The Progressive Organization of Gays in the Philippines (ProGay) has criticized the announcement of President Benigno Aquino III to abolish the scandal-plagued Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), insisting that the President in fact took control over the congressional pork barrel and intends to hide earmarks inside the national budget itself to escape auditing. The gay advocacy group demanded an authentic total deletion of all pork barrels, including much larger discretionary sums controlled by the palace, and pressed its own calls for health-oriented budget reform.
“All that drama about abolition is just a big, big chika (talk)! PDAF has become the President’s huge personal piggy bank, and the public was right in calling it Benigno Aquino Development Assistance Fund or BADAF,” said Clyde Pumihic, spokesperson for ProGay.
Netizens had a field day making BADAF go viral hours after the President’s speech. Badaf is a queer Filipino autonym popularized in a 1980s disco song “Badaf Forever” (literally, forever gay).
“The Philippines has a rising HIV crisis where one person gets infected every two hours, yet the allocation for prevention and treatment is so paltry, just a mere P120 million of the national budget. We are so scandalized to learn that P10 billion have been squandered by corruption, and that one trillion pesos more is controlled by the President for purposes that is so hard to monitor and audit” said Pumihic.
The group said that Congress is deaf and blind to demands to fund the conservative estimated P2.2 billion annual shortfall, the amount needed to provide adequate antiretroviral drugs to the existing populations living with HIV, clean up the blood supply, hire aid workers, and provide key affected populations with preventive education.
“The reported pork barrel take of P10 billion siphoned off by political dynasties and scammers like Janet Napoles could have funded five years of anti-HIV efforts. We demand the government to scrap the PDAF, allot the necessary funds for comprehensive health care, and force these plunderers to return all the money they stole,” Pumihic said.
ProGay also pushed the government to halt its ongoing privatization programs to sell off 26 government hospitals and force many other public health facilities to remove free health care for indigents. The gay rights alliance said this move makes diagnostics for sexually transmitted infections acutely unaffordable among young and unemployed transgenders and gay men, which further fuels explosive rates of transmission among vulnerable groups.
The group stressed that it is “important to demand for us to keep pressing for abolishing the Palace pork, like the Malampaya fund, which by law was supposed to develop energy industry but ended up as Napoles’ chi-chi condos. The same thing might happen to the sin tax law on tobacco supposedly for health spending, that is why we need safeguards to make sure our taxes are spent on health.”
ProGay said its chapters are ready to support the different sectoral mobilizations calling for the scrapping of the pork barrel.
The Department of Health (DOH) reported that 431 new HIV cases in June brought the total number of cases in the first half of 2013 to 2,323. The DOH said this was the highest incidence rate for any month, with 88% of the new infections attributed to sex between males. The World Health Organization tagged the Philippines as one of nine countries where reported HIV infections are increasing by more than 25%.