PHNO HEADLINE NEWS EARLY THIS PAST WEEK

WHEN WILL FARMERS BENEFIT FROM P72.8-B FUND? 

NOV 27 --How much longer should coconut farmers wait before they could benefit from the P72.8-billion coco levy fund? “We hope to be able to get things going within the term of the President,” Secretary Francis Pangilinan, Mr. Aquino’s adviser on food security and agricultural modernization, told reporters on Thursday. The ball is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is yet to issue a partial entry of judgment on its 2012 ruling that the government owns the 27-percent Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) in San Miguel Corp. “We hope we don’t have to wait long,” Pangilinan said, citing a motion filed in the high tribunal by the Office of the Solicitor General last month. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Miriam --EDCA may put PNoy in trouble; Enhanced defense deal above board – Coloma 

NOV 28 ---Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday warned that President Aquino has opened himself up to impeachment when his administration signed the controversial Philippine-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) without the concurrence of the Senate. She said that the impeachable offenses that the President allegedly committed when the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) signed the EDCA for the Philippine government are “culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, for allowing a foreign government to maintain military bases without Senate concurrence,” she said. Santiago pointed these out after announcing yesterday that her Senate Foreign Relations Committee will conduct a public hearing on Monday “to pass upon whether the Senate should concur with the agreement.” She said the hearing will address four topics: Does the EDCA need to be concurred in by the Senate?; is it necessary?; is it beneficial?; and is it practical? But Malacañang is confident that President Aquino will not be removed from office via impeachment over the counter-signing of the enhanced defense agreement with the United States. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Senate looks into defense pact legality 

NOV 28 ---PHOTO: EDCA SIGNING. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg---SENATOR Miriam Defensor Santiago, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, has set a hearing on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) on Monday, Dec. 1, to determine if the Senate should concur with the agreement. Under the Constitution, the Senate must ratify a treaty before it becomes a law. “The Constitution is categorical. It requires Senate concurrence whether the document is called a treaty or any other international agreement,” Santiago said. She said EDCA cannot be viewed as an implementing agreement of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement. “In international law, there is no such thing as an implementing treaty, especially in our Constitution. Every treaty has to [meet the] constitutional requirement, whether it is an implementing treaty or not,” she added. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Philippines to secure Pontiff in custom-built ‘popemobile 

NOV 28 --The Philippines will custom-build a “popemobile’’ for Pope Francis with his specifications when he visits in January, organizers said Thursday. “He is our visitor and we can’t let anything bad happen to him,’’ the government’s chief protocol officer Marciano Paynor said, adding there are “no specific threats’’. Pope Francis, who has shunned the pomp of his predecessors, said earlier this year he prefers to use open-top cars rather than the Vatican’s bulletproof ‘’popemobile’’ used by previous pontiffs, which he called a ‘’sardine can’’. ‘’It is true something could happen to me but let’s be realistic, at my age I do not have much to lose,’’ he said in June, adding that the ‘’popemobile’’ made it hard to connect with the faithful. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: MIRIAM NOT BUYING PALACE LINE ON BUDGET 

NOV 28 --DESPITE assurances from Malacañang and the Senate leadership, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday maintained the P2.6 trillion national budget is not free of pork barrel. Santiago noted that while Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has insisted the proposed budget is free of pork, he also confirmed that prior consultations were conducted with legislators to identify priority projects. “In other words, there may be no separate item called Priority Development Assistance Fund, but the funds have already been built into the proposed 2015 budget. “These funds, regardless of the name, may be considered pork barrel, because they are national funds used for local projects selected by legislators, and they are granted in lump sums,” Santiago said. “If legislators may identify preferred constituents before a program can be implemented, then it becomes post-budget enactment intervention, the same kind the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional,” she added. At the same time, Santiago said the redefinition of “savings,” allowing government to declare these “at any time,” also borders on the unconstitutional. READ FULL REPORT...

(ALSO) Chiz admits: 2015 budget filled with lump sums, they're not pork  

PHOTO: ESCUDERO: The chairman of the Senate finance committee yesterday admitted the existence of lump sum items in the proposed P2.6- trillion national budget but allayed fears that the appropriations in next year’s budget are replete with pork barrel allocations for legislators. He stressed again that there are enough safeguards crafted by the Senate to deter abuse of the lump sum funds use. “There are really lump sum items in the budget but it is different from having pork. These items are really necessary and give the government the necessary flexibility,” Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said. “But these lump sums were made temporary only. Why temporary? Because we require them, just very much like what we did in 2014, to submit special budget in accordance with the Revised Administrative Code,” he added. But it is not only lump sums that are found in the 2015 national budget, as even the supplemental budget being sought by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is replete with lump sums. This was disclosed by former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, who now heads a budget watchdog group, Social Watch Philippines. READ FULL REPORT...

ALSO: Manny Pacquiao’s Forbes Park mansion for sale 

WORLD boxing champion Manny Pacquiao said Thursday he would sell his mansion in one of the Philippine capital’s swankiest areas after his neighbors complained of his visitors wearing shabby clothing. Pacquiao told AFP that as a “man of the masses,” he is not finicky with his visitors, even if they are wearing “just shorts and slippers.” The boxer’s rags-to-riches story, from being a fish vendor in his hometown to winning world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, has made him wildly popular in the Philippines. He used his boxing fame to get elected to Congress in 2010 and like many wealthy Filipino politicians, he frequently has to meet with constituents asking for hand-outs and favours. Pacquiao said he would buy a new house where he could accommodate more visitors, who are mostly seeking financial assistance. READ FULL REPORT...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

When will farmers benefit from P72.8-B fund?


INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON FILE PHOTO

MANILA, DECEMBER 1, 2014 (INQUIRER) Christian V. Esguerra @inquirerdotnet - How much longer should coconut farmers wait before they could benefit from the P72.8-billion coco levy fund?

“We hope to be able to get things going within the term of the President,” Secretary Francis Pangilinan, Mr. Aquino’s adviser on food security and agricultural modernization, told reporters on Thursday.

The ball is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is yet to issue a partial entry of judgment on its 2012 ruling that the government owns the 27-percent Coconut Industry Investment Fund (CIIF) in San Miguel Corp.

“We hope we don’t have to wait long,” Pangilinan said, citing a motion filed in the high tribunal by the Office of the Solicitor General last month.

“The executive department has done everything on the issue of the issuance of a final decision and entry of judgment. So we now appeal to our Supreme Court [to grant the motion].”

Pangilinan signed a “summary of agreements” with 71 coconut farmers who had walked around 1,700 kilometers from Davao City to Manila to pressure the government into passing a law allowing them to directly benefit from the coco levy fund.

In a meeting with farmers in Malacañang on Wednesday, the President said he was willing to certify such a bill as urgent after a thorough consultation.

While waiting to “harmonize” existing bills reflecting the demands of small coconut farmers, the President was also open to issuing an executive order.

Coco farmers trust fund

To implement programs for the coconut industry, Mr. Aquino agreed that only the annual interest income of the coco levy fund would be used. Pangilinan pegged the total interest income at P3 billion from 2012 to 2014.

But the proposed Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund would require an “act of Congress,” not an executive order, Pangilinan explained.

Anakpawis Rep. Fernando Hicap has a pending bill proposing the creation of the “Genuine Small Coconut Farmers’ Fund” at the House of Representatives.

Sen. Bam Aquino has his own version, while Senators Cynthia Villar and Ralph Recto have filed the proposed Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Act and Coconut Levy Assets Disposition Act, respectively.

The President made it clear to coconut farmers that the coco levy fund was separate from the budget of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and “should be focused on increasing production and income,” Pangilinan said.

Road map

He added that the government was open to putting up a committee to handle the planned Coconut Farmers’ Trust Fund. At present, he said the PCA was handling the funds “and therefore, it is the PCA’s governing board which would have the final say regarding the utilization of the fund.”

The coconut industry will have additional funding once United Coconut Planters Bank is privatized, the senator said.

Pangilinan said a coco levy “road map” the President was set to approve would ensure that farmers would benefit from taxes collected from them by the Marcos regime four decades ago.

One strategy is to increase productivity by encouraging “intercropping,” so farmers will earn more than the annual P20,000 they get from their coconuts, Pangilinan said.


FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Miriam: EDCA may put PNoy in trouble; Enhanced defense deal above board – Coloma by Genalyn D. Kabiling and Mario B. Casayuran November 28, 2014 Share this:


AQUINO

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday warned that President Aquino has opened himself up to impeachment when his administration signed the controversial Philippine-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) without the concurrence of the Senate.

She said that the impeachable offenses that the President allegedly committed when the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) signed the EDCA for the Philippine government are “culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, for allowing a foreign government to maintain military bases without Senate concurrence,” she said.

Santiago pointed these out after announcing yesterday that her Senate Foreign Relations Committee will conduct a public hearing on Monday “to pass upon whether the Senate should concur with the agreement.”

She said the hearing will address four topics: Does the EDCA need to be concurred in by the Senate?; is it necessary?; is it beneficial?; and is it practical?

But Malacañang is confident that President Aquino will not be removed from office via impeachment over the counter-signing of the enhanced defense agreement with the United States.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. stood firm that the EDCA forged by the Philippines and the United States is above board.

“We have done what is needed to ensure compliance with the Constitution and relevant laws,” Coloma said in a text message to the Manila Bulletin.

An impeachment complaint was filed recently against the President over EDCA but was eventually dismissed by a House panel.

Santiago said that her public hearing would also tackle the constitutional ban on foreign military bases, troops or facilities in the country, except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate.

While Malacañang maintained that the EDCA is an executive agreement, thus it does not require Senate concurrence, there is a contrary view in the Upper Chamber that the EDCA is a treaty and as such, it needs Senate ratification.

“The Constitution is categorical. It requires Senate concurrence whether the document is called a treaty or any other international agreement,” Santiago stressed.

Santiago clarified that the EDCA cannot be viewed as an implementing agreement of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) signed in 1998 during the Estrada administration.

“In international law, there is no such thing as an implementing treaty especially in our Constitution. Every treaty has to be on the basis on constitutional requirement, whether implementing or not,” she added.

The concurrence requirement for the EDCA is different from the requirements of the MDT and “the EDCA is for the purpose of saving the treaty from the prohibition in the Constitution,” she explained.

Contrary to claims that the EDCA does not involve the establishment of military bases, the EDCA gives the United States rights of possession, control, and use of areas of Philippine territory described as “agreed locations,” she said.

“These rights amount to the maintenance of military bases in the ‘Agreed Locations,’” she explained.

Although there is a suit pending before the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionally of the EDCA, Santiago, a constitutionalist, maintained that this does not prevent the Senate from conducting its own public hearing.

She cited Senate rules which state that “no proceeding before any government can inhibit the Senate from conducting its own proceedings.”

Santiago also chided Solicitor General Florin Hilbay for stating that the “Senate’s silence (on the suit pending before the Supreme Court) is a nuanced affirmation of the powers of the President.”

She took exception to Hilbay’s alleged statement that the fact that no senator joined the petitioners in having the Supreme Court declare the EDCA unconstitutional might be a sign that the Senate has agreed with the agreement.

Santiago said there is no law requiring any senator to intervene in any hearing before any tribunal in the country.

“We initially desisted conducting hearings out of inter-departmental comity with the Supreme Court. We did not signify consent to the EDCA. We merely signified courtesy and respect,’’ she added.

What will transpire in the public hearing might assist the Supreme Court in suggesting some approaches what the High Court has indicated as its dilemma, she explained.

Coloma, meantime, said they respect the prerogative of the Senate to review the defense agreement.

But he maintained that the Department of National Defense (DND) will continue negotiating the implementing rules and regulations of EDCA with its US counterparts unless restricted by the court.


FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Senate looks into defense pact legality By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Nov. 28, 2014 at 12:01am


EDCA SIGNING. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg

SENATOR Miriam Defensor Santiago, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, has set a hearing on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) on Monday, Dec. 1, to determine if the Senate should concur with the agreement.

Under the Constitution, the Senate must ratify a treaty before it becomes a law.

“The Constitution is categorical. It requires Senate concurrence whether the document is called a treaty or any other international agreement,” Santiago said.

She said EDCA cannot be viewed as an implementing agreement of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

“In international law, there is no such thing as an implementing treaty, especially in our Constitution. Every treaty has to [meet the] constitutional requirement, whether it is an implementing treaty or not,” she added.

Santiago also said the concurrence requirement for the EDCA is different from the requirements of the MDT.

In the case of the EDCA, she said, Senate concurrence is required to save the treaty from the prohibition in Article 18, Section 25 of the Constitution.

She added that some of the acts connected with the EDCA could be grounds to impeach President Benigno Aquino III.

“The President, by agreeing to the EDCA, can be held accountable for impeachable offenses. These are culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, for allowing a foreign government to maintain military bases without Senate concurrence,” the senator said.

She said the hearing will also find out if EDCA is necessary, beneficial and practical.

Santiago said the Senate hearing will tackle the constitutional ban on foreign military bases, troops, or facilities in the country, except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate.

“Contrary to the claim that the EDCA does not involve the establishment of military bases, the EDCA gives the US rights of possession, control, and use over areas of Philippine territory described as ‘agreed locations,” she said. “These rights amount to the maintenance of military bases in the agreed locations.”

At the same time, Santiago said pending cases questioning the EDCA before the Supreme Court do not prevent the Senate from conducting its own investigation.

She also took issue with Solicitor General Florin Hilbay’s statement that “the Senate’s silence is a nuanced affirmation of the powers of the President” to enter into the EDCA, and that the absence of any senator among the petitioners against the treaty was a sign that they agreed with it.

“We initially desisted from conducting hearings out of inter-departmental comity with the Supreme Court. We did not signify consent to the EDCA. We merely signified courtesy and respect,” Santiago said.

She also said what transpires at the hearing might help the Supreme Court by suggesting approaches to the problem.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said whether Senate ratification is required is among the issues the Supreme Court must resolve.

“We respect the opinion of Senator Santiago. As a matter of reality, however, if at this point the executive will not submit the treaty or agreement for ratification, we cannot do anything, especially that it is pending with the Supreme Court. Once the SC decides that it is a treaty that must be ratified, then the executive will transmit to the Senate the agreement for ratification. At this point, the case is pending in the Supreme Court. The solicitor general has taken the position is it is an agreement that does not require Senate ratification. I repeat, certainly we respect the views of Senator Santiago, but we have to await the decision of the SC at this point,” Drilon said.

In the Palace, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the executive respected Santiago’s decision to hold hearings on the EDCA.

“We recognize and respect the right of the Senate to initiate a probe or hearings, and we will just await developments on this issue,” Coloma said.

In an interview earlier this month, the President expressed confidence that the constitutionality of EDCA will be upheld before the Supreme Court.

“We are confident that what we did is in accordance with the Constitution and our country needs this agreement that builds upon earlier pacts such as the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting

Forces Agreement, which are both legal,” Aquino said.

Former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tañada, who voted against the continued stay of US military forces in the country in 1991, filed a petition questioning the pact’s validity before the Supreme Court.

“Not only is the EDCA a violation of the Philippine Constitution, it also does not provide any substantial, long-term real-benefit, much less distinct advantage or improvement in our position vis-à-vis the United States,” the petitioners said.

Saguisag insisted that the President has no authority to decide on the controversial bilateral pact.

“Whether military foreign troops should be kept in our nation is something that should be decided as widely as possible,” he said.

“It is not up to the President or the Defense Secretary to decide on something that has inter-generational consequences,” Saguisag added. – With Joyce Pangco Pañares


FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Philippines to secure Pontiff in custom-built ‘popemobile’ by AFP and Leslie Ann G. Aquino November 28, 2014 Share this:


According to the government’s chief protocol officer Marciano Paynor, he noted that “He is our visitor and we can’t let anything bad happen to him,” he stated during a press briefing on Thursday.

The Philippines will custom-build a “popemobile’’ for Pope Francis with his specifications when he visits in January, organizers said Thursday.

“He is our visitor and we can’t let anything bad happen to him,’’ the government’s chief protocol officer Marciano Paynor said, adding there are “no specific threats’’.

Pope Francis, who has shunned the pomp of his predecessors, said earlier this year he prefers to use open-top cars rather than the Vatican’s bulletproof ‘’popemobile’’ used by previous pontiffs, which he called a ‘’sardine can’’.

‘’It is true something could happen to me but let’s be realistic, at my age I do not have much to lose,’’ he said in June, adding that the ‘’popemobile’’ made it hard to connect with the faithful.

Paynor declined to give the specifications of the vehicle but said the pope might opt for an open car for some appearances.

A total of six million people are expected to turn up when the Pontiff celebrates mass in Tacloban City – which was ravaged by super-typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) last year – when he visits the place on January 17 and at the Luneta, Manila’s main outdoor park the following day.

“The Pope requested that it be kept simple. He wants nothing flamboyant,” said Father Antonio Pascual from the organizing committee.

The “popemobile” is being designed in coordination with Vatican security, said presidential communications undersecretary Jess Yu, another member of the organizing committee.

“Definitely, the Pope will be visible to the public (from the vehicle),” Yu said.

In August, comments by the preparatory committee sparked speculation that the pope could be transported in a jeepney – a common form of cheap public transport, often decorated with colorful religious artwork.

Officials, however, would not confirm the speculation Thursday.

The last pope to visit the Philippines, John Paul II, rode a white “popemobile” in 1995, where he waved to crowds from a glass, bulletproof cage at the back of the vehicle. Authorities later uncovered an alleged plot by al-Qaeda to assassinate John Paul while he was in Manila.

The bulletproof “popemobile” was first introduced after the attempted assassination of John Paul in 1981.

Paynor, however, made an appeal to those planning to attend the Pope’s activities to contain their enthusiasm when they see the charismatic pontiff so as not to risk the safety of the Pope and other well-wishers.

“This is also one time in our history where we can show to the pope and the whole world that we, as a people, can offer the kind of hospitality that will keep him safe and everyone safe as well,” Paynor appealed in a press briefing yesterday.


FROM MALAYA BUSINESS INSIGHTS

MIRIAM NOT BUYING PALACE LINE ON BUDGET By JP LOPEZ | November 28, 2014


ABAD

DESPITE assurances from Malacañang and the Senate leadership, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday maintained the P2.6 trillion national budget is not free of pork barrel.

Santiago noted that while Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has insisted the proposed budget is free of pork, he also confirmed that prior consultations were conducted with legislators to identify priority projects.

“In other words, there may be no separate item called Priority Development Assistance Fund, but the funds have already been built into the proposed 2015 budget.

“These funds, regardless of the name, may be considered pork barrel, because they are national funds used for local projects selected by legislators, and they are granted in lump sums,” Santiago said.

“If legislators may identify preferred constituents before a program can be implemented, then it becomes post-budget enactment intervention, the same kind the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional,” she added.

At the same time, Santiago said the redefinition of “savings,” allowing government to declare these “at any time,” also borders on the unconstitutional.

While leaders of the House of Representatives say they have deleted this clause in their version of the proposed 2015 budget, Santiago said it still appears in the second to the last line of Section 68 (b) of the Senate finance committee version.

“This means that if a project costing P10 million were awarded early in the year for only P9 million, there would be P1 million left. The remaining amount could be declared savings even before the end of the year,” Santiago said.

“It should only be after the project has been completed rather than awarded that savings may be identified, since change orders or project modifications can take place during project execution,” she added.

At the same time, the lady senator said she is convinced that the proposed budget is an election budget.

“Yes! Definitely,” Santiago said.

Santiago said the proposed 2015 General Appropriations Act (GAA) is meant to give more money to the allies of President Aquino as well as to government agencies which are viewed crucial to the end results of the elections.

It was Santiago who recently criticized the P37.3-billion lump sums appropriated for five government agencies—Department of Health (DOH), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

According to Santiago, while the term PDAF was removed in the 2014 budget, the P25.4 billion (the total amount of PDAF allocated to Senators and Congressmen) was transferred to five agencies with legislators still in control of the projects.

***

Sen. Francis Escudero yesterday told the Department of Budget and Management to account for the P137 billion supplemental budget Congress released last year and this year for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of areas devastated by typhoon Yolanda.

Escudero was reacting to Malacañang’s request for another P23 billion supplemental budget for the same purpose and requested that it be released this month.

“I have to ask them, naubos na ba nila ‘yung P137 billion? Ganon na ba kalaki ang nagastos natin sa Yolanda affected areas? Quite frankly, I don’t see it… I don’t feel it and certainly, the people in Region VIII, don’t see it and don’t feel it either,” Escudero said at the Kapihan sa Senado.


FROM THE TRIBUNE

Chiz admits: 2015 budget filled with lump sums Written by Tribune Wires Saturday, 29 November 2014 00:00


ESCUDERO

The chairman of the Senate finance committee yesterday admitted the existence of lump sum items in the proposed P2.6- trillion national budget but allayed fears that the appropriations in next year’s budget are replete with pork barrel allocations for legislators.

He stressed again that there are enough safeguards crafted by the Senate to deter abuse of the lump sum funds use.

“There are really lump sum items in the budget but it is different from having pork. These items are really necessary and give the government the necessary flexibility,” Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said.

“But these lump sums were made temporary only. Why temporary? Because we require them, just very much like what we did in 2014, to submit special budget in accordance with the Revised Administrative Code,” he added.

But it is not only lump sums that are found in the 2015 national budget, as even the supplemental budget being sought by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) is replete with lump sums. This was disclosed by former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, who now heads a budget watchdog group, Social Watch Philippines.

“Essentially filled with lumps” was how she described the 2014 P 23 billion supplemental budget proposed by the DBM.

The budget is proposed for post-Yolanda rehabilitation and government preparations for the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit, with limited details on the breakdown of the budget components.

“There is a need to flesh out the big-ticket items under this new budget. There is the P16.4B for “New Urgent Projects/Programs” mostly for Yolanda reconstruction and the Apec summit, P 5.08B for projects previously approved but have not been implemented and P1.8B for obligations arising from infrastructure projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways.

This “breakdown” is vague, undetailed, and therefore vulnerable,” said Briones, Lead Convenor of budget watchdog Social Watch Philippines.

“The Senate has just approved the 2015 budget yet, it is interesting to note, it is already near the end of the year and a supplemental budget for 2014 is still being proposed by DBM. Can it use up the supplemental budget in one month?” she asked.

Included in the supplemental budget are allocations for the rehabilitation of the LRT lines 1 and 2 and construction of permanent housing for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda. The amounts are not reported in the supplemental budget.

“There is also an impression that P14B of the P23.4B supplemental budget may refer to Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) projects which were not yet implemented or were partially implemented due to the previous Supreme court decisions, where PDAF and DAP were declared unconstitutional,” Briones pointed out.

The rationale for this contention lies with the vague description that allocations were made “for projects previously approved but have not been implemented or have been partially implemented.”

Of P16.4B for “new urgent programs and projects/priority initiatives”, P9.5B is allotted for Yolanda rehabilitation and reconstruction while P1.44B is lodged to the Apec Summit. The remaining P 5.46B has no clear items.

“These are basically lump sums and there is no clear standard for what is classified and certified as urgent coming from DBM. The government should disclose how urgent these programs and projects are,” said Briones.

Escudero reiterated that the Senate-approved budget is compliant with the Supreme Court decision on the PDAF and the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), and that measures are in place to deter abuse.

Following the Palace line on the growth slowdown, Escudero said:

“It (disbursement of unused funds) slowed down given the DAP decision of the SC. New procedures had to be issued and followed in order to be compliant with the SC decision. Nobody to blame really, we just needed adjustments in order to comply with the law.”

Escidero underscored the need to require self-imposed audit by agencies in order to validate the use of funds.

“The SC in its decision on the DAP, did not ban lump sums. Even the SC’s budget also has lump sums. This is not forbidden.

What is not allowed is the interference of the legislators in the lump sums after the budget is passed, so that name the project that he wants.

“If I may quote Section 63: Prohibition on Post enactment intervention. We merely copied verbatim the decision of the Supreme Court on the PDAF ruling. It is stated: ‘Nothing herein shall be construed to authorize legislators whether individually or collectively organized into committees to intervene, assume or participate in any of the various post enactment stages of the budget execution such as but not limited to the areas of project identification, modification and revision of project identification, fund release and/or fund realignment unrelated to the power of the oversight.’

“That’s a verbatim reproduction of the SC decision. So there is no doubt that the budget complies with the PDAF decision.

We copied verbatim that decision,” he said.

In the Senate’s budget version, total lump sum items amount to P1.862 trillion. The total programmed appropriation is P1.734 trillion, and total unprogrammed allocation is P123.056 billion.

Lump sum appropriations under the Programmed Funds include Contingency Fund or standby fund for unforeseen events, P2 billion; Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Program to complement the expenses based on the recommendation of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, P20 billion; E-Government Fund for interconnectivity and ICT requirements of all government agencies, P1 billion; and International Committees Fund, P10.7 billion.

It also includes P90.4 billion for the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund or MPBF, which covers the benefits of government workers; P14 billion for National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund; P127.1 billion for Pension and Gratuity Fund to cover the standby fund for those who will retire from government service.

Among the items under the Unprogrammed Funds are the AFP Modernization, Additional Subsidy to Napocor, the proposed supplemental budget for Rehabilitation Fund amounting to P20 billion, the P9 billion for MRT3 acquisition, and P3 billion Trade Remedies Fund.

Escudero explained that the Unprogrammed Funds can be funded only when the state revenues exceed the target for the fiscal year. “It is a standby authority on the part of the Executive to spend money only when there is excess in the revenue collection.”

“In accordance with the DAP decision of the High Court. There has to be a certification from the National Treasury that there is money in the Treasury,” the senator explained.

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives will convene for the bicameral conference on Tuesday next week to reconcile their budget versions.

Social Watch Philippines slammed the Senate for retaining the new definition of savings in the 2015 budget that it approved, and the possibility of funding for an expense item being declared as savings at any time of the year.

“Such a redefinition can perpetuate the pork barrel system and mechanisms similar to the DAP, both of which have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court,” the watchdog said in a statement.

According to the Senate approved budget, savings are defined as “portions or balances of any released appropriations in the GAA which have not been obligated.” The House-approved bill, meanwhile, does not require that the funds be released to be declared as savings, only that such funds have not been obligated.

“However, this does not reclaim the Congress’ vaunted power of the purse, as savings can still be declared by the Executive at virtually any time of the year, as long as the funds have been released in appropriations,” Briones said.

Briones stressed that the Senate finance committee declared it complied with the Supreme Court ruling on the DAP through a new general provision on the “Meaning of Augmentation” in Sec. 69, “which states that savings cannot be used to augment a non-existent Programs/Activities/Projects through the use of an appropriation not otherwise authorized in the subject General Appropriations Act.”

Briones pointed out that “the provision does not address the Executive’s extensive clout over the budget and offers no clarity over the time frame of the declaration of savings.

Not surprisingly, the DBM on Friday welcomed the passage of the proposed 2015 National Budget in the lower and upper chambers, although critics in both houses and from the public were wary of the budget’s enacment, as it is infested with traces of pork barrel marking the revival of the DAP under a different form.

“Since the very beginning of this administration, the DBM has emphasized the importance of passing the budget law on time. After all, the prompt release of funds will allow our agencies to spring to action as soon as the next fiscal year begins,” Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said.

Abad has been tagged by progressive groups as the mastermind behind the illegal DAP, as it was he who allegedly slipped in DAP and lump-sum allocations in the national budget, claiming that this would hasten government’s spending.

The budget secretary said that the government has already begun pre-procurement activities as early as Aug. 1, 2014, saying the measure would pave way to kickstarting the fast, high-quality and cost-effective implementation of the 2015 Budget.

“This will then translate to the more efficient delivery of public goods and social services to the people, without compromising quality or raising costs,” Abad said.

“We mustn’t forget what an essential role the 2015 budget plays in our campaign for rapid, sustained, and inclusive growth in the country. With 37 percent of the proposed budget now allocated toward Social Services and 27 percent of the total program already channeled to Economic Services, we are taking sure and certain steps to improving the lives of every Filipino,” Abad said. By Angie M Rosales and Joshua L. Labonera


FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Manny’s Forbes Park mansion for sale By AFP | Nov. 28, 2014 at 12:01am

WORLD boxing champion Manny Pacquiao said Thursday he would sell his mansion in one of the Philippine capital’s swankiest areas after his neighbors complained of his visitors wearing shabby clothing.

Pacquiao told AFP that as a “man of the masses,” he is not finicky with his visitors, even if they are wearing “just shorts and slippers.”

The boxer’s rags-to-riches story, from being a fish vendor in his hometown to winning world titles in an unprecedented eight weight divisions, has made him wildly popular in the Philippines.

He used his boxing fame to get elected to Congress in 2010 and like many wealthy Filipino politicians, he frequently has to meet with constituents asking for hand-outs and favours.

Pacquiao said he would buy a new house where he could accommodate more visitors, who are mostly seeking financial assistance.

“If there’s somebody who is willing to buy, I’m going to sell it,” Pacquiao said of the Manila property, which he acquired for P400 million ($9 million) in 2011.

He added that he wants to make a profit from the sale as he had made renovations.

The 35-year-old said he apologized to his neighbors, though some understood why he was accommodating poor visitors.

“I may be as rich as some of them here, but my lifestyle remains the same and so is my heart. I am just a simple man. I will never change that,” he said.

The three-storey mansion – in a neighborhood that is home to Manila’s old rich – has five bedrooms, several reception and dining halls, and an office.

Pacquiao also owns a fleet of luxury cars, and his hometown mansion in southern Philippines has a pool shaped like a boxing glove.

He beat American Chris Algieri in Macau last Sunday, in a match that proved to fans that he still has what it takes to face arch-rival Floyd Mayweather.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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