Rechannel ‘pork’ funds to LGUs, social services

VALENCIA CITY (MindaNews / 18 Sept) – All forms of pork barrel funds should be abolished and should be rechanneled to direct services with local government units, a former city councilor here said.

Glenn Peduche, a farmer by profession, briefed cause-oriented groups and churches attending the “Usapang Baboy: A Forum on Pork Barrel” forum here Tuesday about how the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) came into the system of the government.

The forum ended with a plan to hold a multisectoral interfaith prayer-rally against PDAF on Saturday.

Peduche said it is quite unfair that a big chunk of the national budget is left to the discretion of a few officials, who spend most of their time in Manila. He added that many politicians are overeager for public office because of the pork barrel.

“The fund should be redirected to the local government units, especially the barangays who know best the needs of their villagers,” Peduche told MindaNews at the end of the forum held at the United Methodist Church.

Peduche, who lost in his congressional bid for Bukidnon’s new fourth district last May, said farmers and the rest of the poor are among the hardest hit by the PDAF plunderers because people in the countryside were duped.

“Additional funds should be channeled to people on the ground directly, not the leftover funds (like the way PDAF was ran),” he added.

Now back into farming vegetables, Peduche said he will not take his eyes away from the issue even if he is back to being full time citizen.

Peduche said he has strong reason to believe that many of the hand-me-down agricultural programs coursed through the Department of Agriculture and its sub-agencies are sourced through the questionable scheme in the PDAF.

“This should be investigated further,” added Peduche.

The forum, backed by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), was a followup to the protest held by the group and allies in Malaybalay City’s plaza Friday last week calling for the abolition of the pork barrel.

It was the first of its kind in the province since the investigation of Janet Lim-Napoles’ connection to the P10-billion pork barrel scam involving the channeling of government funds to bogus non-government organizations.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) this week charged Napoles, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., and former House members Rizalina Seachon-Lanete and Edgar Valdez, with allegedly siphoning their PDAF into ghost projects.

Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. called for a rally for the abolition of PDAF here on August 21 but called it off two days later after President Benigno Aquino III issued a statement supporting the calls.

Organizers said the prayer-rally scheduled this Saturday, timed for the commemoration of the declaration of Martial Law, has the support of different churches and sectors.

Pastor Arturo Veladiez of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Bukidnon said the funds should be rechanneled to direct services such as health, education, among others.

“It is a mockery that the theft of people’s money happened amidst the poverty of millions of people,” he added.

Veladiez said the pork barrel scam plundered the people, something that should not escape the training eyes even of the religious.

“Churches need to intervene because this involves the politics and economy of the same people they are administering,” he added.

He said people should stand up because they should be enjoying abundant life from God’s provision.

Retired Pastor Fidel Porquillo, of the United Methodist Church, said only a few benefitted from the funds that should have helped many.

“This is one form of human rights abuse,” he added.

Aside from traditional march protest, organizers eyed liturgical services in the Sept. 21 rally. They have also planned a signature campaign, which also calls for prosecution of guilty parties and allocation of the funds instead for social services.