• P143-B discretionary funds ‘constitutional’

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    Budget Secretary Florencio Abad rebuffed the view that the P143.8-billion lump sum discretionary funds under the 2014 General Appropriations Act are unconstitutional like the pork barrel, or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

    Abad questioned the grounds of the petition by former Manila councilor Greco Belgica that the P143.8-billion lump sum discretionary funds, saying that lump sum discretionary funds are recognized by the Constitution.

    “How can it be unconstitutional? The mere fact that it is a lump sum fund doesn’t make it unconstitutional because the Constitution recognized discretionary funds. In fact, it is clearly set forth in the letter of the Constitution,” Abad said.

    The budget chief was referring to Belgica’s petition before the Supreme Court saying the P143.8-billion lump sum discretionary funds for the Unprogrammed fund, E-Government fund, Contingent fund and Local Government Support fund should be “declared unconstitutional” like the PDAF.

    Belgica also said that the four lump sum funds was against the separation of powers provision on the 1987 Constitution.

    But Abad said that this is not true, adding that the sum funds are far from being the pork barrel money.

    “It is not pork [because]the total of pork is only P25.4 billion . . . In fact, the court already said that how can a fund be declared as unconstitutional, how can an act be in relation to a fund in the budget considered illegal as far as legislators are concerned?” he added.

    Abad insisted that the four lump sum discretionary funds were legal, and that it will provide benefits for various national and local government agencies and units.

    “[The lump sum funds are the] savings that we can procure in bulk. We want to make sure that our [government]systems are also able to talk to each other,” he said.

    He noted that the Unprogrammed fund is a “standy appropriation approved by the Congress” if budget or money comes in.

    He also clarified that the E-Government fund was for the bulk buying of laptops and Internet connection for the whole of the government, with savings up to P750 million a year.

    “For E-Government fund, instead of every agency buying their own laptop and subscribing to Internet, what we did was that the government was going to buy them in bulk and we will be saving about 40 percent of the cost of a laptop. We will be able to provide every official in the government up to the director and up to secretary with a laptop, and we save P750 million a year,” he added.

    The aforementioned P143.8-billion appropriations account 8.9 percent of the P2.265-trillion national budget for 2014.

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