President Benigno Aquino III has joined the Filipinos’ call to abolish the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), also known as “pork barrel” funds, following several reports of its massive misuse at the hands of corrupt legislators.

This came just a few days after he was criticized for his initial refusal to junk the pork barrel even after the Commission of Audit reported that only about 10 to 20 percent of the P12.018 billion worth of taxes allocated to the fund were spent on actual projects.

“Despite the reforms we have implemented, we have seen, as the events of the past weeks have shown, that greater change is necessary to fight against those who are determined to abuse the system. It is time to abolish the PDAF,” Inquirer.net quoted Aquino as saying.

As a replacement, a new mechanism will be created that will allow senators and congressmen to meet the needs of various sectors in a transparent manner.

“Your legislators can identify and suggest projects for your districts, but these will have to go through the budgetary process. If approved, these projects will be earmarked as line items, under the programs of your National Government,” Aquino said. “In this way, they will be enacted into law as part of our National Budget—every line, every peso, and every project open to scrutiny, as with all other programs of your government.”

To further prevent possible corruption, Aquino has also prohibited the funding of “soft projects” like fertilizers, seeds, medicines, and other items, as well as temporary infrastructure projects like regraveling and asphalt overlays. The funds likewise cannot be distributed to non-government organizations and government-owned corporations, a number of which have become notorious for “being instruments of corruption.”

Manila Bulletin reports that Aquino has also authorized the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC), composed of the Office of the Ombudsman, Department of Justice, and the Commission on Audit to investigate cases related to pork barrel misuse.

(Photo from the image collection of the International Rice Research Institute via Flickr Creative Commons)

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