Surigao solon favors scrapping ‘pork’

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews/27 August) – Surigao del Norte 2nd Dist. Rep. Guillermo A. Romarate Jr. yesterday said he is in favor of abolishing the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.

Romarate’s statement came amid mounting calls for the abolition of the controversial fund, which has undergone close public scrutiny after reports that at least P10 billion of it allegedly went to ghost projects over a period of 10 years.

He said government agencies are capable enough of handling development projects, adding the job of lawmakers is only to make laws.

Romarate voiced his opinion on the PDAF over RPN-DXKS, in a program anchored by Jun Clerigo.

The lawmaker said that since becoming a congressman in 2007, he had diverted his PDAF allocation for “soft” projects to “hard” projects.

“Soft” refers to non-infrastructure and small infrastructure projects, while “hard” means big infrastructure projects.

Romarate said allocations for soft projects may be diverted to hard projects, but doing the opposite is prohibited and can be a basis for a malversation case.

Based on the Commission on Audit report for 2007-2009, Romarate got a total of 95 million from his PDAF and was categorized under Various Infrastructure including Local Projects.

The report did not name him as among the lawmakers who allegedly gave their PDAF to dubious NGOs.

He promised to show this week all the documents pertaining to the use of his PDAF since 2007.

He said the PDAF would sometimes bring him headaches because if he would give an allocation for one area, the others would demand for projects too and would feel bad if he could not accommodate such demand.

He added it is better to abolish the pork barrel because it is a source of graft among lawmakers.

Based on the COA report, Surigao del Norte 1st Dist. Rep. Francisco T. Matugas and former Surigao del Norte 2nd Dist. Rep. Robert Ace S. Barbers (2nd District) downloaded close to P45 million from their PDAF to dubious NGOs.

The Coalition of Surigaonon Against Pork Barrel, the group that led yesterday’s protest in the city against the PDAF said the fund has been a source of corruption.

In a statement, the group said the pork barrel has engendered patronage politics, as the lawmakers would prioritize their supporters in the allocation of projects. (Roel N. Catoto/MindaNews)