THE government allotted P200 million in the proposed 2016 national budget to be used by government employees and officials sued in connection with the performance of their legal functions, but it was not clear if the funds can also be utilized by those facing malversation and other graft related charges.
The proposed spending package, according to Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, is a new item in the budget and is separate from the existing legal fund available to public employees and officials hauled into courts for acts committed while performing their jobs.
The lump sum appropriation called the “Legal Defense Fund” (LDF) was included in the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF). However, the senator said the conditions and guidelines for its use are too broad.
Escudero, the former chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, noted that under the proposed provisions, the fund shall be used for “actual expenses, including the payment of premiums for the posting of bail bonds and cash advance for expenses by indicted public employees and officials.”
The fund will be used for the “defense of administrative, civil or criminal cases filed against public employees and officials in courts for acts committed in the performance of their actual functions.”
“If you go by the language of the special provisions, even those charged with graft and corruption can apply for bail money and charge the lawyer’s fees to the fund,” Escudero noted.
Considering the vagueness of the special provision, the senator said there is a need for the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to explain the details of the proposed allocation and make sure that the fund will not be used by those charged with graft or even murder.
“If this fund will be used to help employees or officials who are sued in connection with the performance of their official functions, I’m all for it, but never for rape, never for graft and never for murder,” he pointed out.
Escudero said it is not fair for government workers accused of stealing public funds to use the taxpayers’ money to defend themselves in court.
The government is proposing P3 trillion national budget for 2016.