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Consolidating Consensus, Advancing People’s Struggles and Building Alternatives
President Aquino’s announcement today abolishing the Philippine Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) falls short of the demands for justice emanating from the massive public outcry against the pork barrel.
P-Noy’s policy declaration is double-edged. While he abolishes the PDAF, he only decries the abuses in the pork barrel institution which includes less visible forms of pork. More importantly, he still accommodates every congressman and senator to propose and therefore, horse-trade, on specific projects for specific districts or sectoral constituencies. The door thus remains open to pork.
P-Noy also limits his line of attack to the results of the Special PDAF Audit for years 2007-2009 and what has come out from the Napoles scam. PDAF has existed since 1990. It continues into the first half of its term. Justice for our people demands that no one be spared. The investigation must encompass not only the term of his predecessors but his own as well. Let the chips fall where they should, whether they be rivals or allies of the President.
The stolen public money so far unearthed is of unbelievable magnitude. The impunity with which they have been dispensed and misused strongly suggest a very corrupt system of pork allocation which extends to the entire budget process itself, and an extensive involvement at the top levels of officialdom down to the local governments. Thus, the investigation must be carried out independently, objectively and fairly.
At this point, many members of Congress are already implicated in these monumental pork barrel scams. Possibly, there may be more. Congressional investigations therefore lack the necessary credibility to do the job. While the Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman are expected to conduct an independent, objective and fair investigation, there is value in setting up an independent citizen committee to parallel the effort.
The reckoning has to be thorough. Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) reiterates its earlier statement: The hundreds of billions of pesos that have gone into the Congressional pork barrel should put to shame a Government that has fallen so short of the necessary educational, health and housing services to our people and has been a failure in solving the scandalous poverty in our country. Once these stolen money are accounted for, they should be added to the massive social debt the Philippine government has owed our people – the unfulfilled obligations to our people as a result of prioritizing debt payments over education, health, housing and other public services by a debt-dependent government.
While the investigations and the prosecutions are being done, radical political reforms toward transparency and accountability and genuine citizen stakeholdership must be brought to the system of governance. The enactment and faithful implementation of a Freedom of Information Law, Anti-Dynasty Law and measures to realize citizen participatory budgeting from the local up to the national levels have become more pressing than ever.