This is in response to the article “Sorsogon solon’s pork also used for burial” by Juan Escandor Jr. and Shiena Barrameda. (Across the Nation, 8/31/13). A substantially similar article (“Solon’s PDAF provides burial assistance”) by the same authors was also published by Bicol Mail on Aug. 29, 2013.
First, the articles erroneously reported that I included burials in my “pork barrel menu.” To set the record straight, I have nothing to do with the menu because it was the Department of Budget and Management that made it. In fact, the DBM’s National Budget Circular No. 547 (issued Jan. 18, 2013) is meant to guide congressmen, if not limit their discretion, in their PDAF allocations.
The writers utterly ignored the circular that governs the distribution. And they reported about the “pork barrel menu” without reading the menu itself when it is available online (DBM website).
Pursuant to DBM guidelines, I consistently allocated to local government units funds for assistance to indigent individuals/families, and to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (CIDDS) Program. Both programs allow disbursements for burial assistance subject to DSWD Administrative Order No. 5, Series of 2008.
Second, the reports made reference to a “P30,000 in burial assistance” as “part of allotments made by mayors.” This is quite inaccurate. The guidelines limit the burial assistance to P3,000 if cash, and P5,000 if check. As borne out by records available from my legislative office and from recipient-LGUs, there was no disbursement of P30,000 for burial assistance.
Third, the report conveniently failed to say that I also provided funds for medical assistance in the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) in Legazpi City and Sorsogon provincial hospital. Instead it went on to state that I funneled funds to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and the East Avenue Medical Center, hospitals that are “hundreds of kilometers away from Ramos’ district, for poor patients.” It’s as if something is wrong with what I did.
Not all medical conditions can be adequately treated in BRTTH and the provincial hospital for lack of qualified specialists or for the absence of facilities, or both. It is also undeniable that not all of my constituents are based in Sorsogon. Many of them work elsewhere but still find time to return to their hometown.
More to the point: Who are we to decide which hospital a patient must go to? At least, my constituents are using the money allotted in PGH, Philippine Heart Center, Philippine Lung Center, Philippine Orthopedic Center, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, among others.
Aside from burial assistance, the DSWD and LGUs can provide indigents with food, educational, transportation, medical and dental assistance. This is one reason why I made funds available for my poor constituents. Why single out burial assistance?
In the name of transparency and accountability, I caused the publication of my 15th Congress PDAF distribution in a local newspaper in Sorsogon. Had the writers taken the trouble to read the copies I made available to them, they would have written a balanced and fair article.
—REP. DEOGRACIAS B. RAMOS JR.,
Second District, Sorsogon
The letter is published at Philippine Daily Inquirer on the 9th of October, 2013.