The P86-million social services fund of the Office of the Vice President (OVP) has assisted hundreds of indigents, including constituents of Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, who had maliciously described the fund as “pork barrel,” according to Vice President Jejomar Binay’s spokesman on political concerns.
“The Vice President’s social services budget is a pittance compared to the P7.3-billion kitty of Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary [Manuel Roxas 2nd] for programs that are not within the mandate or competence of his agency,” lawyer Rico Quicho said on Wednesday.
The OVP served a total of 66,951 patients in medical missions across 21 provinces, and was responsible for the distribution of a total of 133,346 relief packages to families affected by natural calamities in 2014.
It also helped 6,044 indigent clients who sought medical assistance.
The patients or their families requested help to pay for dialysis, hospital bills, chemotherapy sessions, medicines, surgery and other procedures, implants and hearing aids. These clients came mostly from Metro Manila but the OVP also assisted clients from other regions.
The OVP in 2014 also provided educational support to 9,700 elementary school pupils and distributed medals and certificates of recognition to 8,000 students.
Most of the beneficiaries were indigenous people and they received bags, notebooks, pencils and other school supplies.
“In fact, 14 of his constituents from Eastern Samar asked for medical assistance from the OVP,” Quicho said.
“The Roxas-led DILG has P5.6 billion for providing potable water, and P1.2 billion for housing, which they do not have the mandate nor competence to fulfill, and so far, we still do not have any audit reports on how funds for these projects in the past years have been disbursed as the last available report for the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan [Pamana] is for 2012,” he added.
Quicho said Evardone’s remarks would be better directed at Roxas, as all projects funded by the OVP’s social services program have passed muster under the Commission on Audit (COA).
The COA in 2013 also lauded the OVP for its social services programs.
The OVP’s accounting division has also consistently earned plaudits as one of the most outstanding accounting offices in the country.
“The social services fund has been lauded by COA for actually reaching its intended beneficiaries, which cannot be said of those involved in the PDAF or DAP scams,” he added.
PDAF is Priority Development Assistance Fund and DAP, Disbursement Acceleration Program.
“Definitely, it cannot be said of the DILG, and unless they can show proof that their lump-sum funds have been properly audited and actually reached their targets, then the gentleman from Eastern Samar is barking up the wrong tree,” Quicho said.
He clarified that the fund for social services was institutionalized as part of the regular budget of the OVP during former Vice President Noli de Castro’s term.
According to the OVP’s Budget Division, the original budget for social services allocated under de Castro’s term was P29.418 million in 2007.
The budget increased over the years because of the increasing number of indigents requesting assistance.
“It was included in the regular budget due to the number of indigents who would come to the OVP asking for help,” Quicho said.
He added that the Vice President has never received any pork barrel funds, which are reserved for legislators.
“The social services funds are part of the regular operations of his office and in keeping with his mandate,” Quicho said.
As part of the regular budget, such funds are subject to accounting and auditing practices.