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Chiz snipes at Iloilo solon over pork barrel releases

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero on Tuesday took to task Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. for defying a Supreme Court decision prohibiting “post-enactment intervention” in the budget when he took part in the distribution of the Emergency Shelter Assistance    to victims of Typhoon “Yolanda’’ in his district.

Escudero reminded Tupas about the SC decision declaring lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund or the so-called pork barrel illegal. The magistrates defined “pork barrel as post-enactment intervention of a legislator.”

A major program of the national government administered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, ESA provides cash assistance of P30,000 and P10,000 to Yolanda survivors whose houses were partially or totally damaged, respectively. The money is used for the purchase of construction materials to repair and reconstruct their homes.  

Escudero, former chairman of the Senate committee on finance, said ESA funds came from the P13-billion National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund under the 2015 General Appropriations Act.

As of   June 30, about P130.9 billion had been released by the Department of Budget and Management to the DSWD for the implementation of ESA. The amount represented the assistance given to 3,874 families and 18,433 families with totally and partially damaged houses, respectively.

“Obviously, ESA was funded by the national budget which was approved by Congress before it was signed into law by the President,” Escudero said. The veteran lawmaker said the implementation of the national budget “is not the concern of legislators, but of government line agencies like in the case of ESA, the DSWD.”

Tupas, a member of the ruling Liberal Party and chairman of House Committee on Justice, was earlier spotted during the distribution of ESA grants in towns under the fifth district of Iloilo, which he represents in Congress.

This did not sit well with DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman, who complained to the administration party about Tupas’ alleged interference in ESA distribution.

Tupas later criticized Soliman and claimed that it was his responsibility as a lawmaker to monitor the disbursement of funds appropriated by the legislature.

Escudero had earlier challenged the DSWD to look into alleged irregularities in the distribution of ESA grants.

He cited complaints from beneficiaries themselves that they only received P10,000 even if their homes were totally damaged, and that some of the funds went to “fake” or “ghost” beneficiaries, based on the list prepared by local government units (LGUs).

Some ESA beneficiaries also complained how loan sharks, in cahoots with unscrupulous employees of the DSWD and LGUs, took advantage of them.

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