Binay willing to give up social services fund

MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Jejomar Binay is ready to give up his social services fund if Congress considers it as pork barrel.

Office of the Vice President Undersecretary Benjamin Martinez Jr., Binay’s chief of staff, assured congressmen during the budget hearing at the House of Representatives that the OVP is willing to bow to the decision of Congress to abolish the pork barrel or the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Martinez corrected earlier reports quoting him as saying that the OVP is not giving up its pork barrel.
“I conveyed to the honorable members of Congress that the VP is willing to give up his social services fund if they feel it is PDAF,” Martinez said.

Martinez added that since 2011, the OVP has clearly identified the beneficiaries for the social fund that goes to the construction of senior citizen centers, scholarships and other forms of assistance.
“Our disbursements have been fully audited by COA (Commission on Audit). We have been commended by COA for the projects and how we manage our funds,” he said.

Binay earlier asked the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to declare if the P200-million social services fund of the OVP is classified as PDAF.

Binay said the P200 million is included in the regular budget of the OVP.
“The DBM should say if the amount is considered PDAF. If it is PDAF, then abolish it in keeping with the President’s directive,” he said.

Congress gave the OVP P200 million in the 2011 budget sourced from the unused PDAF of President Aquino during his term as senator. Binay also urged Filipinos to be more vigilant in making government officials accountable for the use of government funds.

He said the people should unite and make sure the funds are used in a transparent and impartial manner.
“One of the problems here is that it is being used in politics. There are budget of government agencies being used in the election. But it is against the law,” Binay said.

Binay said the root cause of the issue was graft and corruption, not the issue of the PDAF itself. “The upheaval against PDAF is that it did not go to projects beneficial to the people,” Binay said. Binay proposed the conduct of a full accounting of the disbursements of the PDAF during the previous and the Aquino administrations. He said a full accounting of the PDAF will assure “our people that the sins we assigned to the previous regime are no longer with us.”
Binay said the disbursements by the executive departments must be based on the real needs of the people in the localities.

“It should not be based on political considerations,” he said.
“Otherwise, we will be reverting to the discredited practice of the past administration where the executive had total control in deciding who gets funding from the national government. I am certain that this is not what the President wants to happen,” Binay said.

By Jose Rodel Clapano, The Philippine Star