5 Million Signature initiative to abolish “Pork barrel” pushed by Chamber of Commerce; Aquino blame Arroyo for his dip rating

In Photo: The women's group Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan join the clamor to abolish lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund and Malacañang's Disbursement Acceleration Program fund and called for the passage of laws and programs that will benefit all Filipinos in a recent news conference commemorating World Rural Women's Day. (Nonoy Lacza)

PCCI to hold nationwide consultation drive on 'pork' barrel, DAP abolition

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the country's biggest association of private firms, is embarking on a nationwide consultation drive among businessmen on the raging clamor to scrap both the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork-barrel fund, and Malacañang's Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund.

Amid persistent reports of PDAF and DAP misuse, PCCI President Miguel Varela said the proposed People's Initiative to abolish the pork- barrel system will be tackled in the forthcoming Philippine Business Conference from October 22 to 24 at the Manila Hotel.

"We will not close our ears on these [pork barrel] concerns in our country. Our principal concern is the growth of the economy and if there are concerns that hamper growth, we will have to act," said Varela at a news briefing at the PCCI office in Taguig City on Wednesday.

He said "the signal for the PCCI chambers to mobilize is when the Supreme Court declares that the power of Congress to create pork-barrel fund is constitutional."

"Our chambers will then convene voters to discuss whether or not they will sign a People's Initiative to abolish the congressional PDAF or the Disbursement Acceleration Program Fund or any other discretionary funds," said Varela in a prepared statement on Wednesday.

He added that PCCI chapters wield considerable influence in their respective communities. "Businessmen, as the largest taxpayers, have the right to express their opinion on how their taxes are spent," Varela said.

He added that while the Philippines has been experiencing significant economic gains in as shown by three consecutive credit upgrades, such gains will only be eroded if issues like corruption and PDAF misuse are not properly addressed.

"We have some significant gains [in the last few years] and we don't want to lose those gains [because of the pork-barrel issue]," Varela said.

The People's Initiative to scrap the pork barrel needs the signature of at least 5.08 million or 10 percent of registered voters and 3 percent of voters in every congressional district.

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno earlier proposed the People's Initiative, which the constitution allows as a specific measure to abolish the PDAF.

At the Malacañang Palace, President Aquino said more charges are being lined up in connection with the pork-barrel mess even as he lamented the negative fallout his administration is getting from the alleged anomalies found to have been committed during the time of his predecessor.

Interviewed after presiding over a meeting on government preparations for the massive rehabilitation of areas damaged by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that hit Central Visayas on Monday, Mr. Aquino admitted his dismay over the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey indicating a dip in his public satisfaction rating and conceded the pork-barrel mess caused it.

"I suppose it had an effect [on his administration's ratings]," Mr. Aquino said. But he added that the alleged anomalies were found to have been committed between 2007 and 2009. "And who was in Malacañang at that time? Not us," he added.

He complained in Pilipino that it was like everyone in government had been implicated, even those who had nothing to do with it.

Mr. Aquino wished that "in time, the people will see what we have done to ensure that what happened from 2007 to 2010 won't happen again, and i hope they will then judge us fairly."

He also asserted his long held belief that the government should not be run for the sake of getting good ratings. "We should govern on the basis of what is right, that is where we will anchor our decisions," he added in Pilipino. 

As for the other public officials implicated in the pork barrel mess, Aquino said the cases are now with the office of the Ombudsman. "It is an independent constitutional body tasked to bring the cases before the Sandiganbayan, and we will be filing more cases," Aquino added but did not identify the additional indictees. – Business Mirror

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