MANILA, Philippines – The Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or whatever the pork barrel is called, was intended as a tool to bring development to the countryside, said a neophyte lawmaker.
There's still way to salvage it to serve its intended purposes, according to Camarines Sur Rep Leni Robredo:
Let the people nominate the projects they want the pork barrel to fund.
Local government units (LGU) that want to avail of the fund should be measured according to performance.
LGUs will be assessed according to the good housekeeping scorecard that her late husband, Jesse Robredo, established when he was secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Robredo said the mechanism – a resolution for which she will file soon – is designed to remove from lawmakers the sole discretion on how to utilize the pork barrel, and share that power with their constituents.
She said she was wary of the PDAF before she was elected. But now that she's a member of Congress and is entitled to the fund, she has seen its potential as a development tool.
"Parte na rin ako ng institusyon kaya obligasyon kong maging parte ng solusyon," Robredo said. (I'm now a part of the institution that's why it's my obligation to be part of the solution.)
Robredo said she is in favor of Aquino's reforms to lawmakers' funds, which will require members of Congress to include their fund as line items in the national budget.
But she also acknowledges the people's adverse sentiment towards the controversial funds.
"If PDAF is going to be used for patronage politics, mas mabuti na lang abolish (it would be better to just abolish)," Robredo said. "But if it can be converted into something that will allow it to become a tool for development, a measure for inclusive growth, it would be great if it can be used properly."
Performance incentive fund
Each representative gets P70 million worth of funds every year. A senator gets P200 million.
Under Robredo's proposal, a portion of lawmakers' funds will be turned into a district performance incentive fund.
"The people, after all, should not suffer from the inefficiency of their local government," Robredo said.
How will the funds be allocated?
Robredo wants to adopt the system being used in Naga City and create a district development council (DDC) that will identify projects to be funded.
The scheme follows the Department of Budget and Management's mechanism of bottom-up budgeting, which allows LGUs to identify projects they need.
The DDC shall be composed of:
All mayors in the district
Representatives from the provincial government
Provincial board members
Representatives from national government agencies
Representatives from Liga ng mga Barangay
Accredited nongovernment organizations
How will it work?
Under Robredo's proposal, a representative cannot recommend and oversee programs and projects not endorsed by DDC. Endorsement from the DDC, meanwhile, will not take effect without the concurrence of the representative.
This will ensure that the "very wide discretion" of lawmakers on their funds will be removed, " Robredo said.
"This way, a representative will have a greater role in recommending locally-responsive programs and projects but cannot act on his or her own," she added.
Meanwhile, non-performing LGUs will still get PDAF allocations – but they will not be prioritized. These LGUs cannot submit their proposed list of programs, but the DDB can recommend projects.
She was planning to install the scheme in her legislative district before Aquino put the release of PDAF on hold. – Rappler.com