By Joey Natividad
CITY OF NAGA, Bicol Region, 03Oct2013 (BicolToday.com) – The Presidential pork barrel of some PhP 1.3 Trillion of President Aquino is intact for next year’s spending, said the Kabataan youth solon on Friday during the last day of the deliberation over the 2014 national budget.
During the plenary debate for the 2014 national budget on Friday, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon said discretionary funds that constitute what has been dubbed as the “presidential pork barrel” is “intact” and “very much alive” in the 2014 national budget.
“Even if the House leadership say that Congress has abolished the Priority Development Assistance Fund – which in reality was only reapportioned and hidden in department budgets – the larger problem remains”, Ridon informed Bicol Today.com.
“Despite the repeated call of the people to realign what has been dubbed as the ‘president’s pork barrel’ worth over P1 trillion, the Aquino administration did not give up even a single cent in its pork funds,” he added.
According to the briefing paper by Kabataan Partylist last month, the P1.3-trillion presidential pork for 2014 is composed of the following: lump-sum funds in the national budget, including the Special Purpose Funds worth P310 billion, un-programmed funds worth P139 billion and automatic appropriations worth P796 billion; questionable in-budget line items including funds for intelligence and confidential expenses worth P1.4 billion, PAMANA funds worth P7.22 billion, Conditional Cash Transfer Funds worth P62.6 billion, and funding for Bottom-Up Budgeting worth P20 billion.
During the last day of the House plenary deliberations for the General Appropriations Bill, Ridon again assailed lump-sum funds that constitute a large part of the presidential pork barrel.
“Most of these funds are prone to corruption, as financial oversight over such funds is minimal, if not non-existent, and the utilization of the said funds rest solely on the president,” Ridon said.
According to Ridon, the P1-billion contingent fund, for example. It is said to be used ‘exclusively to fund the requirements of new and/or urgent projects and activities that need to be implemented during the year. It may be used to augment the existing appropriations for local and foreign travels of the President.
“But, what is the difference between priority projects funded under the regular line-item budget, and the programs and projects that will be funded by the contingent fund?, he added. “There’s redundancy in the allotment of funds, and there’s clearly too much discretion given to a single person, even if he’s the President of the Philippines,”
The youth solon also assailed the unprogrammed funds, which has increased exponentially during the Aquino administration.
Unprogrammed funds are released when revenue collections exceed targets, or when foreign funds are generated.
During the Aquino presidency, unprogrammed funds increased exponentially, both as amounts proposed in the annual national expenditure program, and as amounts actually utilized:
· 2010: Proposed unprogrammed funds amounted to P68.9 billion, of which P5.86 billion was eventually utilized
· 2011: Proposed unprogrammed funds amounted to P66.9 billion, of which P20.4 billion was eventually utilized
· 2012: Proposed unprogrammed funds amounted to P161.69 billion (no data on final amount utilized)
· 2013: Current unprogrammed funds amount to P117.5 billion
· 2014: Proposed unprogrammed funds amounts to P139.9 billion
“Unprogrammed funds are also under the President’s sole discretion, and the whole amount is intact in the 2014 budget,” Ridon explained.
“With the 2014 national budget set to be passed, with the bulk of the presidential pork still intact, it’s clear that Aquino and his allies are not sincere in truly abolishing the pork barrel system,” he said.
“Aquino’s outright refusal to abolish the presidential pork reveals that his regime is not unlike past regimes – an administration that would go to any length to remain in power. The people deserves better than your lies and half-truths, Mr. President, and we’re determined to intensify the fight,” Ridon swore. [BicolToday.com]