'Hidden pork' tucked in 2014 budget, lawmaker says

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 04 2014 09:31 PM | Updated as of Mar 05 2014 05:31 AM

MANILA -- Is there a "hidden pork" in the 2014 national budget?

A progressive lawmaker thinks so, saying he found P20.8 billion "House pork" and P1.8 billion "Senate pork" tucked in the 2014 budgets of line agencies.

ACT Teachers Party-List Rep. Antonio Tinio on Tuesday claimed in a statement that there is a form circulating among legislators, which serves as a listing of beneficiaries identified by lawmakers, so they can avail of the "hidden pork."

Tinio believes this “hidden pork” is being used to secure the support of lawmakers for Charter Change.

"Such informal practices of maintaining the pork barrel system are illegal, following the Supreme Court decision. Moreover, they can only persist because of the conscious and willful participation of the President and his Cabinet," said Tinio.

"In sustaining the Congressional pork barrel through hidden or informal means, Malacañang is violating the law and deceiving the public," he added.

Malacanang , through Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma, had denied this.

“Wala pong basbas yan. Wala po kaming kinalaman diyan. Wala pong batayan yung mga paratang laban sa Executive branch hinggil diyan sapagkat sinusunod po natin yung kautusan ng Korte Suprema hinggil sa pagiging unconstitutional,” he noted.

Coloma added, “At malinaw doon sa desisyon ng ating Korte Suprema na ang gawain ng mga mambabatas ay buuin at isapinal yung pambansang budget; at pagkatapos yon naging batas, ang magpapatupad nito ay ang Executive branch at wala ng dapat involvement ang sinumang mambabatas sa paggastos o sa pagpapatupad ng mga programang nakasaad sa General Appropriations Act. Iyan po ang posisyon ng ating administrasyon.”

Coloma maintained that the 2014 national budget is very transparent. “Napaka-transparent na po ng ating budget sa kasalukuyan at tinanggal na rin iyong sistema na meron pang SARO [Special Allotment Release Order] at NCA [Notice of Cash Allocation]. So kung ano iyong nakahayag doon sa budget, yun na yon, yun na yong sinusunod at ipinapatupad na budget ng ating pamahalaan.”

The 2014 budget was enacted a month after the Supreme Court struck down the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as unconstitutional, and prohibited lawmakers from post-enactment intervention in accessing agency funds.

Congress realigned the P25.2 PDAF in the original 2014 budget proposal to different agencies including DPWH, DepEd, DSWD, DOH, DOLE and CHED. Congressional leaders said they maintain the right to recommend funding to agencies-beneficiaries, but subject to the approval of the agency heads.