On with the August 26 “Million People March to Luneta”

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Despite President Aquino’s announcement calling for the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), activists gather on Mendiola Bridge on Friday, August 23, to urge the public to join the August 26 ‘Million People March’ against the pork barrel system at the Luneta Park. Benjie Castro / GMANews

“Stop pulling our legs, Mr. President. All ‘pork’ and ‘pork-like funds’ must be abolished permanently!”

This is the response of Edwin Bustillos, APL Deputy Secretary General, to PNoy’s declaration this morning that, “it is time to abolish PDAF.”

“What we heard is a promise to do away with PDAF, but not to discard with Pork Barrel and other discretionary funds,” Bustillos said.

The executive branch would still retain its own version of the pork barrel in the form of the “highly discretionary” special purpose funds (SPFs) and so-called lump sum funds, which, like the PDAF, are very vulnerable to abuse or prone to corruption.

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) revealed that “SPFs and lump-sums constitute still over half” of the P2.006 trillion of the national budget for 2013. Likewise, other studies show that SPFs alone already account to a huge 22 percent of the planned P2.3-trillion national budget next year.

Some groups asserted that Aquino’s “pork barrel” last year allegedly reached to P24.8 billion and P34.5 billion this year. Identified as in effect the President’s massive “pork barrels” because of his discretionary powers on them are the President’s Social Fund (PSF), and the Office of the President’s intelligence funds, contingent funds, calamity funds, unprogrammed funds, e-government funds, support for infrastructure and social programs.

Leonor Briones, former National Treasurer, even claimed that Aquino practically has at least P1 trillion “pork” or about half of the proposed 2014 GAA, including P229 billion in SPFs and P139 billion in unprogrammed funds, which could only be released upon his approval.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, on the other hand, has his own annual pork kitty of P200 million aside from the regular budget of his office. He reportedly requested for this fund, and was endorsed by both administration and opposition senators in 2010.

“Furthermore, we should press for the audit of all discretionary funds even during the time of PNoy,” Bustillos added.

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