For each mayor’s support
FORMER Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd, apparently with the help of the Liberal Party (LP) through Secretaries Florencio Abad of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Mel Sarmiento of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), promised P100 million worth of projects for each mayor who will support his candidacya in the May 2016 presidential elections, according to a highly-placed source.
The promise was made when Roxas, standard-bearer of the ruling party, met with members of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) National Executive Committee (NEC) at the Resorts World Hotel in Pasay City (Metro Manila) in December last year.
The source, who listened in on the meeting, told The Manila Times that the millions worth of projects will be funded under the Bottom Up Budgeting (BuB) program.
“It was a day-long activity that happened one Thursday in the first week of December. They [LMP National Executive Committee officials] had a breakfast meeting with Secretary Sarmiento. In the afternoon, Roxas was there and he practically promised the mayors P100 million for each of their municipalities beginning this year,” he said.
The purported meeting was held at the hotel’s Passion Restaurant.
After Roxas spoke, a female undersecretary of the DBM gave a 30-minute briefing on the BuB.
The LMP National Executive Committee is led by Javier town mayor Sandy Javier.
It has 22 members as shown on its website.
“Mayor Javier was passionate about it. Ang sabi ni Roxas sa kanila, priority nila ngayon na magkaroon ng proyekto ang mga mayors. Sabi naman ni Javier, huwag ng sayangin ang pagkakataon [Roxas told them that the priority this year is for mayors to have projects. Javier told them not to waste this opportunity]. Reading between the lines, Roxas was telling the NEC members that if he wins, the P100 million is good to go until 2022,” said the source, who was once an official of a top government agency.
He added that when Roxas left and after the DBM briefing, the mayors continued to discuss what was promised to them.
“Many of them were adamant and doubtful. They said they have no assurance that the P100 million could be delivered in exchange for supporting Roxas’ candidacy,” the source said.
Javier ended the discussion by deferring the matter until they reach Macau for a weekend holiday.
“That was when I realized that the NEC officials were in Manila because of a scheduled trip to Macau. Roxas’ presence on the eve of their trip certainly raised eyebrows. Who spent for them? Your guess is as good as mine,” the source told The Manila Times.
Only recently, Cabinet officials led by Sarmiento were in Nueva Ecija for their campaign leg on the BuB.
There, they discussed how local government units (LGUs) can avail of the program.
In April 2015, the LMP passed a resolution in “support for and encouragement of the leadership and governance” of Roxas, whom they described as “a man of honor, integrity and unsullied reputation whose character is above suspicion” and a “visionary, selfless, competent, motivational” leader.
The DBM has five female undersecretaries and five female assistant secretaries.
The Manila Times inquired with Budget Policy and Strategy Undersecretary Laura Pascua if she was the official who gave the league officials the briefing at Passion Restaurant.
“Unfortunately, I am not the one you need. I’m furnishing our PIU [Public Information Unit] head Peachy Paderna a copy of this note so you can contact them. Thanks,” Pascua told this paper.
The DBM public information chief, however, failed to send a statement as of press time on Sunday.
BuB is widely perceived as a revived “pork barrel” fund intended for LGUs since the Supreme Court ruled previous development assistance funds as unconstitutional.
Originally known as “Grassroots Participatory Budgeting” in deliberations for the 2015 budget, the DBM chief decided to use the BuB name in October 2014.
Former Ambassador and Times columnist Rigoberto Tiglao, in one of his previous articles, claimed that “the term BuB portrays it as a democratic exercise, when in fact, it is designed entirely to disguise the pork barrel scheme carried on last year and is set to continue this year.”
“Even the figure for this year, P20.9 billion, is equivalent to the pork barrel funds of P16 billion each for 2011 and 2012, and P20 billion in 2014, adjusted for inflation
One of the Supreme Court’s definitions of pork barrel, when it ruled it unconstitutional, is as follows: “An appropriation of government spending meant for localized projects and secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district,” he said.
Tiglao further alleged that President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Abad “revised certain aspects of its use in order to skirt certain guidelines issued by the court.”
The DBM chief has boasted that the BuB has been recognized by the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) as one of five Best Practices in Fiscal Transparency from around the world during the Open Government Partnership (OGP) summit in Mexico City.
The other programs cited are Mexico’s Education Reform Program, Cameroon’s Budget Transparency in Local Governments, Brazil’s Thematic Budget and an international project called Aid on Budgets being piloted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Moldova, Nepal and Senegal.
In its declaration, GIFT noted that “in 2015, 1,514 cities and municipalities [92 percent of all in the country] had joined the program and it has so much demand it would be difficult for future governments to discontinue.”
Abad said notwithstanding the program’s success and recognition, BuB’s potential remains untapped and thus deserves to continue in the next administration.
“The BuB as a reform program promotes improvements in government openness, accountability and responsiveness. Through this program, we’ve institutionalized people’s participation in the budget process to gain a better understanding of their needs and requirements, and ensure these are met,” the Budget chief explained.
The DBM earlier said the 2016 budget supports the expansion of the BuB. Local poverty reduction projects identified by communities and LGUs in 1,514 cities and municipalities have been allocated P24.7 billion, an increase from P8 billion in 2013 for the projects identified in 595 cities and municipalities.