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Ex-CJ Puno to finish drafting people's initiative against PDAF by November

Former Chief Justice Reynato Puno has taken a prominent part in the people's initiative to have lawmakers' Priority Development Assistance Fund, the PDAF, abolished.

According to a Monday report on GMA 7's “24 Oras”, Puno himself was drafting the petition which, as explained in Republic Act No. 6753 or The Initiative and Referendum Act, if signed by enough people, can lead to the scrapping of the infamous PDAF.

Puno expects to finish the draft by November, with the referendum set for January 2014.

According to RA 6753, three percent of registered voters from each legislative district, totaling 10 percent of voters - around 10 million signatures, will have to be gathered to pass the initiative.

The Commission on Elections will then verify the signatures in the petition and set the referendum date when Filipino voters can choose to either abolish the pork barrel or not.

“Sa tingin ko eh 'yan ang last chance natin for a peaceful change,” said Puno.

Various religious, business and progressive organizations are backing the initiative. “We are gathering all these groups that have expressed interest in supporting this People's Initiative. We want to be one group with one focus,” added the former CJ.

Politicians, however, are barred from joining the initiative, as it needs to be non-partisan for it to succeed. Puno threatened that he will abandon the effort if a politician manages to participate.

In a separate television report aired on "24 Oras” on Wednesday, Puno said: “The biggest casualty of all this is the Constitution. I like to think that this problem has to a large degree destroyed so many of the basic principles embedded in our 1987 Constitution, more specifically the separation of power especially between Congress and the Executive.
“Nakikita natin kung paano nagagamit ‘yan (PDAF). Pinamimigay sa mga favorite personalities, pinamimigay dun lang sa kakampi sa pulitika, at makikita rin natin kung paano ‘yang salalpi ng bayan ay ginagamit upang mapasa ang mga batas na pinapaboran lamang ang iilang select and vested interests,” he continued. 

Meanwhile, progressive organization Bayan's Secretary General Renato Reyes was positive that the campaign would succeed, as the Million People March and Makati's anti-pork barrel rally proved people's dislike for government pork.

“Yung issue napaka-popular. Halos lahat ay sumusuporta dito, kaya 'dun tayo mananalig, 'dun sa malaki [at] malakas na public support para magtagumpay 'yung campaign,” said Reyes.

The retired chief justice first floated the idea of a people's initiative last October 8.

The Palace had earlier stated that it had no problem with Puno's efforts, despite President Benigno Aquino III's defense of the PDAF. — Rie Takumi, DVM, GMA News