Sep 082014
A policy reseach group said on Monday that lump-sum items in the P2.6-trillion proposed national budget for 2015 that the Palace submitted are alarming because of their discretionary nature.

According to Sandra Aguinaldo’s report on “24 Oras”, Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CENPEG) senior fellow Prof. Bobby Tuazon explained that with lump sums, “you give ‘yung mga lawmaker at saka ang president huge amounts of money upon their discretion. Eh ‘di binubukas mo ang kaban ng yaman ng bansa sa pagiging vulnerable sa corruption.”

‘President’s pork barrel’

In the proposed budget for 2015, P48.1 billion is allotted for the lump-sum special purpose fund.

Only the president can give the green light to use this fund, which includes the P14-billion calamity fund and P2-billion contingent fund for new and urgent projects and activities.

This is why some critics of the government call these items the “president’s pork barrel.”

Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad defended the existence of lump-sum items that other countries have lump sum items in their budgets too because it’s difficult to determine where exactly the fund will be used.

“Halimbawa, ‘yung calamity fund, kailangan maglaan ka ng pondo para kung may tumamang mga bagyo. Dito naman sa atin sigurado namang may tatamang bagyo. Hindi mo lang alam kung kailan at kung gaano kalakas at kung saan tatama.”

“Parang pareho ‘yan sa contingency fund. Halimbawa, nagkagulo sa Syria tapos kailangan maglikas ng mga Pilipino, magbigay ng legal assistance… Hindi mo inaasahan ‘yun so doon natin china-charge sa contingency fund,” he added.

But, CENPEG’s Tuazon pointed out that the administration could request for a supplementary budget for unexpected and unforeseen events.  

Also included in the lump sum special purpose funds are the P1-billion rehabilitation and reconstruction program and the P31.1 billion in allocations to local government units.

Cry for transparency

The critics, however, reiterated that Congress will have an easier time to double check the lump-sum special purpose funds if the items they will be used for are specified.

Lawmakers also won’t have the chance to dictate where the funds will go once the national budget is approved.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara suggested: “I-itemize ahead of time kasi ‘yung mga lump sum appropriations usually ang tendency niya ‘pag ‘di transparent, medyo may tendency na maging prone to corruption at patronage.”

But the budget secretary made it clear that around 96 percent of the lump-sum special purpose fund has already been earmarked for specific projects.

“Kaya kung ang iniisip ng mga tao na ‘yung ganyang kalaking halaga ay pork barrel ni presidente, napakalaking pagkakamali,” he added.

CENPEG said that the public is now demanding for transparency when using government money in light of the recent issues that involve the people’s money. It’s just right to make sure that every cent  is used properly and not controlled by a few, the group said. Trisha Macas/JDS/KG, GMA News

 Leave a Reply