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‘President has P1-trillion pork barrel’

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MANILA -- Former National Treasurer Leonor Briones and Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares want the executive department to explain the lump sum items in the national budget which they believe are the President’s version of lawmakers’ pork barrel funds.

 

Briones, who who has been studying national budgets through the years, estimates the lump sums under the President’s discretion to amount to around P1 trillion.

She said the amount is staggering, compared to the P2.6-trillion peso budget proposed for 2014.

Among these are some P229 billion in special purpose funds that can only be released upon the President’s approval.

“‘Di ma-release kung walang approval. Presidente lang [maglalabas] niyan,” Briones said.

Another lump sum is the unprogrammed fund worth P139 billion.

“Hiwalay pa iyun. Lump sum appropriations aabot rin P1 trillion kaya when you talk of P2-trillion budget, when you total agencies, that’s over a trillion. The rest is directly managed by the executive,” she added.

Unprogrammed funds are only disbursed if certain government agencies hit their revenue targets.

 

Special purpose funds are:

- Budgetary support to state-owned corporations – P45.7 billion

- Allocations to local government units – P19.7 billion

- Calamity fund P7.5 billion

- Contigent fund – P1 billion

- DepEd school building program – P1 billion

- E-government fund – P2.479 billion

- International commitments fund – P4.8 billion

- Miscellaneous personnel benefits fund – P80.7 billion

- Pension and gratuity fund – 120.5 billion

- PDAF – P25.420 billion

- Feasibility studies fund – P400 million

Total: P229.526 billion

 

Unprogrammed funds are:

- Budgetary support to government-owned and controlled corporations – P36.268 million

- Support to foreign-assisted projects – P16.124 billion

- General fund adjustments – P1 billion

- Support for infra projects and social programs – P56.349 billion

- AFP modernization program – P10.349 billion

- Debt management program – P10.894 billion

- Risk management program – P30 billion

- People’s survival fund – P500 million

Total: P139.904 billion

 

Under the President’s control

Another item is the budget for school buildings worth P200 billion.

“Wala ring detail saan ba buildings gagawin. Anong tipo, pang high school, elementary? ‘Di gaya kung titingin ka sa DPWH budget, ultimong lokasyon ng kanal nakalagay dahil required,” Briones said.

Another lump sum fund under the control of the President are intelligence funds and the President’s social fund.

PAGCOR and PCSO contribute to the social fund. During Thursday’s budget briefing, PAGCOR said about P2 billion will be contributed to the President’s social fund this year.

“Mayroon ding iba. May ibang budget ang Office of the President. Nandun social development fund. Wala iyun sa special purpose fund, directly nasa office proper. Makikita mo yan OP, intel fund, travels,” Briones added.

Briones also listed debt servicing (P352 billion) and internal revenue allotment (P341.5 billion) allegedly under the President’s control.

Colmenares, meanwhile said intelligence funds under the President are part of the executive’s pork barrel funds. “Intel funds, definitely pork barrel iyun. Dedesisyunan lang ng public official saan dadalhin pondo, on the guise of intelligence work.”

“The moment personal discretion ng tao later on saan pupunta o hindi pupunta, balewala na deliberative process,” he said.

 

An official’s discretion

Briones said any lump sum fund — meaning there are no details on how and where it will be spent — as under the discretion of one official like a senator, congressman or president, is “pork barrel.”

It is a definition supported by Colmenares.

“Ang definition ng pork is may discretion ang isang public official,” he said.

“Mas maganda kung collegial pero mas lumala pag isang public official, discretion kung saan papunta pera niya o sino beneficiary whether LGU or NGO at magkano ibibigay diyan. Iyan ang umpisa ng problema sa P10 billion scam dahil public officials have the power to allocate funds to choose and beneficaries whether LGU or NGO,” he added.

Both said that all government funds, incluing the pork barrel funds of all officials, must be audited by the Commission on Audit.

Briones said the pork barrel system is something the Philippines inherited from the United States.

“Napulot natin iyan sa Amerika panahon ni (US President) Andrew Jackson. Bunga yan ng spoils system. Sa aktuwal na practice, ang pork barrel ay kung mag-allocate ka ng amount walang detalye, gawing bahagi ng appropriations law at may discretion ang binibigyan niyan, paano gagastusin. Ang formal definiton paggamit ng national funds para sa benefit ng ilang individual o isang local district pero national funds ito,”she said.

“Ang pagkakaalam ko, as early as late 1990s, 1998, ang COA nagcreate ng office, special office, ang gawain mag-audit ng pork barrel. Dapat sa batas natin, basta public funds, dapat ma-audit iyan,” Briones said.

“Dapat lahat ng public funds whether pork barrel or hindi pork barrel should pass through COA,” Colmenares said.

 

Power to realign funds

Briones said the power of the President to realign funds in the budget makes the whole national budget his “pork”.

By her reckoning, only half of the national budget is detailed.

Budget Secretary Butch Abad dismissed the observations of Briones and Colmenares.

“Do you seriously believe that this President will put aside a trillion peso as his pork barrel?” he asked.

Abad maintained before lawmakers this week that the Aquino administration has been prudent in spending. (ABS-CBN News)

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