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Abad on ‘pork’ in 2016 budget: Ask Congress

Jess Diaz - The Philippine Star

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):

– 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.

ABAD ACIRC AQUINO ATING DISADVANTAGED WORKERS PROJECT BILLION BRIONES BUDGET BUDGET SECRETARY FLORENCIO ABAD CONGRESS AND MALACA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE MILLION
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