The Philippine House of Representatives

MANILA, OCTOBER 28, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Jess Diaz - The House of Representatives has retained in the 2014 national budget certain lump sums President Aquino can use for specific purposes and which his critics claim are his pork barrel.

Among these appropriations are the P7.5-billion calamity fund and the P1-billion contingency fund.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the Bohol earthquake shows that the President needs these lump sums, which he can tap for relief and rehabilitation efforts and for emergencies.

“That is the reason why they are there in the national budget,” Belmonte said.

The calamity fund and contingent fund in the 2013 budget also amount to P7.5 billion and P1 billion, respectively.

Aquino has tapped the two appropriations for money for relief and reconstruction efforts in Bohol and Cebu, and for the rehabilitation of several villages in Zamboanga City devastated by the recent attacks by a group of Moro National Liberation Front rebels loyal to Nur Misuari.

According to the Department of Budget and Management, this year’s calamity fund has a balance of only a little over P1 billion.

Administration critics are also counting several other appropriations as presidential “pork.” These are allocations to local government units, P361.3 billion; pension and gratuity fund, P120.5 billion; miscellaneous personnel benefits fund, P80.7 billion; international commitments fund, P4.8 billion; e-government fund, P2.5 billion; and feasibility studies fund, P400 million.

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, who chairs the House appropriations committee, said these appropriations cannot be considered presidential pork barrel.

“As their names or descriptions suggest, these funds are appropriated for specific expenditures. They cannot be used for other purposes. It is unfair to suggest that the President would treat them as his pork barrel,” he said.

He said pork barrel funds, as in the case of the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), could be used for projects and programs chosen by the official who has discretion over such funds.

“How can money going to local government units, retirees’ pension and gratuity, miscellaneous personnel benefits, international commitments, e-government projects, and feasibility studies be considered presidential pork?”

The House has transmitted to the Senate the proposed P2.268-trillion 2014 national budget, which congressmen approved last Tuesday without the PDAF as a lump sum.

They realigned their funds to several agencies that would implement their projects in their districts without their intervention.

The Senate is still undecided on what to do with the PDAF. Some senators suggest that fund should not be realigned and should be deleted and deducted from the national budget.

Senators fail to agree on ‘pork’ abolition By Maila Ager 6:04 pm | Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Senate President Franklin Drilon PRIB FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines— Senators failed to reach a consensus on the proposed abolition of the “pork barrel” funds in 2014 during a caucus held at the Senate on Wednesday.

Instead, Senate President Franklin Drilon said they agreed to give each senator until November 11 to submit their written proposals on what to do with their respective P200 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” funds contained in the proposed national budget next year.

Drilon said the written proposals will be submitted to the Senate committee on finance being headed by Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, which will consolidate and reflect all proposals in a report that will be presented in their next caucus on November 18.

“While there was no vote, my assessment is that a majority of the senators would just want it scrapped. But out of respect to the others, who were not around we just deferred final decision,” the Senate leader said after the caucus.

“From a personal assessment, there appears to be no resistant to scrapping the PDAF but as I said, that’s an assessment,” he said.

During the caucus, Drilon said there were discussions to just realign the PDAF to calamity fund like what the senators did with their remaining pork barrel funds this year.

But unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate might not allow the realignment of PDAF to other departments.

“If we go by way of abolition, there will be no realignments…the National Expenditure Program will be reduced to that extent,” Drilon said.

Only one thing was certain, he said: “Wala ng discretionary power, that one is a certainty. Wala ng discretionary power.”

Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, in a separate interview, said almost all senators were in favour of scrapping the “pork” and the only discussion was what to do with the total P4.8 billion PDAF contained in the budget.

“The question really is how to get the budget passed na porkless considering na dalawang houses of Congress and pinag-uusapan at hindi lang yung Senado (considering two houses of Congress and not just the Senate),”’ Cayetano said.

“Nagkakasundo na bawal na ang pork barrel. At bawal makialam ang senador. Whether tatanggalin or ibabawas sa total ng budget or whether ilalagay sa ibang kailangang gastusin, yun ang hindi pa napapagkasunduan (Everyone agrees that pork barrel is illegal. And a senator shouldn’t meddle. Whether it’s going to be scrapped or deducted from the total budget or allot in other necessary expenses, there goes the disagreement),” he added.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved