Palace rejects calls to scrap 'President's pork'

by Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 27 2013 03:38 PM | Updated as of Aug 28 2013 03:12 AM

MANILA - Malacañang rejected calls to abolish the President’s Social Fund (PSF) saying that it is being put to good use. 
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the PSF is the source of financial and educational assistance for families of slain soldiers, among others.
Valte also said it is a misnomer to call it as the president’s pork barrel, pointing out that the PSF is not funded by the General Appropriations Act (GAA).
“The amount varies kasi unlike other programs in the executive’s budget, hindi po kasi ‘yan funded by the GAA or that’s not funded by internal revenue collections or nor customs duties. It’s essentially a trust fund. We don’t propose an amount for the Presidential Social Fund every year. That fund is supported and replenished by a percentage of the profits from PAGCOR [Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.] and if I’m not mistaken, may maliit din po sa PCSO [Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office],” Valte said.
Valte said that unused funds could be rolled over to the next year, adding that it is nevertheless being audited by the GAA.
She echoed President Aquino’s response when asked about the proposal to abolish the special purpose fund (SPF) which includes the contingency and calamity funds.
Valte said that by its nature, it would be difficult to itemize such funds and that these should be available for unforeseen events such as calamities.
“By the very nature of some of these funds, it is obviously something to draw out of in times of need,” she said.
“Sa typhoon Pablo, kung maalala natin ‘yung estimated na kailangan natin to rebuild those areas nasa 11 billion [pesos]. So ‘yon, unprogrammed din po ‘yon, unforeseen and kailangan meron ho tayong pagkukunan ng mga ganitong pondo. And also, if I can point out, these funds… are subject to audit of the Commission on Audit,” she said.
She added that the Palace cannot simply divert other funds for other purposes.
“Hindi mo nga ma-i-itemize kasi ang mangyayari diyan kapag ina-itemize mo tapos merong unforeseen event na dumating na hindi natin ipinogram (program) doon sa pondong ‘yon hindi natin siya magagamit because we can actually be liable for malversation that way,” she said.
Valte also enumerated examples where proceeds of the Malampaya fund goes such as the P450-million subsidy for the Pantawid Pasada Program and P423-million allocation for the purchase of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar.
The Palace again reiterated that there would be no more pork barrel starting in 2014.
As to the PDAF allocation for the remainder of 2013, additional safeguards would be applied although their release has been suspended pending the completion of the probe on the pork barrel scam.
“For the second semester, hindi pa sila nagre-release—‘yon ‘yung sinabi ng Pangulo,” Valte said.
“’Yung for 2013 nga kasi iyong second half… batas na ‘yan, so naka-allocate na. ‘Yung pag-uusapan na lang dito kung ano pa ‘yung pwedeng safeguards na gawin kapag nadesisyunan nang i-release iyong mga pondo… Pero, kung kailan ‘yon i-re-release, hindi ko pa masasagot ngayon. Kasi ‘di ba ang sinabi ng Pangulo, hanggang nandiyan pa ‘yung imbestigasyon, hindi pa i-re-release ‘yung iba doon.”
Asked if the Palace expects the 2014 budget to face hurdles in Congress' deliberations, Valte said, “We’re ready to do the work for what’s necessary.”
Meantime, the Palace welcomed active citizen engagement in efforts to reform the system, saying that Budget Secretary Butch Abad is willing to sit down with citizens to hear their proposals. Valte said a schedule is being worked out.