Listen to people, PNoy urged

Manila, Philippines --- The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) yesterday called on President Benigno S. Aquino III to listen to the people by taking the lead in abolishing the pork barrel system or any semblance of it in the national budget.

''We appeal to our President to take the lead in abolishing the lump sum appropriation of more than P25-billion PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) or any semblance of pork barrel in our national budget,'' the PCEC said in an open letter to the President.

The largest network of evangelical denominations, composed of 30,000 local churches with 2.5 million members nationwide, cited the P200-million allocation for each senator, the P70-million allocation for each congress representative, and the nearly P450-billion special purpose funds (SPF) of the President as among those that should be abolished by the Chief Executive.

''These pork barrel funds are better allocated under the ''regular'' budget for various government agencies. In this way, Congress would be able to scrutinize how the agencies are spending the taxpayers' money. This would enhance the check-and-balance relationship between the Legislative and the Executive,'' PCEC said.

Dismantle Patronage Politics

The group also urged the President to dismantle patronage politics by exploring all legal and legislative processes toward this political transformation.

''We appeal to our President to lead in the abolition of an unjust system of patronage politics. We strongly say, ''Enough with a few families controlling not just the politics but the very soul of towns, cities, provinces and to some degree our country!'' said PCEC.

''Lead us to stop the use of pork barrel funds to finance and sustain this patronage political system and the political dynasties that perpetuates corruption,'' they added.

As the nation prepares for the 2016 polls, PCEC also appealed to Aquino to lead the nation in being vigilant against electoral sabotage and vote-buying that perpetuates patronage politics.
Lastly, the group called on the President to lead in passing the Freedom of Information Bill by certifying its immediate enactment.

''As you have stated, dear Mr. President, 'We will strengthen the process of consultation and feedback. We will strive to uphold the constitutional right of citizens to information on matters of public concern.' We are convinced that this bill is crucial in our fight against corruption because - this would help end the culture of government secrecy and corruption and will start a culture of transparency and righteousness,'' PCEC said.

Pork Out, BEEF In

Meanwhile, if plans to abolish the P26-billion Priority Development Fund (PDAF) in the proposed 2014 P2.26-trillion General Appropriations Act succeed, a big portion of that should go to the cash-starved education sector, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto said yesterday.

This would put more teachers, classrooms, science laboratories, and even meals for malnourished children in public schools, Recto said.

Recto, on a jest, coined a name for the rechanneled pork: BEEF or Basic Education Enhancement Fund. (With a report from Mario B. Casayuran)