President Benigno Aquino 3rd may have cut the practice of giving Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to lawmakers, but the President will continue to get his own “pork barrel” in lump sum.
In fact, under the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2014, the President’s “pork” allocation is a whopping P1 trillion.
Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said that the President’s discretionary fund or “pork barrel” will be in lump sum because the beneficiaries of the funding are hard to pinpoint.
Abad made the explanation a day after Aquino decided to scrap the P25 billion “pork” allotted for senators and members of the House of Representatives for next year.
The President said that under the new “corruption-proof” system, lawmakers projects will be included in the line item budgeting and will be included in the GAA.
The Budget chief said the President’s discretionary fund of P1 trillion will have to be in lump sum. The money includes allocations for budgetary support to government corporations, allocations to local government units, calamity fund, contingency fund, Department of Educational School Building Program/Educational Facilities Fund, E-Government Fund, International Commitments Fund, Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund, Pension and Gratuity Fund, Feasibility Studies Fund, Customs duties and taxes, including tax expenditures fund and Debt Service Fund.
“Let us look at the calamity fund. How can we identify the number of typhoons that will come to the country next year? We can’t be so sure of the amount that we will need for that. When typhoon Pablo hit Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley last year, the government spent P11 billion for relief and rehabilitation. Our calamity fund for 2013 is only pegged at P7.5 billion. This is exactly why we need a contingency fund,” Abad told state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
“Can you imagine us asking money from Congress only after the typhoon has brought damages? That cannot be right,” he added.
The contingency fund, Abad said, is also tapped for the emergency repatriation of overseas Filipinos in conflict areas, or combat operations of the Philippine National Police.
“These are the situations that we can’t predict. It’s the same thing for our retirees. We know how many of them are possibly retiring, but we can’t guess the actual number of retirees. So, how can you put that in detail?” he added.
However, Kabataan partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said the President’s discretionary fund can also be subject to corruption.
In a briefing paper entitled “Prime Cuts: Dissecting the Presidential Pork Barrel,” Ridon said since Aquino has sole discretion over his massive “pork barrel”, it is possible for him to fund programs and projects that favor his allies.
He added that the fund for debt payment was included in the President’s “pork” because it is not subject to congressional scrutiny.”
Not for good
Abad also said that the lawmakers’ “pork barrel” cannot be scrapped for good.
“We can’t just drop that P25 billion [of PDAF]because this fund has legitimate beneficiaries. It would be okay to scrap the PDAF for those lawmakers who spend their PDAF on fake beneficiaries, but how about those who legitimately benefit from the PDAF like the scholars, health units and barangay health stations? he pointed out.
Each senator gets a PDAF of P200 million every year, while each members of the House is given P70 million.
Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), agreed with Abad.
“Our PDAF is currently supporting 1,500 students. So without PDAF, we will have to tell them to look for other sources. I can fund only a few from my salary,” Baguilat, chairman of the House Agrarian Reform Commitee, said.
He said the new policy announced by the President on Friday is worth a try.
“I am okay with this. While it will make life more difficult for us politicians, this will bring in more transparency as well as inform pork detractors of the type of projects we fund,” he told reporters.
Meanwhile, Vice President Jejomar Binay wants the present and previous administrations to disclose a full accounting of the PDAF disbursements.
“I would also want a full accounting of PDAF disbursements during the previous administration and under the present administration if only to assure our people that the sins we assigned to the previous regime are no longer with us,” Binay said in a statement on Saturday.
According to him, expenditures by the Executive branch and its departments should be based on a study of the real needs of people in a locality.
“Let us all unite to ensure that the decision of the President is implemented with greater transparency, accountability and impartiality,” Binay said.
He said politically-motivated disbursements could undo the reform efforts of the administration.
“Ang ikabubuti ng mamamayan ang dapat maging tanging basehan, at hindi pulitika.
Otherwise, we will be reverting to the discredited practice of the past administration where the executive had total control in deciding who gets funding from the national government,” the Vice President added.
The military also on Saturday said that it will monitor the planned anti-pork barrel gathering of at least a million people at Rizal Park on Monday.
The rally is expected to push through despite the President’s decision to abolish the PDAF.
“The Armed Forces is always on a ‘watchmode’ whenever there is such kind of activity, but the military will always side with the people,” a military officer who asked not to be named said.
The National Capital Regional Police Office (Ncrpo) will be on heightened alert starting this afternoon as part of their preparation for the expected anti-pork barrel rally.
PNP Public Information chief Senior Supt. Reuben Theodore Sindac, said their standard preparation for this type of situation includes civil disturbance management, pedestrian and vehicular traffic control and area security.
With a report from Neil Alcober and Anthony Vargas