prosecute everyone. The President has been saying a lot about going after the people who are liable for the misuse of government funds,” he said.

More than P11 billion in pork barrel funds have been released so far to senators and congressmen this year, according to the website of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) under the PDAF column.

Disbursements for district representatives this year amounted to P7,999,663.888 while party-list congressmen got P1,907,600 or a total of P9,908,263,888. 

Meanwhile, Sen. Nancy Binay expressed support yesterday for calls for a review of the pork barrel allocations in the 2014 budget. She issued the statement after learning of a reported P1.6 billion insertion in the budget of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

“I encourage the people to be vigilant and participate in the budget process by attending the hearings conducted by both Houses of Congress,” said Binay. – With Delon Porcalla, Christina Mendez, Paolo Romero











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