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Pork barrel in 2015 budget

/ 03:16 AM August 06, 2014

The hated pork barrel is alive and well in the 2015 national budget submitted by Malacañang to Congress. Not only alive, but much bigger—P500 billion no less.

The proposed budget has a P500-billion lump-sum appropriation. All lump-sum appropriations are pork funds spent by the President at his whim for anybody and for any purpose he wishes. It is as if these lump-sum appropriations are his own private bank. This violates the exclusive power granted by the Constitution to Congress to appropriate funds for projects. This is PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) and DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) in still another disguise.

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The PDAF has undergone many disguises and name changes through the years because it is hated by the people as it is a source of corruption and wastes taxpayer money. But it is still the same: the pork barrel of lawmakers. The new P500-billion lump-sum appropriation, however, would be the pork barrel of both the lawmakers and the President.

The P500-billion lump-sum appropriation would be as if a president has his own budget separate from the national budget. Imagine what a president can do with P500 billion: He can use it to influence members of Congress, as had been done with the PDAF and its predecessors and with the DAP, as well as for electioneering, as had been done with the Fertilizer Fund, and for other purposes.

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We have been made to believe that we are back to line-item budgeting to prevent corruption. Now, because the Supreme Court has declared the PDAF unconstitutional, here comes another P500-billion lump-sum appropriation.

This is clearly a usurpation of Congress’ exclusive power of the purse, but I am sure the lawmakers will pass the appropriation because they know they themselves would be among its beneficiaries. It would be as if the PDAF were never outlawed.

Why does the President need such a big pork barrel? Well, first, 2015 is the prelude to the presidential election. The President will need a big amount for electioneering purposes. P-Noy would want the next president to be an ally, so he won’t do to him what he, P-Noy, has done to his predecessor and her allies. Then, with the PDAF outlawed, he would need another source of funds with which to influence members of Congress to do what he wants them to do, such as rejecting the impeachment charges against him.

That’s not all. Congress will make the dictionary obsolete by redefining “savings.” It would no longer be what is left of your earnings after all your needs are met. Now it would be any amount that the Department of Budget and Management wants to hijack at any time of the year. Heads of government agencies must be careful. They may think they have such and such amount for a project, only for the DBM to hijack its budget as “savings” before they could even start the project.

I am surprised at what P-Noy has become after such a beautiful beginning. He won the 2010 presidential election on an anticorruption campaign (the people are really sick and tired of corruption), and he did go after corrupt officials. But what happened after the Supreme Court outlawed the PDAF? His budget secretary invented the DAP to take its place, and when the high court outlawed that, too, the same secretary came up with the P500-billion lump-sum appropriation in the next budget.

In the words of the late vice president Emmanuel Pelaez, “What’s happening to our country?”

With all the theft of the people’s money going on, there should no longer be any lump-sum appropriation in the budget—with the exception of the Calamity Fund because nobody can predict how many calamities will hit the country during the year, how devastating they would be, how many people would be affected, and how much money would be needed for rescue and rehabilitation. The seeds of corruption are planted in lump-sum budgets. It is too tempting and too convenient for the President to dip his hands into those budgets.

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And with the elections coming up in 2016, there would be pressure on the President to provide funds for administration candidates. And what is the convenient and ready source of those funds except the public coffers?

Public trust in Congress has gone down considerably, as shown by recent opinion surveys. Congress leaders want to regain that trust. How else can they do that except by rejecting the lump-sum appropriations in the budget?

Why does the administration want lump sums? Doesn’t it know what needs to be done in the coming year and how much would be needed to do these tasks? Coming up with a complete, clear and clean budget is the job of the DBM. Make it do its job properly. Don’t allow the national budget to again be the source of corruption, as it had been in the past. Out with the P500-billion lump-sum appropriation and out with the new definition of “savings.”

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TAGS: dap, Disbursement Acceleration Program, Emmanuel Pelaez, Fertilizer Fund, National budget, PDAF, pork barrel, Priority Development Assistance Fund, Supreme Court
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