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As I See It

Pork barrel hiked in 2015 budget

/ 06:06 AM November 26, 2014

At the press forum at Annabel’s restaurant in Quezon City last Saturday, Congressmen Jonathan de la Cruz and Terry Ridon, both party-list representatives, announced that the budget for 2015 had been approved by the House and sent to the Senate.

I said the Philippines is the only country in the world where a budget containing 269 pages of errors and a new definition of “savings” has been passed by the lower chamber. The errata and the new definition of savings in effect retain the lump sum, or pork barrel, allocations outlawed by the Supreme Court. Instead of being removed from the budget, the pork has been increased to P37 billion.

Why did you let it pass? I asked.

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The two congressmen replied that they and other party-list representatives opposed it but that they were outvoted by the majority bloc.

Why did you keep quiet and not denounce it to the media so that the people can be informed of what their representatives are doing to their taxes? I asked again.

“We will,” the two congressmen said. Well, they have been beaten to it by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.

Thank God there is the Senate, which must also pass the budget bill before it becomes final. Thank God there is Senator Santiago, who denounced on Monday the hidden pork in the proposed national budget for 2015. And thank God there are the University of the Philippines professors who tipped off the senator on the hidden pork.

Note that in the corruption allegations against Vice President Jejomar Binay, only the Senate is conducting an investigation—and by a pitiful few at that. Only three senators (Aquilino Pimentel III, Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV) have been actively participating in the inquiry of the blue ribbon subcommittee. The committee has 19 members. What has happened to the 16 other senators? Are they also afraid of Binay, like the congressmen?

In her privilege speech, Senator Santiago said she was told by the UP professors that last summer, members of the House were asked to submit a list of their projects for the 2015 budget. What is this but another pork barrel in the making?

Indeed, the budget passed by the House contains P37 billion in lump-sum appropriations. The old PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), the source of so much corruption in the government, was much less. After the Supreme Court outlawed it, lump-sum appropriations were increased instead of abolished. All lump-sum appropriations are pork barrel funds because the executive branch can spend these any way it wants. It steals the power of the purse from Congress, said Santiago. Under the Constitution, only Congress can determine how public money can be spent by the executive branch.

The high court also outlawed parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, an invention by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to hijack funds at any time from certain projects as alleged “savings” and use these for other projects. The high court said there can be “savings” only at the end of the fiscal year, or after a project is finished and there are funds still unspent.

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So the Department of Budget and Management came up with a new definition of “savings,” this time hijacking the power of the dictionary to define the meaning of a word.

The 2015 budget, said Santiago, defines “savings” as funds arising from the discontinuance or abandonment of a program, activity, or project “at any time,” and the President can divert it to another project, program or agency. In short, the DBM can submit appropriations for ghost projects, and after these are passed by Congress, the President can, “at any time,” use these for some other purpose, thus stealing the power of Congress to allocate funds. The President can use the money for projects in aid of election.

Yes, the 2015 budget is an election budget.

* * *

Chris Algieri is in the wrong sport. He should be in cycling, or even in ballroom dancing, instead of boxing. All throughout his bout with Manny Pacquiao, he did not box but rode a bicycle and pedaled backward all over the ring or danced away from his opponent. It was clearly a mismatch: a slugger vs. a cyclist/ballroom dancer.

Manny did not knock out Algieri as he promised; he only managed to knock him down six times during the bout and won on points. In fact, Pacquiao may not have knocked him down at all. Algieri may have stumbled all over himself in a panic-driven effort to get away from Manny’s gloves.

Terror was all over Algieri from the first round to the last. He did not exchange hard punches with Pacquiao at all but danced away from him. He was retreating, evading, dodging, ducking, and running away all throughout the fight. Truth to tell, it was not a fight at all; it was dance sport.

It is now clear why Algieri has been undefeated until now. He had been matched with bums and patsies—until he met Pacquiao. Is that also the case with the undefeated Floyd Mayweather, who has been evading and dodging and putting up all sorts of excuses so he wouldn’t have to fight Pacquiao? Reminds me of VP Binay dodging and evading and hiding from the Senate investigation.

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TAGS: 2015 Budget, Butch Abad, Miriam Defensor Santiago, pork barrel, power of the purse
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