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Philippine Lawmaker Bats for 'Absolute Transparency' in Use of Pork Barrel
Source: balita.ph
Source Date: Thursday, July 08, 2010
Country: Philippines
Created: Jul 12, 2010

Amid the brewing dispute over proposed cutback in the Priority Assistance Development Fund (PDAF) or "pork barrel" of members of Congress, a lawmaker on Wednesday said he is pushing for "greater transparency and public accountability" in the use of the funds, in accordance with President Benigno Simeon Aquino III's pledge to fight malfeasance.

"We should encourage if not require the full publication of all pork barrel-funded projects. This way, the public will be able to see clearly how their representatives and senators are spending the funds," said Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr.

"Let us publish the specific use of the allocations every six months in national newspapers, and post them on the web sites of the House (of Representatives) and the Senate, for all to see and scrutinize," he said.

"If district constituents are not happy with the way their representative is spending the money, they can remove the official in the next elections. If there are anomalies such as ghost or overpriced projects, they can readily file the appropriate complaints," he added.
Barzaga said his proposal is also consistent with the new administration's promise to improve governance.
In fact, he said, "this is precisely the 'openness in matters of public interest being sought by the proposed Freedom of Information (FOI) bill."

Quezon Rep. Lorenzo "Erin" TaƱada III earlier proposed for the lowering by as much as P10-billion the PDAF of legislators "to help the new administration cover the budget deficit and avert the imposition of new taxes."

The incoming House minority leader, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, however, immediately rejected the proposed pork barrel cutback, calling it "flawed, cosmetic, counterproductive and anti-poor."

"Personally, I have no problem with slashing the pork barrel, as long as it (is) done fairly and equitably, to include the executive branch, in the spirit of burden-sharing," said Barzaga.

He nonetheless stressed the need for the new administration to draw up a definite strategy to address this year's projected P300-billion gap between government spending and income.

"If the deficit is P300 billion, should we bridge it with P150 billion in extra revenue collections, and a P150-billion budget cut? Or should we just lessen the budget by P300 billion?" the Cavite solon said.

Barzaga pointed out that Kim Henares, the new chief of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), had already vowed to increase annual tax collections by P150 billion, by simply running after tax dodgers, corrupt agents and smugglers.

He also noted that President Aquino's advisers previously claimed they expect to generate up to P400 billion in annual savings as a result of reduced corruption.

"We need sound and actionable strategies to achieve the P150-billion increase in revenue collections without having to impose new taxes, and to realize the P400 billion in savings," the solon said.

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