Friday, March 23, 2007

Beltran scores Malacanang's order to increase PDAF; says corruption will never be wiped out

Friday March 23, 2007

Beltran scores Malacanang's order to increase PDAF; says corruption will never be wiped out

Now on his second day of fasting against his continuing detention and the arrest of Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, Anakpawis Representative and political detainee Crispin Beltran expressed strong criticism against Malacanang's move to increase the pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF allocation of lawmakers.

According to reports, senators and congressmen almost doubled their PDAF from the originally approved P6.240 billion, to P11.45 billion or an increase of P5.2 billion. The increase will reportedly be taken from the retirement and terminal leave pay of some 7,000 retirees.

"What else can you call this but bribery? Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is dangling this huge slab of pork barrel to congressional and senatorial candidates, enticing candidates to side with her administration so they get their own cut from it if and when elected," Beltran said.

"Time and again has it been pointed out that a major source of corruption in the bureaucracy is this system of pork barrel allocations? Lawmakers are essentially coerced into supporting the legislative and even political agenda of the administration right or wrong because to do the opposite would be to lose out on the PDAF. Instead of working as genuine legislators whose focus is on deliberating the nitty-gritty of legislative proposals and measures, lawmakers are often reduced to being financiers and implementors of infrastructure projects in their respective districts. They are forced to kowtow to the will of Malacanang who dictates who will get how much and when. Displease Malacanang and the House leadership and your PDAF is withheld," he said.

The activist lawmaker and political detainee said this recent development of increasing the PDAF only strengthens the allegation of the international community that the Philippines is one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

"Corruption is an intrinsic part of the pork barrel system. The call for the scrapping of the pork barrel and the rechannelling of the funds towards increasing budgetary allocations for public health, housing and education continues to fall on deaf ears. Malacanang uses pork barrel as leverage, a means to win and secure the support of lawmakers and other local government officials," he said.

Beltran also said that government employees should not rejoice yet over the reported 10 percent salary increase that they will be receiving starting July. He said that so long as government employees do not see the increase translate in their actual paychecks, they should not give credence to Malacanang's word.

"Pres. Arroyo is making it appear that the salary increase is her personal gift to government employees when in fact, government employees led by the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) have been pressing for a P3,000 across-the-board salary hike since 1999."

"This miniscule and as yet unrealized salary hike should not sway employees in the private sector to vote for Macapagal-Arroyo's Team Unity and candidates for other government positions. This is also bribery. Comelec Commissioner Benjamin Abalos should look into this latest announcement because it constitutes bribing the electorate. Clearly, this issue is election related, and Malacanang is using it to win points with government employees," he said.

Beltran began his 'freedom fast' yesterday, March 23 in solidarity with other political detainees all ove rthe country holding a hunger strike in protest of his and Bayan Muna's Ocampo. Beltran said that fasting was his way of showing his disgust and anger over the government's continuing attacks against the progressive party-lists Anakpawis, Bayan Muna and Gabriela Women's Party and their legislators. Weighing 147 lbs, Beltran is now subsisting mainly on soda crackers and water. #


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