DBM freezes candidates’ ‘pork’

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - With the elections fast approaching, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) appears to have frozen pork barrel fund releases to lawmakers, many of them candidates.

Though the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has allowed the DBM to continue disbursing senators’ and congressmen’s allocations from the P25-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), there have been allegations that money is being used for election purposes or skimmed for campaign funds.

In Caloocan City, a congressman running for mayor has been accused of using his PDAF to boost his campaign.

PDAF is the official name of the congressional pork barrel. It allocates P200 million a year for each senator and P70 million for each member of the House of Representatives.

A check with the DBM website yesterday showed that total PDAF releases for this year has not moved from its P10.6-billion level 12 days ago, or April 5.

This means that there have been no new releases made for nearly two weeks. If at all, only small amounts were disbursed and these did not affect the total.

The April 5 level was almost double the P5.8 billion that was out as of March 8.

Of the P10.6 billion, P9.4 billion has been made available to members of the House and P1.2 billion to senators.

Of the amount released to House members, P7.6 billion was for those elected from legislative districts and P1.8 billion for party-list groups.

PDAF releases to Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Loren Legarda, Francis Escudero, Alan Peter Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV and Gregorio Honasan have remained at P167.3 million, P90.5 million, P88.8 million, P7.3 million, P30 million, and P54 million, respectively.

The amount made available to Pimentel represents backlog for last year.

Pimentel, Legarda, Escudero, Cayetano and Trillanes are seeking reelection under Team PNoy, while Honasan is aspiring for a second term as candidate of the United Nationalist Alliance.

Releases to San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito, Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile and Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara amounted to P32 million, P15 million and P50 million, respectively.

Ejercito and Enrile are part of the UNA slate while Angara is running under Team PNoy.

Angara’s P50 million includes his P15.5-million balance for last year.

Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, another UNA candidate for senator, has remained “pork-less.”

In less than four months, the DBM has disbursed 42.7 percent of the P24.8-billion annual PDAF.

Infrastructure budget hiked 40 percent

The budget for infrastructure projects increased by 40.8 percent last February, or P9.4 billion more compared to the same period last year, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said in a statement.

Abad said the increased allocation is in “fulfillment of President Aquino’s commitment to enhance spending for infrastructure and key economic services.”

He said disbursements for infrastructure jumped to P12 billion this year, a massive 114.5-percent leap from the P5.6-billion disbursement in February 2012.

The DBM added that maintenance and other operating expenses “leapt by 40.5 percent or P13.65 billion to P47.0 billion this year.”

Abad said the increase was largely due to the continued implementation of key social service programs, including the conditional cash transfer program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

“As early as the beginning of the year, agencies already have the authority to utilize their budgets for the early implementation of their programs and projects,” Abad said.

“Since the administration began, we’ve committed ourselves to the timely enactment of the national budget to allow departments and agencies to start their projects as soon as the year begins,” he added.

Personnel services also increased by P84.5 billion in February or 13.6 percent higher from P74.4 billion in 2012.

The impact of the fourth tranche of the Salary Standardization Law III, creation of new positions and higher claims for retirement gratuity and terminal leave benefits were credited for the jump.

The newly created positions include 21,110 teaching and non-teaching spots at the Department of Education as well as 3,000 Police Officer I positions, 500 Jail Officer I positions and 500 Fire Officer I positions at the Department of the Interior and Local Government. –With Delon Porcalla

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