Mounting clamor. Members of different riders’ clubs gave a thumbs down as they gathered in front of the People Power Monument along Edsa to join the call for the abolition of pork barrel appropriations on Sunday. Manny Palmero 

MANILA, SEPTEMBER 30, 2013 (MANILA STANDARD) By Christine F. Herrera - 3 Senator confirms off-budget fund releases

SENATE President Franklin Drilon on Sunday confirmed the existence of an off-budget Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) fund that critics described as presidential pork barrel distributed to senators in 2012 shortly after they convicted impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona, and in early 2013, with each receiving P50 million to P100 million.

In an interview with radio dzBB, Drilon admitted having received P100 million in DAP allocations.

A check with the General Appropriations Act showed the DAP, just like President Benigno Aquino III’s discretionary funds, did not pass congressional scrutiny.

These funds, including the President’s Social Fund, the Malampaya Fund, and the Special Purpose Fund, were released at the sole discretion of the President.

Drilon said the extra allocation was not meant to bribe senators or to grant them incentives for convicting Corona, even though the three senators who voted to acquit the chief justice were not given any DAP funds between August and October 2012.

Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Drilon, who was then finance committee chairman, had offered him P50 million in DAP funds, which he turned down.

Of the 23 senators, Senators Joker Arroyo, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. did not receive the “private and confidential letter” from Drilon, informing the senators that they could already submit proposals for their infrastructure projects under the DAP.

Abad said the Senate had requested the DAP funds in view of the administration’s tightened regulations on fund releases.

Abad said the DAP releases following Corona’s conviction were not the first issued by the Aquino administration, saying similar releases were made in 2011 to ramp up government spending, which had slowed because of a crackdown of fund leaks.

Abad said in 2012, most releases were made from October to December, based entirely on letters of request submitted by the senators.

In October 2012, the senators who were allocated P50 million each were Antonio Trillanes, Manuel Villar, Ramon Revilla Jr., Loren Legarda, Lito Lapid, Jinggoy Estrada, Alan Peter Cayetano and Edgardo Angara.

Also in October 2012, funds were released to Senators Teofisto Guingona III (P35 million), Francis Pangilinan (P30 million), Ralph Recto (P23 million), Aquilino Pimentel III (P25.5 million), and Vicente Sotto III (P11 million).

They received additional allocations to complete the P50-million allocation, with Recto receiving P27 million in December 2012; Pimentel P5 million in November and P15 million in December; Sotto, P39 million in November; Guingona, P9 million in December.

Senator Sergio Osmena III received P50 million in December.

The biggest allocations were received by then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who got P92 million in December 2012 and current Senate President Drilon, P100 million, also in December 2012.

Abad said there were two earlier releases made in late August of that same year to Senators Gregorio Honasan, P50 million; and Francis Escudero, P99 million.

No releases were made in 2012 to Senators Lacson, Arroyo, Pia Cayetano, Marcos and Santiago, Abad said.

In 2013, however, Abad said releases were made for funding requests from the office of Senators Arroyo (February 2013, P47 million) and Pia Cayetano (January 2013, P50 million).

The 24th senator then, Benigno S. Aquino III, was already President, Abad said.

Abad explained that projects such as relocation and road rehabilitation were some of the priorities of the DAP projects.

Drilon said DAP came about after the country’s economists criticized the government for underspending that made the gross domestic product decline by 3.6 percent as against the target of 6.0 to 7.0 percent.

“That’s why the DAP was used to correct this underspending,” Drilon said.

He added that the funds came from savings.

For example, he said, there was retirement fund for those who would have retired under the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund but did not retire so the unused funds automatically became savings that could be realigned.

Under the unprogrammed funds for 2012, these were sourced from the dividends of the state corporations, he said.

“It would have been a waste just to leave these in the bank,” Drilon said.

Drilon said he used his DAP funds to fund the construction of roads and convention centers in Iloilo, where he comes from, because the province wanted to host the ministerial APEC Summit in 2015.

“This is what we must not forget: was this used properly or pocketed?” he said. “The funds did not go directly to me but to DPWH which implemented the projects in Iloilo.”

Drilon also said the private and confidential memo merely informed senators that the funds were available and that they could submit their proposals.

“My memo simply said please submit projects worth P50 million. There’s nothing wrong with that. Whether the memo was confidential or not, what is important is how the money was used. If the request letter were not approved, then nothing would come of it,” he said.

Drilon also said there was no ceiling on how much the senators could get.

Abad said in 2011, DAP also supported projects like the relocation of families living along dangerous zones (P10 billion) under the National Housing Authority, equity infusion under the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (P10 billion), landowners’ compensation under the Department of Agrarian Reform (P5.4 billion), ARMM comprehensive peace and development program (P8.6 billion), and the augmentation of the internal revenue allotments of local government units (P6.5 billion).

In 2012, Abad said DAP also funded crucial projects like tourism road construction under the departments of Tourism and Public Works (P5 billion), the national government’s share for the Government Service Insurance System-Department of Education premium payments for teachers (P4 billion), Department of Agrarian Reform-Department of Public Works and Highways Tulay ng Pangulo (P1.8 billion), Department of Health-DPWH rehabilitation of regional health units (P1.96 billion), DepEd’s public-private partnership for school infrastructure (P4 billion), and a capital infusion for the central bank (P20 billion).

Abad said to suggest that these funds were used as “bribes is inaccurate at best and irresponsible at worst.” – With Macon Ramos-Araneta

House skips scrutiny of PNOY’s pork By Maricel Cruz | Posted on September 29, 2013 at 12:02am | 1,391 views


The Independent Bloc in the House of Representatives has protested the P1-trillion ‘pork barrel’ of President Benigno Aquino III for being retained under Special Purpose Funds in the House-approved version of the 2014 General Appropriations Bill.

Also known as the Third Force whose members include party-list lawmakers, the group’s leader Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez expressed dismay over the failure of House leaders to get into the nitty-gritty of the ‘presidential pork.’

The House, in a viva voce voting (voice voting) approved on second reading at dawn Saturday the 2014 national budget, which retains provisions on lump-sum allocations for the executive agencies, including the Office of the President.

Romualdez was among the several congressmen who voted ‘no’ to the approval of House Bill 2630 or the budget bill.

He demanded that the President’s Special Purpose Fund be abolished, along with the much-maligned pork barrel or priority development assistance fund.

In a statement, Romualdez said that his group could not, in conscience, accept the retention of the P1-trillion pork barrel of President Aquino in the 2014 budget “without clear-cut guidelines and details on what and how will it be spent.”

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte ealier defended the use of the “presidential pork”, saying that it must be left untouched so that President Aquino can respond to calamities and other unforeseen events like the Zamboanga siege. “It’s difficult to identify what contingencies, what the situation will be on the ground. Common sense dictates that it (should) be untouched,” Belmonte said.

The Third Force however was not buying Belmonte’s explanation. “Unless the purpose is revealed, we don’t know where the money goes to,” Romualdez said.

Aquino’s pork barrel is almost 50 percent of the proposed P2.260-trillion national budget for 2014, he said.

While Section 2 of the GAB talks about “performance informed budgeting,” Romualdez said the PSPF, considered as a lump sum appropriation, does not give full ‘information’ about its transparency.

“How then can the GAB be called performance informed budgeting,” Romualdez stressed, saying lawmakers should push for more transparency and accountability in the disbursements of funds before Congress votes for its third and final reading approval.

Romualdez pointed out that transferring the PSPF to line agencies would ensure that expenditures would be audited annually, unlike now wherein the latest audit report for it is way back in 2009.

“For example, the calamity fund can be transferred to line agencies directly involved in disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness as provided for in R.A.9729. The E-governance fund of P2.4 billion can be transferred to agencies tasked with enhancing the use of technology. The school building

program can be transferred directly to DepEd (Department of Education),” Romualdez said in behalf of the independent bloc.

Commenting on claims by the government that the P25.2 billion PDAF, which is part of the SPF, has been abolished and transferred to different agencies through line item budgeting system, he pointed out that it’s less than 10 percent of the total SPF of P310 billion.

The group also demanded the integration of ‘off-budget’ items in the national expenditure of the government into the GAB.

These include the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) contributions to President’s Social Fund (PSF) estimated around P2.5 billion and P2 billion respectively, the P130 billion Malampaya Fund, the P12.5 Billion Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC) fund and other direct contributions to different agencies.

“The total expenditure program of the national government for 2014 is P2.268 trillion. But the proposed GAB amounts only to P1.472 trillion, leaving P796 billion as automatic appropriations. Some of the sources of off budget “expenditures which are not included in the GAB include Pagcor contributions to the Presidential Social Fund and the Malampaya Fund,” the Independent Bloc said.

Prior to the approval of the budget bill, Romualdez’s group together with the House minority bloc made efforts to abolish all lump-sum funds and have it re-channeled to special funds, and that the general fund subject to congressional scrutiny as an “omnibus individual amendment.”

House Minority Leader and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora also said “we have to vote no on this budget but even as we vote no we tell our people we vote for you and your future.”

But Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chair of the House committee on appropriations, thumbed down such proposal.

Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza stood on the floor prior to the bill’s approval, manifesting that the approved budget measure did not take out the pork barrel—which is perceived as a source of graft and corruption—at the discretion of lawmakers.

Atienza said the fact that lawmakers are still allowed to dictate on infrastructure projects supposedly for their constituents indicate that pork barrel still exists.

“Are we and the nation assured that this budget that we are about to act on is genuinely rid of the despicable pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund as it was identified in the originally proposed budget,” Atienza said on the floor, addressing his manifestation to House leaders before the voting on the budget bill.

This developed as a House panel will work double time during the two-week break session of Congress to incorporate several amendments to the proposed budget.

“For the first time we will pass a budget that not only identifies the various items and objects of expenditure, but also presents the results that we want to achieve, and the major final outputs that departments and agencies must deliver according to their mandates,” Belmonte said in his closing speech after the session adjourned at around 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

“The 2014 Budget is crafted as a budget for inclusive development, whatever some may say, it is for inclusive development, and can serve as a powerful tool that will help sustain the positive momentum of growth and reform that is upon us and has been with us for the past three years,” Belmonte added.

Belmonte also expressed a sigh of relief over the passage of the budget measure on second reading amidst pork barrel controversy that is hounding Congress.

“With the commitment and cooperation which you have showed, I expect that the 16th Congress will rise above the prevailing challenge, stronger than ever and enjoying even greater trust from our people,” Belmonte said.

The small committee, under the supervision of the House committee on appropriations chaired by Ungab, will collate all the proposed amendments from his colleagues for the next year’s budget, in line with the new policy on realigned priority development assistance fund (PDAF) of lawmakers.

Aside from Ungab, the small committee will also compose of House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales of Mandaluyong, Reps. Joaquin Carlos Rahman Nava of Guimaras, Rolando Andaya of Camarines Sur and House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan.

The proposed amendments to the budget bill will be tackled in the plenary when Congress resumes session on October 14, thus setting the stage for third reading approval of the measure.

Under the House approved version of the HB 2630 re-aligned the P25.2 billion PDAF allocation to five key agencies, with the Departments of Public Works and Highways (9.65 billion) and Social Welfare and Development (P4.71 billion) had got the huge funding.

The three other agencies were: Health (P3.69 billion); Labor and Employment (P3.69 billion) and Education (P1.02 billion), along with the Commission on Higher Education (P2.66 billion).

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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