MANILA, Jan. 28, 2014—Ringing their bells as they marched, a church group stormed Padre Faura Tuesday morning in time for the Supreme Court (SC) hearing that will decide on the fate of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or the “pork barrel”.
The Church People’s Alliance against Pork Barrel, convinced that PDAF favors only the ruling elite, is calling for its total abolition, even as they welcomed the SC’s 2013 ruling declaring its unconstitutionality.
The group laments that in spite of this development, the country’s chief executive is keeping his own PDAF.
Church People’s Alliance against Pork Barrel convenor Nardy Sabino observed that the president’s “pork” are “lump sum amounts in the budget, overall savings, and off-budget lump sums like the Malampaya Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).”
Sabino stressed that all these amounts are at the sole discretion of President Benigno S. Aquino III for disposal.
He also expressed disgust over Malacañang’s insistence on the need and legality of DAP.
The Alliance sees DAP as worse than PDAF, because it has no constitutional or any legal covers which allow the realignment of funds not provided by the Law on General Appropriations, because the constitution only allows the realignment of funds to “augment any item in the general appropriations law”, Sabino said.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) reported that a total of P142.23 billion was spent so far under the DAP, with P83.53 billion spent in 2011 and another P 58.7 billion in 2012.
These amounts were spent on budgetary items mostly absent in the 2011 or 2012 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
This is one of the contentious issues in the petition left unanswered before the SC, Sabino explained.
He also noted that DAP is clandestinely used by the president to advance his personal and political interest, calling it a “finance tyrant that dictates the disbursements of people’s money according to the President’s will alone”.
Fr. Benjamin Alforque MSC lambasted what he considers to be the government’s “dictatorship of money”, reminding public officials to always uphold their mandate of serving the people.
Alforque prayed that the SC justices would look at the DAP issue from the “perspective of wisdom”, and that “guided by the Holy Spirit”, the magistrates would “have an insight into the experience of the people, because they are the ones who mirror God’s wisdom… not superficial knowledge as what we can find in books.”
“We are praying over the leaders of the high court to hear the cry of the people that the constitution be upheld over politics and greed… that the people’s funds are used to serve the needs of the poor and marginalized… that corruption be put to an end and good governance guided by uprightness… and morals be seen among our public servants,” Alforque said.
Fr. Greg Ovejas OSM said that the “money that comes from the people should benefit the people” in the form of quality public service.
He refused to believe that the Philippines is a poor country given the amount of “money concentrated in the hands of the few”.
More than anyone else, this should benefit the underprivileged, Ovejas said. (Raymond A. Sebastián)