DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 Oct.) — Lawyers’ groups in the city joined calls for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
In a forum Thursday at the Integrated Bar of the Philippines lounge at the Hall of Justice, the IBP Davao Chapter, Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM), Ateneo Public Interest Legal Advocacy (Apila), Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag), and Bayan Muna partylist also called for the prosecution of personalities implicated in the alleged misuse of these funds.
IBP-Davao president Jose Edgar J. Ilagan said their organization will support all legal methods to scrap both funds.
Ilagan said that it was also high time that the government passed the freedom of information bill to ensure transparency in government transactions.
“People who ask for public information are usually passed to many offices before they can request documents such as a government official’s statement of assets, liabilities and net worth,” he said.
He said investigations are not enough, and “somebody should answer.”
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said that while Janet Lim-Napoles has been tagged as the mastermind in the alleged misuse of the PDAF or pork barrel, there are other suspects who should be investigated too.
Flag president Manuel Quibod, meanwhile, said that there is a continuing need to educate all sectors regarding the truth about the funds.
“We need to let go of patronage politics,” he said. “Maybe there are some of us who understand the concept, but what about those who need to rely on a certain politician for their basic needs?”
He said that educating people on pork barrel and the DAP is the responsibility not only of lawyers but also of members of the middle class who are affected by the misuse of the said funds and are fighting for their abolition.
“There needs to be an ongoing discussion, otherwise this will become a divisive issue,” Quibod said. “We need to take the use of the funds from the hands of congressmen and the executive, especially at the Office of the President.”
“Patronage politics is the source of all graft and corruption in the government, and we feel that calls for transparency are not enough. There are no laws that ensure transparency in public service,” January Faye Risonar-Bello of Apila said.
Apila would be willing to lead in educating people about the funds, she added.
Eduardo Estores, UPLM chair, said there are people in Congress who want the job not because of the salary but because of the money they can get as lawmakers from other sources.
This, he said, extends to their families, which is why politicians push their relatives to run for public office.
He said that government should prioritize classrooms, health and infrastructure.
After the forum, the lawyers broke a huge piggybank with gavels to symbolize their support to calls for the abolition of the pork and DAP. (MindaNews)