PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd, has the power to stop the release of the P100-million allotment from the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) of Senator Jinggoy Estrada to the City of Manila if he wants to, the Senate finance committee chairman said on Thursday.
According Sen. Francis Escudero, the chief executive under Presidential Decree 1177 has the power to decide which item in the 2014 general appropriations act (GAA) will be funded and which are not based on the projected deficit.
“This means that there is no guarantee that the P100 million allotment for Manila City will be released, same goes for the other items in the budget,” Escudero explained.
The P100-million is part of the P200 million 2014 PDAF allocation of Estrada, the other half was realigned to the City of Caloocan and Lal-lo in Cagayan province receiving P50 million each.
Apart from Estrada, five senators realigned their respective pork barrel allocation to the calamity fund of the president while three reallocated it to different government agencies like the Department of Public works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education,(CHED) and others.
Some lawmakers finds the Estrada’s move to realign half of his pork allocation to Manila City highly questionable considering that his father, former President Joseph Estrada, is the incumbent mayor of the city.
But Estrada is separate interview maintained that there is nothing wrong with his decision to realign his PDAF to the Local Government Unit (LGU) currently being led by his father because the city really needs help.
“They are giving malice to my action just because my father is the Mayo of Manila. But I did not give it to him. I gave it to the people of Manila for them to benefit from my amendment, from my realignment,” Estrada pointed out.
Estrada, who is currently facing plunder raps before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the pork barrel scam, is hoping that the Department of Budget and Management will not impound the funds because it is not him that will be affected by the mover but the people of Manila, Caloocan and Lal-lo.
He also insisted that the amendment he introduced in the budget was in accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court in the pork barrel and there is not post-intervention on his part.
He said it will be the local government of Manila that will decide on how the funds would be used and it is their responsibility to utilize it properly.
Escudero, also sees nothing irregular on how Estrada choose to realign his pork barrel since the Allocation to Local Government Unit (ALGU) item really exist in the budget and not a creation of Estrada.
He added that based on the SC ruling the court defined ‘pork barrel as the power of a congressman or a senator to interfere or intervene after the budget is enacted.
But the realignment of the budget by way of amendment is not a violation of the SC ruling nor it can be considered as an “insertion” because insertion is done secretly, Escudero explained.
Escudero added that he himself has introduced his own amendment in the budget and that is the deletion of his PDAF allocation from the 2014 GAA.
Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th however consider Estrada’s decision as highly questionable and suspect that the senator may have other intention in putting half of his PDAF to the Manila City.
At the same time Trillanes insisted the his decision to realign his PDAF fund to various government agencies is different from the realignment made by Estrada.
“The problem is he virtually realigned hi PDAF to his father who is the mayor of Manila, which it totally different from what other senators did,” he stressed.
Estrada, according to Trillanes should have exercise prudence in choosing the beneficiary of his PDAF, because he knew because he has been implicated in the PDAF scam, and his decision to give Manila the fund raises suspicion.
It was learned that Estrada originally wanted his PDAF be realigned to the Philippine General Hospital and other regional hospitals in the country, but he made some last minute changes on his proposed budget amendment and listed the three LGUs as the recipient of his PDAF. JEFFERSON ANTIPORDA