Business groups hail PDAF abolition

Business groups have thrown their support to the decision of President Aquino to abolish the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as well as the subsequent establishment of a new mechanism calling it a bold move on the part of the President to ensure greater accountability and transparency in the use of public funds.

''The business community fully supports the abolition of the PDAF, as well as the subsequent establishment of the new mechanism proposed by PNoy that will address the needs of various localities and sectors,'' the various groups said in a statement.

In supporting the President's decision, the business groups cited the Constitution's declaration that public office is a public trust, and that funds entrusted to these elected representatives must be used with utmost prudence.

Although the PDAF serves as a complement to national development efforts by giving due attention to local needs, the system has been corrupted by unscrupulous individuals, both inside and outside of government. Thus, there is a great and urgent necessity to institute reforms to better protect public funds, the business community said.

''In this light, we commend the Aquino administration for taking a bold stance towards greater accountability and transparency,'' the statement said.

''It is our position that the measures to limit discretion and to open the entire process of allocating development assistance to public scrutiny will lead to a more judicious and transparent management of public funds,'' the statement added.

Businessmen further urged members of both chambers of Congress to adopt the new measures into the 2014 General Appropriations Act and beyond.

In addition, the business groups have also pledged their full support to the joint investigation being conducted by the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit.

They urged that those found to have been involved in this scandal, whether private individuals or public figures, regardless of political affiliation, be prosecuted and convicted to the law's fullest potential.

Since the PDAF controversy illustrates the power of information as a check on abuses in government, the business community also renewed their call for the swift passage of the Freedom of Information Bill.

''We believe that this piece of legislation, complemented by ongoing reforms in the management of public funds, will indeed institutionalize the highest standards of transparency and accountability that should bind current and succeeding administrations,'' the statement said.

PCCI president Miguel B. Varela told Business Bulletin expressed hopes that the abolition of the PDAF could bring a more meaningful change in the country's political scene.

With new guidelines and measures to ensure there will be no future abuse in the use of public money, Varela said this could mean lesser incentives for people with self-interest only in their minds to run for public office.

This could also discourage political dynasties that have characterized Philippine politics because the lure for more money for elective public officials would be substantially reduced as their powers over these public funds have been eroded.

On the part of the President, Varela said he could lose some allies in Congress as his influence maybe diminished, but he will gain more public support.

''The public support will be his armor and it is difficult to topple a leader who has the full support of the citizenry,'' he said.

''This will further strengthen the President and his 'Matuwid na Daan' policy,'' he said.

Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation who has been critical of the pork barrel, has maintained his position for the total scrapping of the PDAF as he doubts that the new mechanism would abolish corruption associated with the pork barrel.

''I am still for the total abolition of the PDAF or whatever you will call it under a new name and new system, no ifs, no buts,'' Ortiz-Luis told Business Bulletin.

He said that legislators have no business putting up infrastructure projects because that is not their job. ''They are not executives, they are elected to make laws,'' he stressed.

''The pork barrel is a source of corruption, thus it should be abolished completely,'' he said.

''You can call it by any name, but it is still pork. Why try to improve it when it is a source of corruption,'' he stressed.

He instead urged Malacanang to put these funds directly into projects that would address the needs of the localities but not through the politicians. He further called for the abolition of all kinds of pork barrel including the discretionary funds allowed under the Office of the President.