MANILA, Philippines - If Senator Jinggoy Estrada has allocated P100 million in pork barrel funds to Manila, where his father is mayor, Senator Nancy Binay has realigned thrice that amount to an agency under her father’s supervision.
Despite being one of 15 senators who gave up their P200-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations for this year, Binay augmented funding for the National Housing Authority (NHA) by P300 million.
She increased the 2014 NHA budget from P10.952 billion to P11.252 billion. NHA is under the supervision of Senator Binay’s father as housing czar, Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Unlike Senator Estrada whose financial assistance to Manila was sourced from his own PDAF, Senator Binay’s P300-million augmentation was apparently taken from reductions the Senate took from certain lump sums and agency appropriations.
But Senator Binay said yesterday the allocation was requested by several senators and approved by the Senate finance committee headed by Senator Francis Escudero.
She said the request was made during the period of amendment since the Department of Budget and Management gave zero budget for emergency housing assistance, resettlement and other calamity-related funding which the NHA used to have under the General Appropriations Act.
Binay reiterated that the NHA requested for P24 billion for this year but received only P11 billion, crippling the agency’s emergency assistance programs.
The senator said she is grateful that Escudero approved the allotment.
“I am thankful that Senator Chiz saw the need to allot even P300 million considering that disaster is now the new norm,” she said.
Quick response fund
Asked about Senator Binay’s realignment, Escudero confirmed it.
“She proposed a quick response fund of P300 million for NHA and we approved it,” he said.
The STAR checked the 2014 national budget and there is no appropriation under the NHA that is labeled “quick response fund.”
The NHA outlay shows that P300 million, which is apparently Senator Binay’s realignment, is allocated to “central office,” while the original funding of P10.952 million is distributed among the country’s regions.
According to a key member of the House of Representatives appropriations committee, all realignments in the national budget are considered as pork barrel of their authors.
But Escudero denied that their realignments are pork barrel funds.
“They are not pork because we have no control or influence over their use, unlike PDAF,” he said.
Escudero himself has realigned hundreds of millions in scholarship funds to state universities and colleges and some agencies.
Officials of the Securities and Exchange Commission has publicly thanked him and Senators Sergio Osmeña lll and Teofisto Guingona III for providing their agency with funds in this year’s budget for rentals or construction of a new building.
The building the commission presently occupies has been condemned and declared as no longer safe for occupancy.
Another senator who realigned funds is Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, who allocated P100 million for Small Business Corp., which is under the Department of Trade and Industry.
“The money is for relending to small entrepreneurs. Microfinance and creation of job and livelihood opportunities have always been my advocacy,” Cayetano said when reached for comment.
He said he also proposed the realignment of P100 million for police crime laboratories.
Cayetano, his sister Pia, Ralph Recto, Miriam Defensor Santiago, and Joseph Victor Ejercito have contributed their respective P200-million PDAF to the calamity fund.
Escudero and 14 other senators, including Senate President Franklin Drilon, gave up their allocations.
Aside from Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr., Lito Lapid and Antonio Trillanes IV realigned their PDAF.
Revilla and Lito Lapid allocated a big part of their funds to the Department of Public Works and Highways, while Trillanes, a former Navy officer, gave his to several agencies, including the Navy. — With Christina Mendez