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Recto wants to convert ‘pork’ in 2014 budget to disaster fund

An image of Virgin Mary and baby Jesus is seen in front of the collapsed centuries-old Our Lady of Light church in Loon, Bohol, a day after an earthquake hit central Philippines October 16, 2013. (MNS photo)

An image of Virgin Mary and baby Jesus is seen in front of the collapsed centuries-old Our Lady of Light church in Loon, Bohol, a day after an earthquake hit central Philippines October 16, 2013. (MNS photo)

MANILA (Mabuhay) – The government should convert the P25-billion allocation for the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), commonly known as “pork barrel,” to disaster relief funds that will help rebuild areas affected by recent natural disasters that hit the country, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto proposed Thursday.

In a statement, Recto said the government should consider beefing up the P7.5-billion proposed calamity fund for next year, which he said “is not enough” given the recent “tragedies on the ground.”

“If the budget is ballyhooed to be based on needs, then the earthquake in the Visayas and other expenditure-causing calamities must be factored in,” the senator said.

Typhoon Santi hit parts of Central Luzon over the weekend, leaving eight people and leaving over two million people without electricity.

On Tuesday, a magnitude-7.2 hit central Visayas, leaving 158 reported dead so far and destroying some heritage churches in Bohol and Cebu.

Recto proposed that Malacañang and Congress should consider “tweaking” the spending plan for next year to create “budget space” for calamity relief work.

He particularly specified PDAF allocations as a possible source of relief funds.

The senator added that a provision can also be introduced in the 2014 budget that will allow the government to channel excess revenues or savings for disaster relief.

The PDAF, which enables lawmakers to allocate funds for particular projects, have drawn public outrage during the past months after the National Bureau of Investigation started its probe on an alleged scam involving controversial businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Napoles allegedly funneled pork barrel funds to bogus non-government organizations with the help of lawmakers and heads of implementing agencies, all of whom supposedly got kickbacks from the scheme.

Last month, plunder complaints were filed against Napoles, Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Bong Revilla for their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.

Late last month, the House of Representatives passed the P2.268-trillion national budget for next year, with pork barrel funds realigned to government agencies.

On Tuesday, Senate President Franklin Drilon said the decision to delete the PDAF in the 2014 budget may be left to each senator.

Senators receive P200 million each in PDAF allocations every year, while members of the House of Representatives get P75 each. (MNS)

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