PDAF sustains peace-building activities in Central Mindanao PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 September 2013 13:29

Public officials in flashpoint areas in Central Mindanao are for the continuation of the pork barrel funds,  but in new format and in a manner open to media scrutiny with entailing projects implemented the “bayanihan” way” by local folks to ensure transparency of details for all activities funded out of it.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza, whose province covers 17 towns and Kidapawan City, said it is the barangay folks that stand to benefit from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) if properly and honestly spent.

“Most of the projects of lawmakers in their districts were designed as answers to requests of the people that needed them,” said Mendoza, who had served as congressional district representative of North Cotabato for three consecutive terms prior to her election as provincial governor in 2010.

Mendoza said most lawmakers, after all, allocate their PDAF based on community needs, or “community-driven” infrastructure demands.

“The PDAF is intended for local infrastructure needs, but people want it abolished and Congress has to listen,” Mendoza said. “Congress has to listen.”

While local officials in Moro areas have varied positions on the “pork barrel system,” many of them want it continued in an honest, stringent and transparent manner to let the national government’s poverty alleviation efforts cascade from Malacañang down to war-devastated communities in Mindanao.

Lawmakers in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have on-going “peace-building projects” using the PDAF.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu told Daily Zamboanga Times via text message on Thursday that projects of the two congressional representatives in his province using PDAF from 2010 to 2013 had effectively complemented his administration’s effort to foster peace and sustainable development in the area.

“The pork barrel system can be improved, made open to public scrutiny and transparent to the Fourth Estate to ensure it will go down to the communities that deserve to have various projects established using the PDAF of lawmakers,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu said he wants the PDAF reformatted and continued to be spent for scholarships of poor Moro, Christian and indigenous Lumad communities in his province.

Mangudadatu’s administration has more than 4,000 scholars now from across Maguindanao’s 36 towns under the “MagPEACE,” or Maguindanao Program for Education and Community Empowerment initiative.

The ARMM regional governor, Mujiv Hataman, who was a representative of the Anak Mindanao Partylist for three consecutive terms before he became officer-in-charge of the autonomous region from December 2011 until June 30, 2013, is also against the total abolition of the PDAF. Hataman was elected ARMM governor on May 13, 2013.

“The system can be professionalized and streamlined. Letting the local communities and their municipal planning and development officers design the projects needed in their villages and letting them oversee the implementation of these projects will ensure an `honest-to-goodness’ spending of these congressional grants,” Hataman said.

Hataman said the “bayanihan-style” implementation in the autonomous region of multi-million socio-economic projects of the World Bank and the Japan International Cooperation Agency, through the ARMM Social Fund Project, can be a good pattern for a reformatted PDAF.

“We have dozens upon dozens of documented success stories, witnessed, felt right on the ground by people from World Bank and JICA, that tell of how these multi-million projects that include improvements of seaports, construction of farm-to-market roads and post-harvest facilities, among many others, have religiously been implemented as communal initiatives,” Hataman said.

The World Bank had rated “satisfactory” for eight times in recent years, the implementation of ASFP projects it funded. The ASFP, which is JICA and World Bank’s official conduit for their projects in the autonomous region, operates under the ministerial control of the office of the ARMM governor.

“We have a peace process that aims to empower the Moro communities by providing them with schools, hospitals, roads, bridges, for life to improve, after having been badly affected by so many years of armed conflicts. Removing the PDAF will not do our people any good,” Hataman said.