Next year’s P2.139-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) which was recently signed into law by President Benigno Aquino 3rd is loaded with pork and lump sum appropriations, the country’s former national treasurer said over the weekend.
In a statement, Leonor Magtolis Briones, who was National Treasurer from August 1998 to February 2001 and now lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, said the government’s P3 trillion National Expenditure Program (NEP) has more than P930 billion is in automatic appropriations, P408 billion Special Purpose Funds and unprogrammed funds of P67.5 Billion.
She explained that just like the 2015 GAA, the 2016 GAA reinforces the redefinition of savings and authorizes the transfer of DAP-like funds already declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.
“As in previous election years, small infrastructure projects were embedded in the 2016 budget and were specifically identified by legislators during the preparation phase of the budget which amount to huge sums worth of public works. Additional insertions were introduced by both Houses of Congress and the Bicameral Conference Committee.
Concrete examples are farm to market roads which are identified with legislators who claim credit for them during election sorties,” Briones said.
Examples of revisions and budgetary adjustments are:
• P326-million increase for farm-to-market Road Projects under the Department of Agriculture (P7.377 Billion from P7.051 billion in NEP)
•P987.930 million increase for Assistance to Indigent Patients under the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Health (P2.783 billion from P1.795 billion in NEP)
•P2.54 billion increase for Government Internship Program and Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged Workers Project under the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (P3.267 billion from P727.3 in NEP)
•P403 million increase for Training for Work Scholarship Program under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (P2.206 billion from P2.203 billion in NEP)
•P1.248 billion increase for Local Infrastructure Program under the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (P19.813 billion from P18.566 billion in NEP)
•P5.382 billion increase for Protective Services Program under the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (P6.698 billion from P1.315 Billion in NEP)
•P144 nillion increase for Tulong Dunong Program under the Commission on Higher Education (P1.130 billion from P986.231 Million in NEP)
•P662.538 nillion increase for Financial Assistance to LGUs under Local Government Support Fund in the Allocation to Local Government Units (P862.538 million from P200 million in NEP)
“Earlier, Social Watch estimated that around P33.2 billion went to PDAF-like funds distributed across five agencies. Estimates from other groups are more or less similar to what we have arrived at,” Briones added.
“Transparency is the hall mark of accountable budgeting. The practice now is for legislators to send instructions to agencies just by text or telephone calls. This is true for health assistance, employment and cash dole-outs. This trend further muddles the flow of information to the public, especially since there is no paper trail.”
Social Watch called for more details on the 27 amendments from the Bicameral Committee which are subject to “conditional implementation.
“The Constitution does not provide for conditional implementation. The proposed General Appropriations Act can either be approved in full or its particular line items be vetoed by the President.
“We are reiterating our observation that the 2016 budget will benefit the political objectives of the present administration as well as the incoming officials. This is due to the redefinition of savings which is provided for in the general provisions of the GAA. The provisions of the 2016 budget can easily be changed and transferred; projects can be stopped; new projects can be initiated because of the redefinition.
“It is up to media, civil society organizations, and individual citizens to monitor these dangers and traps inherent in 2016 budget and ensure that it is not utilized for partisan political purposes,” Briones said.