MALACAÑANG on Monday said the proposed Grassroots Participatory Budgeting (GPB) that accounts for around P20 billion in funds for local government units (LGUs) is not a resurrection of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel, which had been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court (SC).
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. denied a report by The Manila Times that President Benigno Aquino 3rd defied the SC by retaining pork barrel funds in the national budget under another name–GPB.
“[It’s] not true,” Coloma said in reaction to former Ambassador Rigoberto Tiglao’s claim in his column that pork barrel funds assumed different names over the years but remained part of the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“Now, to hide the pork barrel fund from the Supreme Court and the nation, Aquino gave it an innocuous name in his 2015 budget proposal–the ‘Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Projects.’ For the 2014 budget, he had termed it ‘Bottom-Up Budgeting,’ until one adviser pointed out that it sounds like ‘bottoms-up’ which connotes a celebration–by them and the congressmen over the continuance of their pork barrel,” Tiglao wrote.
The pork barrel fund was officially named Countrywide Development Fund during the time of then-Presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos; “Lingap para sa Mahihirap Program Fund” under Joseph Estrada; and PDAF under the Gloria Arroyo and Aquino administrations.
In November 2013, the SC declared the PDAF as unconstitutional.
The report also indicated that Aquino, “in an act of insolence,” increased the pork barrel funds of congressmen from P15.7 billion in 2011 and 2012, to P20.1 billion in 2014 and P20.9 in 2015.
Reached for comment, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, whose wife, Henedina, is reportedly among the lawmakers whose districts stand to receive huge funds under the GPB, refused to issue any statement.
“Well, that’s Tiglao,” Abad texted The Times.
GPB projects in the proposed 2015 budget allocate P75 million to Batanes province, a bailiwick of the Abads that has an official population of only 17,000.
But Coloma offered a more substantial view, stressing that the GPB, apart from “not being pork,” does not defy the High Court ruling.
“GPB is in implementation of [the]President’s Social Contract with the Filipino people. Implementation takes into account SC decision on PDAF,” the Palace official explained.
Coloma stressed that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has made it clear that no local government unit can avail of it without a “detailed” budget plan.
“According to DBM, projects will be based on detailed work and financial plans submitted by LGUs,” he explained.
Under the GPB, the DBM allocated P12.5 million for each municipality and city. Local officials are to submit the list of projects to be funded out of that.
But there were reportedly some “exceptions” to the general rule of P12.5 million per municipality or city allocation. For instance, Quezon City, bailiwick of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., got P25 million, double the P12.5 million the other cities in Metro Manila got. There were also a number of towns that were allocated P18.5 million.
Total GPB for all the 132 cities and 1,458 towns would reach close to P20 billion.
Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar maintained that the GPB is neither pork barrel nor campaign kitty of the administration’s presidential bet in 2016.
Evardone said the projects under GPB are itemized in the General Appropriations Act.
“There is no discretion by top government officials in the allocation and determination of GPB projects,” he added.
WITH REPORT FROM REINA TOLENTINO