2016 budget has P33B ‘pork’ – former National Treasurer

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THE proposed P3.002 trillion 2016 national budget contains P33.185 billion priority development assistance fund (PDAF)-like funds embedded in the budgets of different agencies, the budget watchdog Social Watch Philippines claimed on Tuesday.

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Former National Treasurer and Social Watch Philippines convenor Professor Leonor Magtolis-Briones, in her presentation during the forum on the 2016 alternative budget conducted at the Senate office, noted that there are lump sums in the proposed budget despite the ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) declaring PDAF unconstitutional.

Briones cited 10 questionable items in budget approved by the House of Representatives. One of them is the special provision 10 on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) budget amounting to P1.795 billion “for hospitalization and assistance to indigent and poor patients.” However, the appropriated amount in the budget is only P1 billion. She said the difference of about P794 million would have been lodged under other key budget items in the Department of Health (DOH)-Central Office.

“If that is the case, this should be clarified and reflected in the corresponding budget line item. This is also apart from the issue on the vagueness of selection of the recipients of the said assistance, which was not disclosed in its special provision,” Briones said.

She also noted that there was no provision directing the fund release of several budget items intended for Quick Response Fund (QRF) and Bottom-up budgeting projects.

This would cover the P912.324 million intended for assistance to victims of disasters and natural calamities that may be used for other objectives.

There is also no provision directing the fund releases on several items listed under bottom-up budgeting on the special provision 5 including the P582 million for Protective Services for individuals and families in especially difficult circumstances. There is also no information on how the P3.373 billion budget for microenterprise development will be utilized aside from the 170,470 families to be served.

The P 5.573 billion for sustainable Livelihood Program-Employment Facilitation also doesn’t have enough information on how it will be used.

“The lack of details, like the manner of selection of recipients, of this huge amount concentrated in the Central Office is a cause for concern,” Briones said.

Other questionable items include the P1.870 billion for Provision of Assistance, Incentives, Scholarships and Grants of the Commission on Higher Education (Ched); the P1.297 billion under the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); and the P18.565 billion for local infrastructure program of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Briones said there is also a special purpose fund (SPF) amounting to P430.4 billion.

SPF is a lump sum appropriation under the control of the President.

“Lump sum appropriations have always been problematic considering the huge amount involve and since they are not as detailed as regular appropriations, lump sums tend to be vulnerable to abuse,” she explained.

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