LINGAYEN –Second District Rep. Leopoldo N. Bataoil said on Thursday he was unfazed by the abolition of the pork barrel fund which the Supreme Court ruled as “unconstitutional.”
Bataoil said the ruling of the High Tribunal “put things in their proper perspective” as to the role of the legislative and executive branches of the government.
Members of Congress were allotted Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or commonly known as pork barrel fund ranging from P70 million (for congressmen) to P200 million (for senators) a year to bankroll various programs and projects for their constituents.
Voting 14-0 with one abstention, the Supreme Court (SC) ruled that the practice of allotting pork barrel fund to the members of Congress was unconstitutional as it violates the basic principle on the separation of powers.
However, Bataoil said the House of Representatives already deleted PDAF in the proposed P2.2 trillion national budget for 2014 even before the SC ruling.
“All entries pertaining to PDAF in the proposed 2014 budget have been deleted and are now downloaded directly to the implementing agencies like the DPWH, DSWD, DOH, DepED, Ched, Dole, and TESDA,” he said.
He said that the role of the lawmakers now aside from making laws, is to closely monitor that the programs and projects for their respective constituencies are properly implemented by the implementing agencies.
However, he added, the lawmakers could still recommend to the President for funding through the implementing agencies priority programs and projects they have identified in consultation with their constituents who should benefit from the taxes they pay to the government.
“We have to extensively exercise our oversight function to ensure that our constituents who are the rightful end users and beneficiaries as taxpayers get their fair share of the programs and projects from the government,” he said.
Bataoil is unperturbed by the possibility of diminished political influence with the scrapping of the pork barrel fund.
“I don’t mind working even without the pork barrel because I agree that the primary role of the members of Congress is to make laws to spur economic development in our country,” he said.
However, he said, he will exercise his best efforts to make sure that the programs and projects allotted to the second district are properly implemented by the various implementing agencies of the national government.
He said this is the common stand of his fellow congressmen in Pangasinan: Rep. Jesus “Boying” Celeste of the first district; Rep. Rosemarie “Baby” Arenas of the third district; Rep. Gina de Venecia of the fourth district; Rep. KimiCojuangco of the fifth district; and Rep. MarlynPrimicias-Agabas of the sixth district.
“We will ensure that the taxes being paid by our people will benefit our respective districts,” he said.
Batoil said the slots for 115 regular college scholars that he inherited from then Rep. Victor Agbayani will be maintained through the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
“I strongly believe that worthy programs like scholarship grants should not be politicized,” he said.
These are regular scholarship slots being funded through the budget of CHED that must be maintained, he said, stressing that the scholars are “our own people.”
For the 120 college scholarship grants that were funded through his PDAF, Bataoil said he has made representation with House Speaker Sonny Belmonte for their inclusion in the budget of the CHED, Department of Education, or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA.
Bataoil said that DepED has now the biggest budget allocation in the proposed annual appropriation law since education has become the top priority thrust of the administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Bataoil said he is also enlisting the support of private groups and foreign organizations to help his constituents affected by recent calamities.Recently, he said, the Taiwan Association Inc. Philippines (TAP) led by its president Wayne Chi, in cooperation with his district office distributed hundreds of bags of rice typhoon and flood-affected families in the second district.
In the distribution held at Purok Marcela Resort in Lingayen, TAP provided a total of 800 bags of rice from Taiwan.
At least 100 bags each went to the eight municipalities of Lingayen, Binmaley, Bugallon, Aguilar, Labrador, Mangatarem, Basista, and Urbiztondo.
According to Rep. Bataoil, the second district of the province has been affected by typhoons "Habagat" and "Maring".
"We always like to be close to you guys, hopefully this relationship can last forever," said TAP Vice President Cheng Cheng Lee while remembering that Philippines also helped their country some years back.
"We are very happy today. We felt the love of our neighboring country," Bataoil replied.
He added that TAP had previously donated wheelchairs and relief packs; and even conducted a computer-based livelihood training program for students in the province.