SEN. Miriam Santiago is convinced that the P2.6-trillion national budget for 2015 recently passed on final reading by the Senate and House of Representatives is an election budget aimed at helping boost the chances of the allies of President Benigno Aquino 3rd in 2016.
Santiago said the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) is meant to give more money to Aquino’s confederates and government agencies that are considered crucial in courting voters.
She earlier disclosed that the 2015 budget contains P37.3 billion “pork barrel” in the form of lump sums appropriated for five government agencies—Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
According to her, while the term Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was removed in the 2014 budget, P25.4 billion in “pork,” the total amount of PDAF allocated to senators and congressmen, was transferred to the five agencies. She said legislators still have control of the projects funded by this allocation.
Santiago said the same system was adopted in the forging of the 2015 budget as proven by an incident during the second quarter of 2014 wherein representatives were asked to submit a list of the projects that they will endorse for their districts.
“Yes! Definitely,” Santiago said when asked if she thinks the 2015 proposed budget is an election budget.
She cited as example the P12-billion lump sum allotted to the Department of Interior and Local Government headed by Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd of the Liberal Party.
“There is no grassroots agency close to the voters than the DILG but why does it have so many appropriations for items that are not clearly indicated as part of its mandate?” Santiago asked.
The feisty senator mentioned the water system project given to the DILG which she said is not a responsibility of the agency.
“That (responsibility) belongs to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) so therefore the money should be given to that agency,” the senator pointed out after delivering a speech at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM).
Despite the assurances made by the Senate finance committee that the national budget for next year is free of “pork,” Santiago maintained that prior consultations with legislators to identify priority projects can be construed as post-enactment intervention.