With the planned abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), several lawmakers are asking how would the executive department handle the hundreds of poor people who seek financial assistance from congressmen.
Among these lawmakers was Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, who on Monday said that although he supports the abolition, he is wondering what will happen now to their indigent constituents.
“Ang problema ko lang 'yung mahihirap na umaasa sa aming PDAF. Kaya ba ng mga agencies like DSWD na tugunan ang pangangailangan ng aming mga tao?” Bagatsing said, referring to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
“Palagay ko 'yun ang kailangang sagutin natin, sagutin lang 'yung fears ng mahihirap na umaasa sa gamot, scholarship, hospitalization, education,” he added.
Bagatsing was among the lawmakers allied with President Benigno Aquino III who attended a Liberal Party breakfast meeting in Quezon City on Monday.
During the meeting, held at the party's office in Cubao, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte sought the support of LP members on Aquino's decision to abolish PDAF, the yearly pork barrel received by lawmakers amounting to millions, in light of its alleged misuse by several members of Congress.
“Ni-reiterate ni Speaker 'yung position ng Kamara na suportahan ang position ng ating Pangulo sa pag-scrap ng PDAF, at ito naman ay sinusuportahan ng bawat miyembro ng Liberal Party,” Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, LP secretary general, told GMA News in an interview after the meeting.
Ninety-seven of 119 LP members from the House of Representatives attended the meeting.
Asked if there were LP members who expressed concern over the scrapping of the PDAF during the meeting, Sarmiento said there was none.
But like Bagatsing, Leyte Rep. Sergio Apostol believes the scrapping of the PDAF will directly hit those who ask financial assistance from lawmakers.
“Makakaapekto nang malaki,” Apostol said. “Number 1, I should make it clear na representante kami, we are elected as representative. We are not just lawmakers or congressmen. So we have to address the needs of our constituents and bring it to Manila for resolution.”
“PDAF is a ready-made resolution. E wala na yan kaya maghahanap kami, magtatrabaho ka, pupunta ka sa ibang departments, sa Malacañang para matugunan yung problema ng constituents mo,” he added.
Bagatsing said an average of 100 people go to his office every day to seek financial assistance. He said if the 35 congressmen in Metro Manila receive the same volume of people daily, without the PDAF, some 3,500 people will now go to the DSWD to seek help.
"We voted for you!"
He said he cannot blame the people for asking their congressmen for help.
“Hindi naman pwede na puro referral na lang. Babalikan ka pa ng tao na (sasabihin), 'Ibinoto naman namin kayo.' Sabihin mo mambabatas kami, pero hindi nila madi-distuingish 'yun. Ang alam nila binoto kita,” said Bagatsing.
He expressed hope that the people would realize soon that they can no longer get financial assistance from the congressmen and they should go either to the mayors or the agencies.
Bagatsing said he already relayed his concern to Belmonte and that the House leader said they will study it.
Apostol said for the meantime, he would bring the requests of his contituents to the agencies concerned.
On the fear that only the allies of the administration will be given funds with the abolition of PDAF, Apostol said that is not far from happening.
“In effect wala nang PDAF, we have to work for the release of these funds. Kung kontra-partido ka malaki ang problema mo,” he said.
— KBK, GMA News