Aquino defends ‘pork’ fund, hits back at critics on primetime TVBy Edwin Espejo Oct 31, 2013 8:42AM UTC
President Benigno Aquino went on national television Wednesday night to slam critics who have criticized him for defending his discretionary disbursement of public funds for emergency purposes.
In a 12-minute simulcast carried by major television networks the Philippine president also accused the opposition of orchestrating a media campaign against his administration to distract attention from the bigger issue of corruption among members of Philippine Congress.
Accusing his critics of thievery, Aquino said those who criticized him for his Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) are now facing charges of plunder for the issue of their priority development assistance fund (PDAF).
Also widely known as ‘pork barrel’, PDAF are congressional insertions by Philippine legislators to fund their priority projects.
The fund however has become a source of kickbacks and ghost projects.
A whistleblower has identified at least three Philippine senators and at least five congressmen who allegedly channeled and fleeced money from the fund for their own pockets using the controversial Janet Lim-Napoles as conduit.
Napoles is now detained on a separate charge of serious illegal detention after she ordered former employee Benhur Luy, who exposed the multi-billion peso fund scam, confined to hotels and residences for more than three months.
The Department of Justice has also filed plunder case against Napoles and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla.
Forty other government officials, including staff of lawmakers named in the charge sheet, are included in the plunder complaint.
The amount reportedly involved in the scam ran up to P10 billion (US$23 million), or even more.
But Aquino himself is also accused of using government savings and discretionary funds to disperse favors to allies and to lash back at critics.
In a privilege speech after the PDAF scam exploded, beleaguered Senator Estrada claimed the Presidential Palace gave an additional P50 million each senator who voted to impeach Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona last year.
Leftist lawmaker Neri Colmenares said the president missed the point on both the DAP and PDAF issue.
Colmenares said the people are angry about corruption in government they do not need to be swayed by the opposition.
The president’s approval rating dropped by 12 percentage points, from 59 to 47, immediately after the pork barrel scandal emerged, according to a Pulse Asia survey.
A survey commissioned by the Presidential Palace also indicated a steep slide in the popularity of the president.
Apparently stung by his declining popularity, the president almost took over prime time news slots for his address. In the end, the presidential palace settled for a 12-minute speech which drew mixed reactions from ‘netizens’.
Popular blogger Tonyo Cruz said bluntly in his twitter account @tonycruz: “BS Aquino dishes out BS on prime time.”
Jason Gutierrez however believed the president was sending warnings to critics, @newshound16: “Use of primetime TV, and social media to build up momentum the whole day meant to send message to critics”
But Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate warned the president is bent on retaining the controversial funds, albeit under a different description.
“The 2014 is still laden with lump sum allocation under the Special Purpose Fund,” Zarate said.
He said DAP and PDAF are interlocking and inseparable issues of abuse and corruption in government.
Bayan Muna was among the first party list members of Congress who announced it will not avail of the fund after the Commission on Audit issued report on channeling of pork barrel funds of lawmakers to bogus non-government organizations.