Opposition senators to block P900-M drug war budget

Sherrie Ann Torres, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 05 2017 10:48 PM | Updated as of Oct 06 2017 02:17 PM

Opposition senator Bam Aquino on Thursday said the minority bloc will move to scrap the approval of the P900 million budget allotted to the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs.

The budget is aside from the P1.2 billion allotted to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

The amount is included in the proposed P1.9 billion 2018 budget for the Philippine National Police which has a program to recruit additional 10,000 policemen and improve the police-to-population ratio to 1:511.

“We will move at the proper time na tanggalin na yung budget ng 'Tokhang' para masgiurado po na wala nang ibang namamatay sa ating bansa na hindi naman dapat pinapatay. We will move to delete that P900 million,” Aquino told reporters.

Aquino said the minority will still discuss as to where should the would-be slashed "Oplan Tokhang" budget will be allocated.

Senator Panfilo Lacson in Thursday’s 2018 national budget sponsorship at the Senate meantime quizzed Finance Committee chair and budget sponsor Senator Loren Legarda on what he sees as “pork” in the Departments of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Agriculture (DA). 

Lacson specifically mentioned budget allocation in a number of programs in the said departments that do not provide specifications. Those include the DSWD’s assistance to the poor, the DPWH’s unspent budget for the construction of school buildings in support to the Education Department’s requirements among others.

Legarda, in turn, assured that all the allocations stated in the submitted budget are “pork-less.”

“Ang pork kasi sinasabi nila pag post-enactment and pre-enactment. Meaning kung naipasok sa NEP (national expenditure program) hindi ito parang wala pang na-identify na project binibigay ang allocation sa mga congressmen. Yan ang dating practice," Lacson told reporters.

"Ngayon sa NEP pa lang, nagka-coordinate na, department nakausap nila. But then that’s still a violation of the SC ruling...Hindi pork-less. Ang budget natin is never pork-less. Even in 2018, meron pa ring pork yan," he added.

Legarda in her sponsorship speech described the proposed P3.767 trillion 2018 budget as a “deficit budget” given the reality that P523.568 billion out of it will be financed by “borrowings” – 80 percent from local sources and 20 percent from international borrowers.

The remaining P2.841 trillon, according to Legarda, will come from both “tax and non-tax revenues.”

Meantime among the highlights of the 2018 proposed budget includes the additional P100 million to support the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency’s (NICA) intelligence fund.

“The Marawi crisis brought us constructive lessons in peace-making and peace-building. It also magnified a thousand times the hard challenges we face towards socio-economic and political stability… To ensure that it is ready and equipped in preventing any more Marawi-like crises from happening,” Legarda said.

P100 million will be given to the PNP to purchase and install additional CCTVs for the command center and an initial P50 million to acquire body cameras for policemen in highly-urbanized centers.

The Finance Committee has also increased the hazard pay for National Bureau of Investigation employees to P4,000 a month from P2,000.

Also included are the following:

  • Additional P120 million for the installation of buoys in coast guard stations nationwide to ensure safety at sea, especially in the eastern seaboard. 
  • P8.2 million more for the hazard pay of Department of Foreign Affairs employees in hardship posts. 
  • Conditional Cash Transfer Program by upholding its P89.408 billion allocation, of which P31.68 billion is for rice subsidy.
  •  Additional P426 million for the Sandiganbayan in 2018, inclusive of the P10 million rewards fund for whistleblowers. 

Meantime, the following constitutional offices received the following increase on top of their proposed budgets, in the Senate version: 

  • Civil Service Commission (CSC): P71.870 million.
  • Commission on Audit (COA): P40 million.
  • Commission on Human Rights (CHR): P156.432 million on top of its restored budget.
  • Supreme Court gets an increase of P100 million, and the Court of Tax Appeals and Court of Appeals, P2 million each.
  • Office of the Ombudsman: P143.653 million, specifically for the implementation of the electronic filing of Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (E-SALN) of government officials and employees, worth P16.653 million and for its building, P127 million.