EDITORIAL - Holding on to ‘pork’

(The Philippine Star) - August 18, 2013 - 12:00am

President Aquino, a congressman and senator for over a decade, knows the pork barrel system well and does not plan to abolish the Priority Development Assistance Fund, according to Palace officials, despite the still unfolding scandal involving its utilization. The chairman of the Commission on Audit, who announced the results of a two-year special audit of PDAF utilization, also said what the system needs is regulation and, on the part of lawmakers and local executives, self-restraint.

The COA suggestions, which are included in detail in the special report, deserve careful consideration, particularly by the politicians who want the pork barrel system retained. Under the system, lawmakers are allotted a set amount of projects or programs they can earmark for funding and implementation. Over the years lawmakers have been urged to bring transparency and accountability in the utilization of billions of pesos in public funds. The calls were ignored.

With the fund scandal now engulfing Congress and nearly a hundred local executives, politicians will have to heed the call for reforms. The COA report covered only 2007 to 2009. Since the PDAF system is unchanged, the public is waiting for a similar thorough probe into pork barrel utilization and the use of non-government organizations for possible fund diversions under the Aquino administration. The President has vowed that there would be no sacred cows, and that even his political allies would not be spared. His “bosses” hold him to his promise.

The special COA report includes a long list of recommendations to reform the system. More measures can be implemented in the budget process, which should also include judiciary funds. The unprecedented ouster of a chief justice has not led to greater transparency in fund utilization in the judiciary. This should not be the case; any office that uses public funds must be covered by rules on transparency and accountability.

If government officials want control over public money, they should be prepared to make a full disclosure of its utilization. Those who want to retain the pork barrel should be prepared to give the system a thorough overhaul.





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