[PHOTO -Budget woes. University of the Philippines professor and former national treasurer Leonor Briones bares the hidden allocations in the national budget. MANNY PALMERO]

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 6, 2012 (STANDARD) By Christine F. Herrera - Kitty is part of new budget item hidden in special fund

President Benigno Aquino III has created a special fund containing P317.58-billion in pork barrel that could be turned into a campaign kitty to support administration candidates in the 2013 elections, former national treasurer and Social Watch Philippines convenor Leonor Briones said Tuesday.

“This P317 billion [in the Special Purpose Fund] is one big pork barrel that can be used for election purposes. Only the President is allowed by the Constitution to tap the P317 billion in the undisclosed, hidden and vague SPF, whichever way he may see fit,” Briones said.

She added that the President could also use intelligence funds and billions more from approved projects.

Even the release of the P24.89 billion in pork barrel funds of the senators and congressmen was placed under the discretion of the President in the Special Purpose Fund, Briones said.

Briones’ group has been lobbying Congress to disclose details of the Special Purpose Fund.

“This is the first election budget of the Aquino administration and the Constitution allows him to realign, advance or withhold the release and transfer of the SPF appropriations for election purposes,” Briones told a press briefing Tuesday.

“I am not saying that the President is corrupt, but we fear that he could be tempted [to use] these funds for campaign purposes because this is the first mid-term elections under his watch and he wants allies to win the seats,” Briones said.

“We do not want the SPF approved by Congress without both houses placing it under serious and close scrutiny. This government owes it to the public to explain where the P317 billion in special funds would be used by the President,” Briones said.

“While it is legal for the President to create a Special Fund, in this case the P317 billion Special Purpose Fund, the Palace has no right to duplicate budgetary items and place them under the sole discretion of the President,” Briones added.

She referred to the “new outlay” of P22.42 billion in Priority Social and Economic Projects Fund under SPF when she said there was already P44 billion allocated to the Conditional Cash Transfer Program.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said the new outlay of P22.4 billion involved projects that agencies proposed “but have not yet been able to flesh out in detail” and separate from the Conditional Cash Transfer Program.

Briones also questioned a P70.8-billion allocation for Budgetary Support to Government Corporations in the Special Purpose Fund, when there was already P16.82 billion set aside for this purpose, and P60.86 billion in the Debt Management Program, both under Unprogrammed Funds.

Abad said the budgetary support for government-owned and controlled corporations under the Unprogrammed Funds would cover the national government’s advances for the debt servicing of principal and interest as well as interest advances made by the Treasury on the loan obligations of state-owned companies. This was separate from the regular subsidies granted to state-owned entitites, he added.

Abad sought to answer other questions raised by Briones concerning military pensions and local government funds. He said the department was ready to work with civil society groups such as Social Watch Philippines to ensure transparency in the way public funds were spent.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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