There will be no release of pork barrel to lawmakers until the probe on the multi-million pork barrel scam is over.
This is what President Benigno Aquino III said in an interview with GMA's Maki Pulido on Monday, August 19, as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) continues to investigate a scheme that allegedly involved senators and congressional representatives misusing or pocketing their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
"We will finish the investigation first and check if there are loopholes that can still be closed," he said.
He also said the administration has "performance-based indicators" and "budget releases [are] based on their performance" that apply to all department agencies.
"There's a time limit. If you don't use it, it goes to savings. Savings will utilize it," he said.
Aquino also expressed hope those who use their PDAF for good won't be affected because of those who misuse their pork barrel.
On Friday, August 16, the Commission on Audit (COA) released details on how lawmakers have disregarded rules to allocate excessive funds to their projects. It also shows questionable implementation of various projects by non-government organizations (NGOs) chosen by the lawmakers themselves.
The President has repeatedly said he does not think abolishing pork barrel is the solution to PDAF-related corruption. He said he is open to reforming the process, and has expressed support for more severe punishments for those who misuse theirs.
Aquino also defended "one congressman," who was supposedly allotted P3-billion in pork barrel, according to the COA report.
He did not name the lawmaker but former Compostela Valley congressman and now Vice Governor Manuel "Way Kurat" Zamora was tagged in an alleged anomalous allocation involving the same amount. Zamora has denied the accusation.
Aquino echoed what House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said, pointing out that Zamora's name was not mentioned in the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) in question. Aquino said the P3-billion project was addressed to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and "the wrong name was put in" during "encoding."
He also used the flaw to cite another error he said existed in the COA report: the P40-million allegedly allocated to him while he was a congressman. This is something he does not recall to be accurate, he said.
Aquino gave assurances the administration is acting fast in bringing the guilty lawmakers to justice.
He said at least two cases could be filed soon against "[lawmakers] who have shown a pattern" of being involved in irregularities. But he declined to say whether they are senators or congressmen.
About 180 congressmen and 12 senators were tagged by the COA report as being linked with dubious transactions.
According to Aquino, the administration is also working on dissolving certain organizations at the moment. They were involved in irregularities such as the state-run ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp (ZREC) in Zamboanga, which has been probed for its alleged disbursement of PDAF to a fake NGO. "In 2003 it was recommended for dissolution," said Aquino. "In December 2009, when we were tackling the 2010 budget, I brought it up [and asked] why is their pork still downloaded?"