Congress realigns P21-B PDAF

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 08 2014 09:32 AM | Updated as of Apr 08 2014 05:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives and the Senate have realigned more than P21 billion out of the P25-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in this year’s national budget.

The realignments are reflected in the website of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

In November last year, the Supreme Court (SC) reversed its previous rulings and struck down the PDAF as unconstitutional, prompting Congress to remove it as a lump sum in the 2014 budget. Instead, lawmakers realigned their PDAF allocations to the calamity fund and six agencies.

According to the DBM website, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) received the biggest realignment of P7.26 billion. The funds are intended for “local infrastructure,” meaning projects identified by senators and congressmen.

The budget lists all these projects and the amounts allocated to them.

Senators Lito Lapid and Ramon Revilla Jr. realigned a large part of their P200-million PDAF to infrastructure.

The second biggest realignment of P4.12 billion went to the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). The money is for “scholarship assistance to students.”

The Department of Social Welfare and Development received P4.1 billion for “burial, transportation, medical, and food assistance,” while the Department of Health (DOH) is allotted P3.25 billion for “hospitalization and medical assistance.”

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority is allocated P1.03 billion for “training for employment,” while the Department of Labor and Employment received P1.02 billion for “special program for the training of students.”

Some P1 billion representing the combined PDAF allocations of five senators was realigned to augment the calamity fund.

Since the SC decision on the PDAF prohibits lawmakers from intervening in the use of funds after they approve the national budget, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and House leaders have urged the heads of the six agencies that received realignments to issue guidelines on how such funds would be disbursed.

Before the PDAF was declared as unconstitutional, congressmen had the decision on the use of their funds.

They referred to implementing agencies their constituents who needed medical, hospitalization, education, food, burial, transportation and other forms of assistance that the budget law allowed.

They are now prohibited from doing this under the SC ruling, though they could still make referrals, which agency heads could ignore.

Some congressmen have expressed fears that agency heads would treat the realigned funds as their own pork barrel, since they hold the decision on who would get assistance from the realigned funds.

It is not clear if the agencies have issued the requested guidelines. One CHED official has announced that students who used to get financial assistance from lawmakers would be given priority in the disbursement of the P4.12 billion in realignment that the commission received.

The official said there are only two conditions: that the student does not have a failing grade and that his or her annual family income does not exceed P300,000.

The DOH has not announced how it would dispose of the P3.25 billion it received for hospitalization and medical assistance.

Lawmakers used to allocate funds for helping their constituents with health care expenses directly to government hospitals.

The four specialty hospitals in Quezon City – Heart Center, Kidney Center, Lung Center, and Children’s Medical Center – received hundreds of millions of PDAF from senators and congressmen.