Pork barrel's constitutionality questioned

Manila, Philippines --- Buhay Partylist Rep. Lito Atienza yesterday called for a review of the constitutionality of the pork barrel system in Congress to clear the air as to the legality of the distribution of huge government funds to legislative offices.

Atienza had earlier dared his congressional colleagues not to touch their share of the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund now the subject of alleged multi-billion peso disbursement irregularities.

Although not a lawyer, Atienza said he has strong misgivings over the legality and constitutionality of the PDAF, popularly known as the pork barrel, because the same people approve and allocate the funds.

Interviewed over the weekend, Atienza vowed to pursue a legal battle against pork barrel even as he declared he won't use a single centavo of the P70-million PDAF share of his office.

Last week, the former Manila mayor stirred controversy when he dared the House leadership to withhold the distribution of PDAF until investigations into the reported P10-billion pork barrel controversy are concluded.

However, his challenge appeared to have fallen on deaf ears, with Malacanang itself publicly acknowledging that it supports PDAF for solons.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and other senior House members are also cold to the idea of initiating a congressional inquiry into the reported misuse of PDAF.

Atienza believes it is morally wrong for Congress members to allocate funds to themselves since the legislature is tasked to allocate and approve government budget.

He said the allegations of pork barrel misuse have made the situation all the more difficult.

The so-called P10 billion pork barrel scam had initially linked 28 congressmen, mostly from the opposition.

Meanwhile, Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga warned that the House's credibility will suffer if its members will investigate themselves or their colleagues in connection with the scandal.

Barzaga has filed a complaint before the committee on ethics against oppositionist Rep. Jonathan De la Cruz (Abakada Guro) for allegedly feeding the media with still unfounded Commission on Audit information that linked 70 more solons to various pork barrel irregularities involving questionable non-government organizations.

Rep. Rodito Albano (NP, Isabela) has also assailed Atienza's proposal as a mere attempt to ''grandstand,'' saying that those who will reject their PDAF should share the fund to pro-pork solons, instead.

Albano is a member of the House minority bloc led by San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora.

Zamora and the Makabayan members of the House minority are pushing a congressional inquiry into the P10 billion pork barrel scandal that linked 28 congressmen and senators to alleged irregularities in the distribution of the fund.

Describing the pork barrel issue as the ''elephant in the room,'' Zamora noted that the Senate has chosen to ignore the scandal and allow government agencies to freely conduct their investigation.

Atienza said the House should consider ''very drastic reforms'' to make PDAF expenditures and free from graft.

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