Press Release
October 18, 2013

Transform PDAF into 'Priority Disaster Assistance Fund'

It is perhaps time to thaw the frozen pork and use it to help victims of the Visayas earthquake, Typhoon Santi and the siege of Zamboanga.

Withheld PDAF can be converted into a Priority Disaster Assistance Fund.

To effect the release, the Senate can issue a resolution authorizing the executive branch to utilize the unreleased portion of the senators' share from the Priority Development Assistance Fund for 2013 for the rehabilitation of areas hit by the three calamities.

I will leave it up to the lawyers in the chamber to perfect the legal language which would free the PDAF from judicial impoundment and at the same time allow executive agencies and local governments to use it to provide comfort and succor to those affected by the said calamities.

My point is that from the senators' funds from PDAF alone, there is a substantial amount that can be tapped for disaster relief.

Ibig sabihin, meron perang nakatiwangwang para 'itabang' sa mga biktima ng kalamidad. Pork barrel can be pounded into new classrooms and roads.

The greater tragedy is to hold it in continuous embargo when it can be used to help farmers replant their fields, arson victims to rebuild their homes, and the intrepid Bol-anons and Cebuanos rebuild their towns.

If the old PDAF will be resurrected as Priority Disaster Assistance Fund, senators must have no say on how, where and when it shall be spent, except to remind agencies to disburse it according to procurement and auditing rules.

Above all, it must be spent fast, as the need for assistance is urgent, but in a manner that is transparent. In short, the process can be sped up without circumventing the rules.

Personally, I believe that local governments are in the best position to spend relief funds and orchestrate rehabilitation work as they are familiar with the damage and the local resources that can be mobilized to repair them.

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