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Bishops to Aquino: Abolish Pork Barrel

MANILA, June 3, 2010- Catholic bishops on Thursday called on the incoming president to abolish one of the "biggest source" of funds for corruption: pork barrel.

The bishops, in a radio interview, said presumptive president-elect Benigno Aquino III should abolish the pork barrel and never allow any form of replacement or compromise.

By doing so, Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes said one big source of corruptible public funds will be taken away.

He said even if it removes only half of corruption, he said, it would already be a huge achievement for Aquino who vowed to abolish corruption, which was his campaign battle cry.

"Pork barrel is really a source of corruption (in Congress). They (lawmakers) duties is to make laws and rural development," Bastes said over church-run Radyo Veritas.

He said government money should be handled by the various and concerned agencies of the government and not to the lawmakers.

Bastes said the "bad congressional tradition" should be "forbidden forever."

Pork barrel, formally known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), is money taken from the national budget that funds projects of senators or a congressmen.

A congressman is entitled to P70 million in PDAF every year and a member of the Senate, P200 million.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo the church has long been appealing for the abolition of pork barrel system because it had corrupted legislators.

He said it also paved the way for the legislative branch to lose its independence from the executive branch.

Traditionally, many lawmakers from different political parties join the administration coalition after elections to ensure that they got their pork barrel.

"The congressmen should focus on making laws because that's what they are supposed to do," said Pabillo.

He said the power that local governments deserve must be given to them because they are supposed to implement pet projects like roads and school buildings and not the lawmakers.

"That is the important duties of the governors and the mayors and not of the senators and congressmen," said Pabillo. (Roy Lagarde/CBCPNews)