Bishops back people’s initiative against pork barrel

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MANILA, August 8, 2014–A multisectoral drive to abolish the pork barrel system through a people’s iniative has got the blessing of the Catholic bishops’ leadership.

Archbishop Socrates Villegas, CBCP president, on Friday gave a powerful boost of support to the campaign “against what they take to be unjust use of public funds”.

“All measures our citizens take, provided these are moral, peaceful and lawful, aimed at curbing corruption and the irresponsible use of public funds have our full support,” Villegas said.

In fact, he emphasized, many members of the clergy and lay church leaders are at the forefront of the initiatives.

The archbishop issued the statement amid moves by the Aquino administration’s allies in Congress to revise the Supreme Court’s constitutional interpretation of what is “savings”.

The SC earlier declared both the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program as unconstitutional.

“We have been informed of attempts to perpetuate the system through the appropriation of lump sums in the national budget under various pretexts,” said Villegas.

“We therefore fully endorse the people’s initiative aimed at legislating the proscription of funds made available to officials and subject to their discretion alone,” he added.

The bishops also criticized the practice of classifying as “intelligence funds” — and therefore beyond the scope of audit and accountability — sizable amounts of public money.

“’You cannot serve both God and money’. We choose to serve God and we cannot countenance the idolization of money, especially when it takes the form of unfettered access to the money of the people,” he said.

Meanwhile, a Cebu-based anti-pork coalition is hopeful to gather the needed signatures for a people’s initiative to pass a legislation that would totally outlaw the pork barrel system.

Msgr. Romulo Kintanar of the Cebu Coalition Against the Pork Barrel System, said that they have been working hard to get the 5.4 million signatures or the 10 percent of the total voting population.

He said the support of the bishops gave boost to the campaign which also seeks to prohibit and criminalize appropriation and use of lump sum discretionary funds and mandates line item budgeting.

“We are very hopeful because we really rely so much on the clout of the bishops to facilitate the organization of coalition in the districts to be responsible of the gathering of the signatures,” Kintanar said.

“Actually the issue here is not only getting the 10 percent as required by law, but to see to it once the people’s initiative is being approved by the Comelec (Commission on Elections), then it will be approved by the whole country with a majority vote, during the national referendum,” he said.

The People’s Initiative Against the Pork Barrel (PIAP) said the signature campaign would be launched during a people’s congress slated in Cebu City on August 23.

Among those expected to attend the event include Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno. (CBCPNews)

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