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WATCHDOG: 2016 BUDGET LOADED WITH PORK, LUMP SUMS


DECEMBER 26 -The P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016 recently signed by President Aquino
The P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016 recently signed by President Aquino is full of “pork” and lump sum appropriations, a corruption watchdog said. Leonor Briones, lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, said that while the National Expenditure Program (NEP) totals P3.002 trillion, more than P930 billion is in automatic appropriations, and P408 billion and P67.5 billion represent Special Purpose Funds and Unprogrammed Funds. Just like the 2015 national budget, the 2016 General Appropriations Act “reinforces the redefinition of savings and authorizes the transfer of DAP-like funds already declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional,” she said. “As in previous election years, small infrastructure projects were embedded in the 2016 budget and were specifically identified by legislators during the preparation phase of the budget which amount to huge sums worth of public works,” Briones said. She said additional insertions were introduced by both chambers of Congress and the bicameral conference committee during budget deliberations. Concrete examples are farm-to-market roads, which are identified with legislators who claim credit for them during election sorties, she said. She said “revisions” and “budgetary adjustments” made by Congress include the P326-million increase for Farm-to-Market Road Projects under the Department of Agriculture, or P7.377 billion from P7.051 billion; P987.930-million increase for Assistance to Indigent Patients under the Department of Health-Office of the Secretary (P2.783 billion from P1.795 billion); and P2.54-billion increase for Government Internship Program and Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged Workers Project under the Department of Labor and Employment-Office of the Secretary (P3.267 billion from P727.3 billion). READ MORE...

ALSO: No pork in 2016 national budget—Palace insists anew
[Coloma: “Ayon kay [Budget] Secretary Butch Abad, walang pork barrel funds sa 2016 General Appropriations Act. Ang isinabatas na GAA ay dumaan sa masusing pagbusisi at pagsusuri ng Kamara at Senado at makailang ulit na ring tinugunan ng ehekutibo ang lahat ng tanong, komento, at pagtuligsa ng mga kritiko hinggil sa nilalaman ng pambansang budget sa mga isinagawang pampublikong pagdinig sa Kongreso at sa iba pang larangan,” he added.]


DECEMBER 27 -COLOMA
Malacañang on Sunday maintained that the newly approved P3.002-trillion national budget did not contain any pork barrel funds as it underwent careful scrutiny of lawmakers. Reacting to critics’ statements, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the signed 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA) or Republic Act No. 10717 adhered to the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling, which declared the Priority Development Assistance Funds or pork barrel as unconstitutional. “Mahigpit na tumatalima ang pamahalaan sa itinatakda ng batas na pagbabalangkas at pagsasabatas ng pambansang budget alinsunod sa Saligang Batas at sa desisyon ng Korte Suprema noong 2013 hinggil sa pagbabawal ng ano mang pork barrel sa General Appropriations Act,” Coloma said over state-run Radyo ng Bayan. “Ayon kay [Budget] Secretary Butch Abad, walang pork barrel funds sa 2016 General Appropriations Act. Ang isinabatas na GAA ay dumaan sa masusing pagbusisi at pagsusuri ng Kamara at Senado at makailang ulit na ring tinugunan ng ehekutibo ang lahat ng tanong, komento, at pagtuligsa ng mga kritiko hinggil sa nilalaman ng pambansang budget sa mga isinagawang pampublikong pagdinig sa Kongreso at sa iba pang larangan,” he added. Coloma said lawmakers already responded to the allegations of various groups regarding the supposed presence of pork barrel-like funds and lump sum appropriations in the 2016 budget. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘End Sea Dispute’: Filipinos want feud with China settled soon -Survey


DECEMBER 27 -Philippines’ President Benigno Aquino reviews a military platoon upon arrival during the 80th founding anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines held inside Clark Air Base, formerly a U.S. base, in Angeles city, Pampanga province, north of Manila December 21, 2015.“We’re planning to acquire new frigates, strategic sealift vessels, long-range patrol and close air support aircraft and other equipment,” Aquino said at the 80th anniversary of the armed forces. REUTERS/ROMEO RANOCO Reuters
MAJORITY of Filipinos agree that it is important to foster “strategic partnerships” with Japan and Vietnam and even approved of joint military exercises with the Japanese, but a majority also want a peaceful settlement of ongoing maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea.
China’s intrusions in the West Philippine Sea, or South China Sea, remained the Filipinos’ top foreign policy concern, but they are also worried about bombings and bomb threats initiated by foreigners and the growing influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on the local Muslim community. This was the result of The Standard Poll survey on Philippine foreign policy, conducted among 1,500 biometrically-registered Filipino voters from 76 provinces and 38 cities from Dec. 4 to 12. Seventy percent of the respondents agreed it is important for Manila to have a strategic relations with Tokyo while only 23 percent disagreed. The remaining seven percent said they don’t know enough to have an opinion. The survey was conducted only days after Japan agreed to transfer defense equipment, including large maritime patrol vessels, to the Philippines at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit late November. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the equipment transfer months after Tokyo and Manila held joint military exercises in the South China Sea last May. The Philippines’ strategic partnership with Japan dates back to 2011 when President Benigno Aquino III and then prime minister Yoshihiko Noda announced the improved cooperation during Aquino’s first visit to Japan. Manila later publicly backed Abe’s proposal to revise its constitution and allow the Japanese government to send Self-Defense Force overseas. Sixty-two percent of survey respondents also approved of the joint military exercises with the former enemy that occupied the country from 1941 to 1945 while only 31 percent disapproved. Fifty-six percent of respondents also agreed on the importance of having a strategic relations with Vietnam, which also has similar partnerships with the United States and Japan. Only 37 percent disagreed while seven percent said they did not have an opinion. The strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam was also signed by President Benigno Aquino III and Vietnam President Truong Tran Sang at the sidelines of the Apec summit in Manila two weeks before the survey. READ MORE...

ALSO: PNoy admin condemned killing of civilians; BIFF urged to stop violent ways


DECEMBER 27 -The Aquino administration condemned the summary execution of nine civilians by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao.
Philippine government peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, in a statement, urged the leaders of the BIFF to “reconsider their violent ways,” urging them to consider the track towards peace. “We ask the leaders of the BIFF to reconsider their violent ways and take heed of the people’s desire for peace and normalcy in their lives,” Ferrer said. Ferrer, likewise, condoled with the families of the civilians killed in the summary executions. “We commiserate with the families of the nine civilians who were summarily executed by the BIFF in separate incidents over the last few days,” Ferrer said. The BIFF’s sporadic attacks occurred in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and North Cotabato — including the firing of grenades at a local chapel and an army detachment, hostage-taking, and the planting of improvised explosives. These, Ferrer said, “indicate an attempt to gain momentum for their bid to destabilize the situation in these areas and garner attention for themselves and their flagging cause.” The peace panel chairperson likewise expressed hope for the safety of soldiers and civilians in Mindanao this holiday season. “We pray for the safety of our soldiers who, instead of humbly celebrating the holiday season in their remote posts, have been mobilized to prevent the hostile group from wreaking more harm on the populace,” Ferrer said. “We also pray for strength and the safety of the civilians who find themselves exposed to the danger of ongoing hostilities,” she added. The BIFF is the breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MILF and the Philippine government are currently on peace negotiations. THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: BIFF on Christmas rampage


DECEMBER 25 -BIFF, Manila Bulletin Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)
Kidapawan City — Just a few hours after they reportedly killed seven civilians in separate attacks in villages in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) struck anew Thursday night, engaging government forces that led to the fatal shooting of a barangay councilman in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, according to authorities. Pigcawayan official Jasmin Sultan Mosaid reported that Barangay Simsiman kagawad Roberto Lerado was “killed in his house” at the height of a fierce encounter between BIFF and government forces at around 9:30 p.m. Thursday. This was relayed to the Manila Bulletin by Mosaid’s husband Dr. Maugan Mosaid at around 11:40 p.m. There were also unconfirmed reports about the possibility that more villagers in the Pigcawayan exchange may have been killed or hurt. Reports about Lerado’s death came just hours after the BIFF launched surprise attacks on Christmas eve in Central Mindanao. It was earlier reported that seven Christian farmers were abducted and killed in separate attacks in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao, both early Thursday. The first set of casualties were two still unidentified male farmers, aged 25 and 32. They were killed by bandits, who were trying to evade pursuing government forces after they attacked Barangays Paitan, Sagas and Takal in Sultan Kudarat. Another band of BIFF fighters also killed five farmers who were headed to their rice fields in Barangay Kauran in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. The bandit group was not without casualties as four of their cohorts were reportedly killed in ensuing skirmishes with government forces after their Christmas eve attacks. THE FULL REPORT

ALSO: Abad on ‘pork’ in 2016 budget - Ask Congress


DECEMBER 27 -Budget Secretary Florencio Abad
 Those monitoring the budget should ask senators and congressmen for an explanation if they have found pork barrel funds in it, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said yesterday. “She should address some of her accusations to Congress, which passed the budget,” Abad said, reacting to the claims of former national treasurer Leonor Briones that there are billions in pork barrel funds in the P3.002-trillion 2016 budget President Aquino signed last Tuesday. As for the other allegations of Briones, he said, “Those are recycled comments. Without any particular references, it’s useless to comment.”  Taking up the cudgels for his colleagues in Congress, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said there is nothing wrong with lawmakers allotting funds for farm-to-market roads, financial assistance to indigent patients and students and workers’ training. “They can call those appropriations ‘pork,’ but they are intended for our poor people. They do not go to our pockets,” he said. He said the November 2013 Supreme Court decision outlawing the annual P25-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund does not prohibit members of Congress from appropriating funds for marginal sectors while they are considering the annual budget. “What the ruling bans is interference on our part in the execution of the budget after we have approved it and the President has signed it into law,” he stressed. In a statement on Friday, Briones said the Senate, the House of Representatives and the bicameral conference committee made pork barrel fund insertions in next year’s budget. “As in previous election years, small infrastructure projects were embedded in the 2016 budget and were specifically identified by legislators during the preparation phase of the budget which amount to huge sums worth of public works,” she said. “Concrete examples are farm-to-market roads which are identified with legislators who claim credit for them during election sorties,” she said. She enumerated the following adjustments lawmakers made in Aquino’s budget proposal, known as the National Expenditure Program (NEP): READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

2016 budget loaded with pork, lump sums – watchdog


The P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016 recently signed by President Aquino

MANILA, DECEMBER 28, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By Paolo Romero December 26, 2015 - The P3.002-trillion national budget for 2016 recently signed by President Aquino is full of “pork” and lump sum appropriations, a corruption watchdog said.

Leonor Briones, lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, said that while the National Expenditure Program (NEP) totals P3.002 trillion, more than P930 billion is in automatic appropriations, and P408 billion and P67.5 billion represent Special Purpose Funds and Unprogrammed Funds.

Just like the 2015 national budget, the 2016 General Appropriations Act “reinforces the redefinition of savings and authorizes the transfer of DAP-like funds already declared by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional,” she said.

“As in previous election years, small infrastructure projects were embedded in the 2016 budget and were specifically identified by legislators during the preparation phase of the budget which amount to huge sums worth of public works,” Briones said.

She said additional insertions were introduced by both chambers of Congress and the bicameral conference committee during budget deliberations.

Concrete examples are farm-to-market roads, which are identified with legislators who claim credit for them during election sorties, she said.

She said “revisions” and “budgetary adjustments” made by Congress include the P326-million increase for Farm-to-Market Road Projects under the Department of Agriculture, or P7.377 billion from P7.051 billion; P987.930-million increase for Assistance to Indigent Patients under the Department of Health-Office of the Secretary (P2.783 billion from P1.795 billion); and P2.54-billion increase for Government Internship Program and Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged Workers Project under the Department of Labor and Employment-Office of the Secretary (P3.267 billion from P727.3 billion).

READ MORE...

The other adjustments are the P403-million increase for Training for Work Scholarship Program under the DOLE-Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (P2.206 billion from P2.203 billion); P1.248 billion-increase for Local Infrastructure Program under Department of Public Works and Highways-Office of the Secretary (P19.813 billion from P18.566 billion); P5.382-billion increase for Protective Services Program under the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Office of Secretary (P6.698 billion from P1.315 billion); P144-million increase for Tulong Dunong Program under the Commission on Higher Education (P1.130 billion from P986.231 million); and P662.538-million increase for Financial Assistance to LGUs under Local Government Support Fund in the Allocation to Local Government Units (P862.538 million from P200 million).

She said Social Watch earlier estimated that around P33.2 billion went to pork-like funds distributed across five agencies, adding that estimates from other groups are more or less similar to what the watchdog has arrived at.

“Transparency is the hallmark of accountable budgeting. The practice now is for legislators to send instructions to agencies just by text or telephone calls,” she said.

“This is true for health assistance, employment and cash dole-outs. This trend further muddles the flow of information to the public, especially since there is no paper trail,” Briones said.

She said Social Watch is calling for more details on the 27 amendments from the bicameral committee, which are subject to “conditional implementation.”

“The Constitution does not provide for conditional implementation. The proposed General Appropriations Act can either be approved in full or its particular line items be vetoed by the President,” Briones said.

“We are reiterating our observation that the 2016 budget will benefit the political objectives of the present administration as well as the incoming officials,” she said. – With Jess Diaz, Rhodina Villanueva


INQUIRER

No pork in 2016 national budget—Palace By: Yuji Vincent Gonzales @YGonzalesINQ INQUIRER.net
05:24 PM December 27th, 2015


COLOMA

Malacañang on Sunday maintained that the newly approved P3.002-trillion national budget did not contain any pork barrel funds as it underwent careful scrutiny of lawmakers.

Reacting to critics’ statements, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the signed 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA) or Republic Act No. 10717 adhered to the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling, which declared the Priority Development Assistance Funds or pork barrel as unconstitutional.

“Mahigpit na tumatalima ang pamahalaan sa itinatakda ng batas na pagbabalangkas at pagsasabatas ng pambansang budget alinsunod sa Saligang Batas at sa desisyon ng Korte Suprema noong 2013 hinggil sa pagbabawal ng ano mang pork barrel sa General Appropriations Act,” Coloma said over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

“Ayon kay [Budget] Secretary Butch Abad, walang pork barrel funds sa 2016 General Appropriations Act. Ang isinabatas na GAA ay dumaan sa masusing pagbusisi at pagsusuri ng Kamara at Senado at makailang ulit na ring tinugunan ng ehekutibo ang lahat ng tanong, komento, at pagtuligsa ng mga kritiko hinggil sa nilalaman ng pambansang budget sa mga isinagawang pampublikong pagdinig sa Kongreso at sa iba pang larangan,” he added.

Coloma said lawmakers already responded to the allegations of various groups regarding the supposed presence of pork barrel-like funds and lump sum appropriations in the 2016 budget.

READ MORE...

“Ayon sa ating mga natunghayang ulat, tinugunan na rin ng liderato ng Kongreso ang mga alegasyon at komento ng ilang grupo laban sa ipinasang GAA,” he said.

Coloma also highlighted the administration’s continuous effort to pass the budget on time to avoid irregularities in allocation.

“Maaalala natin, noong nakaraan, sunod-sunod ‘yung tinatawag lamang na ‘reenacted budget’ at dahil dito ay nagkaroon ng puwang sa maraming iregularidad at anomalya sa pagbibigay ng budget sa iba’t ibang programa,” Coloma said.

“Pero sa ilalim ng liderato ni Pangulong Aquino ay sinikap at natamo naman ‘yung layunin na maipasa at maipatupad itong budget natin sa takdang panahon. Ibig sabihin, simula pa sa ika-isa ng Enero ng bawat taon ay effective na kaagad ‘yung budget bukod pa sa iba pang mga mahalagang reporma na naipatupad na rin,” he added.


MANILA STANDARD

‘End Sea Dispute’:Filipinos want feud with China settled soon posted December 27, 2015 at 12:01 am by The Standard


Philippines’ President Benigno Aquino reviews a military platoon upon arrival during the 80th founding anniversary of the Armed Forces of the Philippines held inside Clark Air Base, formerly a U.S. base, in Angeles city, Pampanga province, north of Manila December 21, 2015.“We’re planning to acquire new frigates, strategic sealift vessels, long-range patrol and close air support aircraft and other equipment,” Aquino said at the 80th anniversary of the armed forces. REUTERS/ROMEO RANOCO Reuters

MAJORITY of Filipinos agree that it is important to foster “strategic partnerships” with Japan and Vietnam and even approved of joint military exercises with the Japanese, but a majority also want a peaceful settlement of ongoing maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

China’s intrusions in the West Philippine Sea, or South China Sea, remained the Filipinos’ top foreign policy concern, but they are also worried about bombings and bomb threats initiated by foreigners and the growing influence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on the local Muslim community.

This was the result of The Standard Poll survey on Philippine foreign policy, conducted among 1,500 biometrically-registered Filipino voters from 76 provinces and 38 cities from Dec. 4 to 12.

Seventy percent of the respondents agreed it is important for Manila to have a strategic relations with Tokyo while only 23 percent disagreed. The remaining seven percent said they don’t know enough to have an opinion.

The survey was conducted only days after Japan agreed to transfer defense equipment, including large maritime patrol vessels, to the Philippines at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit late November.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the equipment transfer months after Tokyo and Manila held joint military exercises in the South China Sea last May.

The Philippines’ strategic partnership with Japan dates back to 2011 when President Benigno Aquino III and then prime minister Yoshihiko Noda announced the improved cooperation during Aquino’s first visit to Japan.

Manila later publicly backed Abe’s proposal to revise its constitution and allow the Japanese government to send Self-Defense Force overseas.

Sixty-two percent of survey respondents also approved of the joint military exercises with the former enemy that occupied the country from 1941 to 1945 while only 31 percent disapproved.

Fifty-six percent of respondents also agreed on the importance of having a strategic relations with Vietnam, which also has similar partnerships with the United States and Japan. Only 37 percent disagreed while seven percent said they did not have an opinion.

The strategic partnership agreement with Vietnam was also signed by President Benigno Aquino III and Vietnam President Truong Tran Sang at the sidelines of the Apec summit in Manila two weeks before the survey.

READ MORE...

Respondents’ positive view of the country’s strategic partnerships with Japan and Vietnam reflected Filipinos’ continuing concern with Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea.

Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they considered China’s activities the most important foreign policy concern while 18 percent said they were concerned about the threat of war or disorder in other countries, including the Middle East.

A growing number of Filipinos have also expressed concern at the growing influence of ISIS in the country with 15 percent of respondents saying it is one of the country’s top foreign policy concerns and 24 percent said they were worried about bombings by jihadists.

More specifically, 64 percent were “very concerned” at the possible entry of ISIS in the country through the Abu Sayyaf group while 31 percent said they were “somewhat concerned.” Only four percent said they were “somewhat not concerned” and one percent “not at all concerned.”

The respondents expressed their concern only days after the military reported on Nov. 27 that an Indonesian terrorist was killed along with seven Filipino jihadists in a four-hour battle with security forces in Central Mindanao.

A few days later, a Malaysian jihadist, known to be part of a terrorist group in Malaysia, was killed in an Abu Sayyaf camp in Basilan.

The survey was conducted while the military and Malacañang repeatedly denied that there was any evidence to suggest that ISIS already had a presence in the country, although Kuala Lumpur had already asked Filipino officials for assistance in capturing jihadists who fled Malaysia.


MANILA BULLETIN

Killing of civilians condemned; BIFF urged to stop violent ways by Francis T, Wakefield & Madel Sabater - Namit December 27, 2015 Share1 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share3

The Aquino administration condemned the summary execution of nine civilians by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Central Mindanao.

Philippine government peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, in a statement, urged the leaders of the BIFF to “reconsider their violent ways,” urging them to consider the track towards peace.

“We ask the leaders of the BIFF to reconsider their violent ways and take heed of the people’s desire for peace and normalcy in their lives,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer, likewise, condoled with the families of the civilians killed in the summary executions.

“We commiserate with the families of the nine civilians who were summarily executed by the BIFF in separate incidents over the last few days,” Ferrer said.

The BIFF’s sporadic attacks occurred in Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and North Cotabato — including the firing of grenades at a local chapel and an army detachment, hostage-taking, and the planting of improvised explosives.

These, Ferrer said, “indicate an attempt to gain momentum for their bid to destabilize the situation in these areas and garner attention for themselves and their flagging cause.”

The peace panel chairperson likewise expressed hope for the safety of soldiers and civilians in Mindanao this holiday season.

“We pray for the safety of our soldiers who, instead of humbly celebrating the holiday season in their remote posts, have been mobilized to prevent the hostile group from wreaking more harm on the populace,” Ferrer said.

“We also pray for strength and the safety of the civilians who find themselves exposed to the danger of ongoing hostilities,” she added.

The BIFF is the breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MILF and the Philippine government are currently on peace negotiations.


MANILA BULLETIN

BIFF on Christmas rampage by Ali G. Macabalang December 25, 2015 Share3 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share16


BIFF, Manila Bulletin Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)

Kidapawan City — Just a few hours after they reportedly killed seven civilians in separate attacks in villages in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) struck anew Thursday night, engaging government forces that led to the fatal shooting of a barangay councilman in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato, according to authorities.

Pigcawayan official Jasmin Sultan Mosaid reported that Barangay Simsiman kagawad Roberto Lerado was “killed in his house” at the height of a fierce encounter between BIFF and government forces at around 9:30 p.m. Thursday.

This was relayed to the Manila Bulletin by Mosaid’s husband Dr. Maugan Mosaid at around 11:40 p.m.

There were also unconfirmed reports about the possibility that more villagers in the Pigcawayan exchange may have been killed or hurt.

Reports about Lerado’s death came just hours after the BIFF launched surprise attacks on Christmas eve in Central Mindanao.

It was earlier reported that seven Christian farmers were abducted and killed in separate attacks in Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao, both early Thursday.

The first set of casualties were two still unidentified male farmers, aged 25 and 32. They were killed by bandits, who were trying to evade pursuing government forces after they attacked Barangays Paitan, Sagas and Takal in Sultan Kudarat.

Another band of BIFF fighters also killed five farmers who were headed to their rice fields in Barangay Kauran in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.

The bandit group was not without casualties as four of their cohorts were reportedly killed in ensuing skirmishes with government forces after their Christmas eve attacks.


PHILSTAR

Abad on ‘pork’ in 2016 budget: Ask Congress By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2015 - 12:00am 0 19 googleplus0 0


Budget Secretary Florencio Abad

MANILA, Philippines – Those monitoring the budget should ask senators and congressmen for an explanation if they have found pork barrel funds in it, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said yesterday.

“She should address some of her accusations to Congress, which passed the budget,” Abad said, reacting to the claims of former national treasurer Leonor Briones that there are billions in pork barrel funds in the P3.002-trillion 2016 budget President Aquino signed last Tuesday.

As for the other allegations of Briones, he said, “Those are recycled comments. Without any particular references, it’s useless to comment.”

Taking up the cudgels for his colleagues in Congress, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said there is nothing wrong with lawmakers allotting funds for farm-to-market roads, financial assistance to indigent patients and students and workers’ training.

“They can call those appropriations ‘pork,’ but they are intended for our poor people. They do not go to our pockets,” he said.

He said the November 2013 Supreme Court decision outlawing the annual P25-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund does not prohibit members of Congress from appropriating funds for marginal sectors while they are considering the annual budget.

“What the ruling bans is interference on our part in the execution of the budget after we have approved it and the President has signed it into law,” he stressed.

In a statement on Friday, Briones said the Senate, the House of Representatives and the bicameral conference committee made pork barrel fund insertions in next year’s budget.

“As in previous election years, small infrastructure projects were embedded in the 2016 budget and were specifically identified by legislators during the preparation phase of the budget which amount to huge sums worth of public works,” she said.

“Concrete examples are farm-to-market roads which are identified with legislators who claim credit for them during election sorties,” she said.

She enumerated the following adjustments lawmakers made in Aquino’s budget proposal, known as the National Expenditure Program (NEP):

READ MORE...

– P326 million for farm-to-market road projects under the Department of Agriculture (P7.377 billion from P7.051 billion in the NEP);

– P987.930 million for assistance to indigent patients under the Department of Health-Office of the Secretary (P2.783 billion from P1.795 billion);

– P2.54 billion for internship program and Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged Workers Project under the Department of Labor and Employment-Office of the Secretary (P3.267 billion from P727.3 million);

– P403 million for training-for-work program under the DOLE-Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (P2.206 billion from P2.203 billion);

– P1.248 billion for local infrastructure under Department of Public Works and Highways-Office of the Secretary (P19.813 billion from PhP18.566 billion);

– P5.382 billion for protective services under the Department of Social Welfare and Development-Office of Secretary (P6.698 billion from P1.315 billion);

– P144 Million for Tulong Dunong Program under the Commission on Higher Education (P1.130 billion from P986.231 million);

– P662.538 million for financial assistance to local government units under Local Government Support Fund in the Allocation to Local Government Units (P862.538 million from P200 million).

If Briones’ figures are correct, these were carried in the budget Aquino signed last Tuesday.

After the budget signing, Abad said of the “145 revisions and new provisions” the Senate and the House introduced, the President vetoed only three items.

“The President directly vetoed the use-of-income provisions under the budgets of the National Bureau of Investigation, Energy Regulatory Commission and the Department of Transportation and Communications in the absence of a separate law allowing agencies to use their income,” he said.

He attributed the low numbers of deletions to the “collaborative working relationship” between Congress and Malacañang.

“This collaborative working relationship has put an end to the practice of frequent budget reenactment during the previous administration and caused the passage of the GAA (General Appropriations Act or budget) on time every year for the past six years,” he said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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