Alleged 'pork barrel variant' in 2022 budget 'a figment of imagination': Palace

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 06 2021 07:36 PM

Frontline workers from San Juan receive cash at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan City on Aug. 27, 2021 during the distribution of financial assistance to medical and non-medical personnel involved in the COVID-19 response. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File 
Frontline workers from San Juan receive cash at the FilOil Flying V Center in San Juan City on Aug. 27, 2021 during the distribution of financial assistance to medical and non-medical personnel involved in the COVID-19 response. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File 

MANILA — Malacañang on Monday dismissed as a "figment of imagination" the alleged "pork barrel variants" that a lawmaker flagged in government's proposed 2022 budget, the highest ever. 

Gabriela Women's party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas over the weekend said authorities did not specify which agencies will identify the target local government units (LGUs) for the P10-billion local government support fund. She said this "looks more like Greater Election Fund, as it can arbitrarily used to ensure votes for Duterte and his top bets in the 2022 elections." 

"Bagong pork barrel variant ito," said the assistant minority leader. 

(This is a new pork barrel variant.)

But Palace spokesman Harry Roque said, "Guni-guni lang ‘yan." 

(That is a figment of imagination.)

He said local governments for the first time in 2022 will receive an Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) that is around 37% higher than previous years.

However, in exchange for the bigger IRA, local governments will get more devolved services, like those of the health, agriculture, and social welfare departments, he said. 

"Ang problema po, hindi lahat ng lokal na pamahalaan ay gaya ng Makati na mayaman," Roque said, referring to the richest Philippine city. 

"Meron talagang mga munisipyo na 4th class, 5th class, 6th class. Maski gawin mong 37% more ang kanilang budget, hindi sapat para sagutin 'yong gastos dati ng DA, DOH, at saka ng DSWD. D'yan po papasok 'yong equity fund." 

(The problem is not all local governments are as rich as Makati. There are 4th class, 5th class, 6th class municipalities. Even if you raise their budget by 37 percent, it will not be enough to cover the expenses previously shouldered by DA, DOH, and the DSWD. That is where the equity fund comes in.)

The government is seeking the highest ever national budget at P5.024 trillion for 2022, as the Philippines continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposed expenditure plan is equivalent to about 22.8 percent of the country's gross domestic product, and higher by 11.5 percent than the 2021 budget, Malacañang earlier said.