[box type=”default” size=”large”]He is one of several senators linked to PDAF scam[/box]MANILA – Senator Vicente Sotto III announced that he will forego P600 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel allotted for the remaining three years of his six-year term.
And for his remaining P100 million in pork barrel fund this year, he said he is allocating P50 million to education and another P50 million to regional hospitals.
“My decision is intended to forestall any further controversy that may arise from the use of the PDAF, particularly that it is a vehicle for corruption and that is used for ‘ghost’ projects,’’ Sotto said.
Sotto’s decision was disclosed during a Senate plenary session in which he formally informed Senate President Franklin M. Drilon about it. He said the “present discomfort on this matter can be assuaged only if we lay the responsibility of searching for the truth through the proper forum and not in the court of public opinion.’’
In the national budget, each senator has a pork barrel of P200 million annually. Each member of the House of Representative has an allocation of P70 million yearly.
Sotto is one of several senators whose name was linked by the Commission on Audit (CoA) to the questionable disbursement of pork barrel funds to projects which were funneled by government implementing agencies to non-government organizations (NGOs), some of them of questionable legal standing.
Sotto, who was the Senate majority leader in the past 15th Congress, maintained innocence of allegations of wrong doing, saying that his PDAF disbursements were legitimate.
In a privilege speech, Sotto said his remaining PDAF is still P100 million. He told Drilon that P50 million of the remaining P100 million of his pork barrel should now go to the University of the Philippines (UP) and other state colleges and universities. He said that the funds should specifically be used “for tuition augmentation so that no student may think of suicide for lack of funds to take an exam.’’
The other P50 million, he said, should go to all specialty and some regional hospitals. He gave Drilon a list of the hospitals.
“If there are pieces of evidence and testimonies, let us hear them first. But let not this present crisis stir again talks of instability, of opportunistic forces out to hijack the present discontent with the imprint of their agendas, leading to besmirched reputations,’’ he said.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III resumed its public hearing on the pork barrel issue this week.
An audit report of the Commission on Audit named several senators who have questionable pork barrel disbursements. The audit was for the 2007-2009, and it showed questionable disbursements that allegedly went to 82 NGOs. Eight of the NGOs turned out to be bogus. They were linked to Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the scam, who is now being detained. (Mario Casayuran, Manila Bulletin)